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Interview with Andrew Maynard

Andrew Maynard, is an architect based in Melbourne Australia, raised and educated in Tasmania. His firm, Andrew Maynard Architects (AMA), was established in 2002 and  is quickly being recognised for his unique work and experimental conceptual designs. The grounded ethics and morals which surround Andrews work are a refreshing inspiration to both students and the profession.

Andrew Maynard Profile


Archi-ninja Interview’s Andrew Maynard


1. Which of your projects has been the most rewarding and why?

AM: The stand outs for me have to be CV08 and the Styx Valley protest shelter. Both unbuilt concepts, but both have a broad social and ethical agenda that simply does not translate to my built work with the same intensity.

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Left: CV08 – The Suburb Eating Robot, Right: Styx Valley protest shelter


2. Your recent project, Vader House, recently won the 2009 Vision Award. What aspects of project do you think contributed to winning the award?

AM: I lose all objectivity about a project by the time it is complete. I can’t place it or measure it when its finished. I have received a lot of great feedback about Vader house, which is always very important for your self confidence as a designer. Vader was one of the first projects I designed over 6 years ago [when I was 28], however it was shelved for a long time while the client got their finances in order. I am a very different designer now and I am quite sure that I would tackle the project differently if I were to do it again. To me Vader often feels like it has a different author.

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Vader House

3. How do you think architecture will change in the next 50 years?

AM: Augmented realities are going to change architecture radically. I believe that we will soon describe architecture as pre augmented realities and post augmented realities. A few of videos worth checking out are :  http://bit.ly/4s2kxH and  http://bit.ly/aToJf and  http://bit.ly/HGbDs . I think that the implications for architecture are very exciting. The idea of user driven content in architecture is also a wonderful way of democratising our profession. The blurring of boundaries between the real and the virtual is already happening and it may prove to be another missed opportunity for architects to lead in the creative implementation of this technology and ideas. There is a real threat that our constructed environment will start to be designed by companies like Apple rather than our profession.

4. What changes would you like to see in the Architectural profession?

AM: A new basis for fees would be fantastic. Linking fees to budgets creates distrust in clients and also discourages architects from arguing for a reduced scope of works. One of the most powerful ESD weapons an architect has is to convince a client not to change parts of their buildings, to simply accept what they have. Knocking down and starting again can give an architect great freedom and increases their fees however there is a broader ethical, environmental and professional obligation that is missed by assuming that this is always the best course of action for a client and a site.

5. Do you think that Architecture tends to be trendy today?

AM: Architecture is definitely very present in the popular media at the moment. However I do not think that this is a trend. This attention will concrete architecture into the public consciousness and I hope will create broader links between popular culture and architecture. This is something that we are very interested in at AMA. Resisting, or denying a link with high culture and instead making architecture not only accessible by the mainstream but furthermore making it culturally entrenched with the mainstream is part of our goal.

6. What would students learn from reviewing the body of architectural projects you have completed? Do you have any advice for upcoming students?

AM: AMA is still in its infancy and as such I am not convinced that there is anything to learn from our built work. However I think that AMA as a practice is a very interesting vehicle for students to learn from and research. Peter Eisenman once said that you must be very deliberate and strategic when you start an architectural practice. He says that if you do not start your firm with a deliberate direction and agenda then your clients and other external factors will set the course for you and this is a very difficult position to steer away from or reorient.

I was very strategic in the way that AMA was set up; 1.Concepts were more important than built projects 2.Engage with the broader architectural discourse 3.Engage with new media 4.Survival is a priority, profit is not. This simple set of rules has created a practice that has some plasticity to it and importantly, because there are few financial pressures I am free of the stresses of the month to month billing grind. I think that this is important for students to see. You don’t need to fit into standard practice models. There are choices and you can invent your future without becoming a slave to the ubiquitous corporate model of architectural practice.

7. What are you most proud of in your career or any aspect of life?

AM: I am most proud of the Styx Valley Protest Shelter. The Wilderness Society is doing an amazing job to defend Tasmania’s old growth forests from logging. Styx was my small effort to help draw attention to the work of the Wilderness Society. The project received [and still receives] a amazing amount of press which drew international attention to the Styx Valley. I have always been amazed by how effective Styx was and furthermore it is evidence that “paper architecture” can be effective, not simply on an academic level, but also on a broader social stage. It is also evidence that architectural practice does not need to be based on a purely capitalist model of operation. It can be a hybrid of your choosing.

