“The most compelling problems of the 21st century will be urban,” says Thom Mayne. His Now Institute gets students to examine the bigger picture, and come up with ways to make the city a better place for everyone.
Morphosis. The very name of Thom Mayne’s firm is synonymous with projects where site, program and spatial design come together in mind-bending ways. The studio, based in Culver City, California, is responsible for some of the most dramatic campus buildings in North America, including the Cooper Union in New York and Emerson College in L.A. – but Mayne is doing his most important work within education itself.
At UCLA, he and Morphosis colleague Eui-Sung Yi run the Now Institute, an urban-focused research centre that conducts a master’s studio, one of three Suprastudio programs (the other two are taught by Greg Lynn and Craig Hodgetts). The one-year course brings students together with renowned architects and such innovative industry partners as UNESCO, Walt Disney Imagineering and Boeing. Mayne and Yi assign their students to investigate large-scale urban problems, produce professional documentation and deliver it directly to mayors. After working on projects in L.A., Madrid and New Orleans, the institute has just wrapped a one-and-a-half-year study of Haiti.
This fall, it began concretizing its research, and will explore such major initiatives as a master plan for Cap-Haïtien, the country’s second-largest city, where preservation efforts have inhibited development; and they will spearhead smaller efforts, such as the construction of a women’s centre. According to Mayne: “Only a student of architecture is trained to deal with multidisciplinary problems that require a certain complexity in process and understanding to solve. The most compelling problems of the 21st century will be urban. Our educational institutions have to make these connections so students understand that architecture is not a form. We’re not decorating cakes.”
About the School
UCLA Architecture and Urban Design (A.UD) / Los Angeles / undergraduate to doctoral programs / 250 students / 43 faculty / US$15,700 per year