Let The Archi-Sparks Fly: Thom Mayne Fights Back Against Bad Reviews

Eavesdroplet, Newsletter, West
Monday, April 29, 2013
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Thom Mayne's Perot Museum in Dallas. (Iwan Baan)

Thom Mayne’s Perot Museum in Dallas. (Iwan Baan)

Ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a blood feud in Los Angeles. It seems that Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne doesn’t care for Thom Mayne’s work. At all. Reviewing his new Perot Museum in Dallas, he called the building, “One of the pricey, preening old breed.” Adding, “it is a thoroughly cynical piece of work, a building that uses a frenzy of architectural forms to endorse the idea that architecture, in the end, is mere decoration.”

Hawthorne has used this vitriol on other Mayne buildings, like the Caltrans building and the Cahill Center at Caltech, which, he said, employs a “skin-and-stair strategy that allows the client to make the rest of the building—every interior office or gallery—conventional at best and banal at worst.”

Mayne, not surprisingly, doesn’t appear happy. In a recent public tour of his new offices in Culver City, led by our friend and design journalist Alissa Walker, Mayne said he would not be allowing a local architecture critic to write about his new building for his firm’s offices—he was asking a science writer to do the story instead. “All local writers are horrible,” he said. “There are no good writers in Los Angeles.” We beg to differ!

11 Responses to “Let The Archi-Sparks Fly: Thom Mayne Fights Back Against Bad Reviews”

  1. can't take criticism? says:

    I guess a bad writer is by definition someone who doesn’t like Morphosis’ buildings. would be better to rebutt, than to cry about it.

  2. Walter Chambers says:

    LOL. I wonder how many different writers he will have to go through before he finds one that likes his buildings!

  3. Anne Zimmerman says:

    So, sometimes a little truth hurts. Actually Christopher Hawthorne is a very good writer and one of the first good architecture and URBAN DESIGN critics in quite a while in LA (much better than the last one, imo). That doesn’t mean I always agree with him. There are reasons Mayne does what he does and he should explain that better. I like his work, but think it is ok to find fault also. There is NOTHING to change how mundane the interior spaces are in form and materials. Mayne Knows what pictures usually get shot. Mayne knows how the client budgets and priorities drive decisions. Mayne is more of a pragmatist than you might think!

  4. can't take criticism? says:

    he’s very pragmatic about his own image, his own reputation, and everything that has to do with him him him.

  5. Pete says:

    You have to admit that arch critics are as self-serving as architects. But at least he builds things rather then trashing things for attention. I wouldn’t bring a science writer, but just an honest arch critic, if there are any left.

    Nothing more then two egos. I’m not sure why every buliding has to look the same. Why can’t we celebrate diversity? Arch critiics are so trendy–from starchitects, to prefab, to green building, now its women architects.

  6. Matt says:

    The Perot Museum would be the first place I would go in Dallas during a visit regardless of what an architectural critic says

  7. Annexia says:

    “…the final design is a brilliant match for the site and the program. It’s located on the far side of an elevated freeway, away from the glittering towers of downtown and the axis of the Dallas Arts District. It anchors a barren expanse in the Victoria Park development…”
    This is the delightfully appropriate combination of Client (did someone mention “egos”?), “Siddy”/Location, and Architect. I am sure this will be such an enjoyable development to stroll around (Oops! Did I mention walking?! I meant “to drive to and run like hell to the building from the acres of free parking”) during Big D’s beautiful Summers and the always entertaining Ice Storm Season. I wonder where the Museum’s ‘Climate Change’ exhibit is. Needless to say, this is what I consider an example of synergistic architecture (the perfect match made in Hell).

  8. nicholas olsberg says:

    As another of LA’s legion of bad architectural writers (I think there are only four of us, sam), I covered the Perot for AR in London and wrote rather warmly about it. The problem of its insides and of the landscape detail seemed to come entirely from the terrible taste and ideas of the show deisgners who were hired to do the installations, and the really aggressive and silly local landscapist. Morphosis’ fault was in failure to resist forcefully enough. I guess they took the attitude that the envelope will survive its decorators.

  9. Leeroy says:

    Hawthorne is a fantastic critic–one of the few left. That Mayne insults all architectural writers in LA is ridiculous, and casts him in very bad light. What a crybaby.

  10. nicholas olsberg says:

    Of course the marvelous result of insulting the writer of a bad review is that — as we all show we are uncowed — he will never get a good one again !

  11. Rod Knox, RA, NY says:

    Christopher Hawthorne is right. Add to the list the dreadful New Academic Building at Cooper Union that put an end to 150 years of free education because of cost overruns and an endless punch list. Mayne is a product of anything goes “razzle dazzle” and thank goodness someone had the guts to see his work for what it is, shallow and banal.
    http://www.rodknox.com/intuition-free/

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