8. Who do you think is the most overrated architect, and who do you think deserves more credit/recognition?

AM: After the last interview I did, for a UK mag, I honestly believe that I am the most over rated. The journalist attempted to describe people like Shigeru Ban and even Renzo Piano as my contemporaries which of course is completely ridiculous. I seem to attract hype. At the moment I mainly design small houses and when you compare my work to the amount of media attention I have received it is verging on the offensive. I’m not complaining of course and I am not resistant to the attention as it does lead to more work, however I increasingly feel that there is an unrealistic expectation on my small firm. I believe that AMA has the potential to contribute some important ideas to architecture and the broader community at some stage in the future, however building up an expectation is not helpful.

The most underrated architect would have to be Jo Noero. Not only does he selflessly contribute to academia and social programs, his architecture is a stunning example of how architects can positively effect the lives of those in need. Students need to spend less time studying Star-chitects and more time studying the work of architects like Noero.

9. What aspect of Architecture do you find most important? What is fundamental to your practice and your design process?

AM: To answer this I offer a quote:

Thom Mayne of Morphosis on teaching architecture, and a bit more: “The key thing is that architecture is a discipline where it’s impossible to escape values. It’s radically value-laden. I think it’s possible that you can become a designer – an architect – and see it as somewhat autonomous and not as a political act, which is just totally incredibly naive. I try to make [students] aware of the radical, political, cultural, social nature of our work and how it’s impossible to escape those responsibilities.”

10. What inspired you to become involved in Architecture? What inspires you now?

AM: I don’t remember why I wanted to be an architect, however I made the choice at a very early age and never even considered anything else.

11. What other interests do you have?

AM: Computer games [esp first person shooters], comics, books. I love the fact that vast numbers of japanese architecture students end up in the computer games industry. My favourite movie is Brazil, by Terry Gilliam. My favourite TV show is Good Game. Best album ever is Going Blank Again by Ride. Favourite authors are Author C Clarke, Azimov, Douglas Adams and Philip K Dick [to name a few]. At the moment I am reading Mother Tongue By Bill Bryson [I loved his book A Short History of Nearly Everything]. I love reading anything from Black Inc Publishing and there website Slow TV is amazing. My favourite place in the world is on top of Mount Oakleigh [facing west].

12. What is your favourite time of the day, and why?

AM: 6pm ….. because the Simpsons is on. And yes, I am home before 6pm each day. Working late is for suckers.

13. What would be your ultimate design project?

AM: As I have said in the past to Gina Morris of THE AGE, all architects want to build museums and libraries and I am no different.  However, I’m pretty keen to build the Millennium Falcon.  And I don’t mean a replica, I mean the real thing with warp speed and a wookie.

14. What are you doing at the moment?

AM: After spending the last 2 years concentrating on getting some structures built, I am currently refocusing back on comps, concepts and products.

15. Who would you most like to work with on a project?

AM: I have always fantasised about doing a house for Matthew Barney and Bjork.

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Left: Cog House, Right: Corb v2.0

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Left: Essex St House, Right: Tattoo House

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Urban Orchard

I’d like to thank Andrew for participating in the interview. If you’re interesting in getting in touch or finding out more about his projects, use the following:

If you are interested in being interviewed and featured on Archi-Ninja, please contact me.

Discussion

3 comments for “Interview with Andrew Maynard”

  • Guy

    Great Set of Questions Linda, you provoke some really interesting responces.

    AMA is a great firm, thanks for begining to cover topics that are less commonly discussed! Very intersting Andrews thoughts on the future of the profession.

    Guy

  • BrianGQ

    Great interview. Andrew is a real inspiration. It is refreshing the candor with which he communicates with us. He avoids the typical cryptic waffling that so many notable architects.

  • Karen Patrick

    Fantastic write-up, with a huge amount of depth – very insightful! Great article, as usual.

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