Jürgen Mayer H. , Disciplinary Overlaps

"In many cases, it’s the clarity of a concept itself that can be most fulfilling."

By Nota Tsekoura, on 28th Jul, 2013 10:00

Jürgen Mayer H., principal of J. MAYER H. office 

architecture + graphic design + installation

Juergen Mayer H. among others is also known for the links he creates between architectural or artistic projects and graphic design. In Mayer's practice the building is not solely space but it connects to us as an utopian icon.
Communication and technology are vital parts of his practice.  Apart from his interdisciplinary approach to architecture, his  academic profile and teaching background generate an important link between academic research and professional practice. Our interview with him explores such subjects and connections.

The interview    

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  Nota Tsekoura   Working both in the architecture and the art field, how distant are your sculpting works from your architectural projects? And what do they share in common? 

   Jürgen Mayer H.    The distinction between different disciplines is not really an issue for us. Both art and architecture, raise similar questions: how does our body communicate in space? What is the current state of art in relation to technology and nature, and our body in terms of communications? Sometimes that happens in an architectural context, sometimes in art, and sometimes in a design context.

It’s more how we show or discuss our work that ends up defining the context. At J. MAYER H., we show art installations in architectural contexts, and vice versa. For me, I don’t live in one or the other, but both. The potentials of spaces that we create in our culture that are important to us now are mostly considered architectural, but we don’t see that as being the only context. It’s limiting.

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Sarpi © J.Mayer H.

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Sarpi © J.Mayer H.

 NT   There is an evident link between your architectural practice and graphic design. Could you give us some insides on their interaction, relationship and any discovery that comes out of this close link between the two?

 JM  A general point of departure for our work are data protection patterns that you find on the inside of envelopes or on shipping forms. This 2D strategic ornament that negotiates the inside and the outside of communication documents and that deals with issues of personalisation, privacy, information camouflage versus a public exterior becomes translated into 3D structures and spaces. Architecture tends to be more complex because it involves so many layers of creation and getting things done, which can be equally painful and joyful. There are rules, clients, a political dimension, even, such as when projects fall within election schedules, which often occurs with the public projects that we’re involved in.

In many cases, it’s the clarity of a concept itself that can be most fulfilling. 

And then, independent of art, architecture, or design, the feedback from the people who see it or use it can be quite touching too.

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Parasol © J.Mayer H.

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Parasol © J.Mayer H.

 NT   Do you think that we are entering in an era where radical changes will occur in the educational system?

 JM   New Media and new technologies will change everybody’s life in the future, not only the educational system. The blurring process, with all our technology devices, is exactly where a lot of our investigations happen. What is secrecy and exposure, the personal and the neutral, the exposed and the hidden, data-control and information accessibility.

 NT  Did you always wanted to become an architect? If not what was the initial direction that you wanted to follow?

 JM  It all started from an art point of view, when I wasn’t sure if I should go to art or architecture school. An interest in 3D objects that you could walk around and explore grew into an interest in buildings and cultural production. I leaned more towards architecture. The initial moment for that decision was a photo of Erich Mendelsohn´s Schocken department store in Stuttgart that I saw in a book when I was around 17 years old.

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 NT  Would you name your greater inspiration until now?

 JM  My intuition or reference points to the architectural scene in the 60s and 70s in Germany, where new technologies were developed with the help of a booming chemical industry, and new social structure emerged with new forms of living. All these new discoveries that bred a vital architecture in the 60s and 70s somehow came to an end, after three decades of architectural history of post-modernism, deconstructivism and minimalism, which were very held back in terms of architectural expression. 

So I think it’s a moment to pick up the early spirit of opening up and looking for the future, and be positive and forward-looking again. This is my starting point.

 NT  Did you have a mentor or a person that you could call a personal hero?

 JM   Frederick Kiesler´s multifaceted work is always a good inspiration.

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Dafnoss © J.Mayer H.

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Dafnoss © J.Mayer H.

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Dafnoss © J.Mayer H.

 NT  How much linked is your work with your personal everyday life? Do they feedback each other?

 JM  Work and personal life are just momentary situations on a larger scale of variables. I think virtual spaces, social media and communication are what we have to consider in architecture today. Technology has brought not only new construction methods and new materials, but also a new virtual and digital reality, which is part of the space that we design. The beauty of our profession offers many different interesting spatial productions, and building is one of the many.

 NT  What is your biggest concern about architecture and art in the future? And what would you wish to change in the way that we are practicing both universally?

 JM  Building is the future and, by definition, the future always entails uncertainty. As architects, what we design will last for decades; sometimes even centuries, and no one would invest in a project without hoping that it might contribute to a better future. 

How will social media change the way in which we interact? This is a question that also concerns architecture and art.

 NT  Do you support architectural gestures by non architects? And the other way around, do you support artistic, scientific or technological gestures by architects?

 JM  I am all for disciplinary overlaps.

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Sarpi © J.Mayer H.

 NT  We know that you are traveling frequently. What is your favourite place in the globe and how often do you visit?

 JM  I like to discover new places and do not really return often to the same places except for construction sites. How about Sevilla?

 NT  If you had to change something in the urban life of the city that you live in (Berlin) what would it be?

 JM  The now vanishing informality of Berlin is a rare quality of an urban experience that needs to be preserved. And maybe let´s add a seafront and a real skyline.

 NT  Is there a story, or song or video that is deeply appreciated by you and that you maybe tend to hear or read it again?

 JM  The movie “Martha” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder from 1974 is a must for repeated viewing!


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