Bruce Mau on Design, Rem and Not Getting Paid

Last night at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium, Parsons dean Paul Goldberger conveniently recited a line from designer Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth: “Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black.” Wearing black pants and a button down shirt, Mr. Mau burst out laughing. “I know, I’m in a rut.”

For almost 90 minutes, Mr. Mau discussed his collaborations with architects Rem Koolhaas and Frank Gehry (most recently on the InterActiveCorp. headquarters under construction in Chelsea), obsessive typography, Rotterdam, public space, and the catastrophe in New Orleans. There is a webcast available, but here are a few highlights:

BM: [Design] is a marginal activity. You need only go to Rotterdam to see what happens when it’s not. Suddenly, every building is attractive, and it’s terrible…. You end up with a kind of screaming ordinary, which is not very pleasant. Each building is just desperate for a 90 degree angle.”

BM: We have to get to a scale of design that we are a little bit reticent of. In Massive Change, we talk about what we are actually doing. It’s not utopian and it’s not futuristic. It’s what we are actually doing, and how we control the world now, and how we control nature and it’s capacities–sometimes successfully, sometimes catastrophically, and sometimes accidentally…. We certainly have an ambition that is comprehensive and universal.

BM: This happened with us in Seattle, which was a disaster. When we talked to Rem about how we would work, we had a fabulous…
PG: The library?
BM. Seattle Public Library. We had a fabulous and exciting, open collaboration about the future of the library in the 21st century. And we worked for several months on that basis. At some point, we met the people at the library who were very enthusiastic…. But they hired a managing firm. The managing firm came in and said, “We don’t have a line item for ‘open collaboration.'”

Parsons’ conversation series continues in the spring with fashion designer Donna Karan and architect (and “power geezer”) Michael Graves.

-Michael Calderone Bruce Mau on Design, Rem and Not Getting Paid