Academics & Faculty

Book by Thom Mayne highlights his singular approach to urban planning, architecture

"Combinatory Urbanism" features collaborations with UCLA students, alumni

(Editors: Digital images are available through UCLA media officers.)      
UCLA distinguished professor Thom Mayne has made a career of challenging traditional forms in architecture and design. When the world-renowned architect was awarded the 2005 Pritzker Prize — widely considered the Nobel Prize in architecture — the jury lauded his projects for their "audacious character, bold designs and originality, both in their form and in their use of materials."
Now Mayne's new book, "Combinatory Urbanism: The Complex Behavior of Collective Form," published by Stray Dog Café, highlights the new directions and approaches he has taken toward urban planning and design through 12 projects designed and created over a 10-year period with his firm Morphosis, several of them with graduate students, alumni and faculty from UCLA Architecture and Urban Design.
"We believe that it is the responsibility of architects to engage the most difficult urban problems, analyze them objectively, and work uncompromisingly toward the realization of practical and poetic urban solutions," Mayne writes in the book's preface.
Addressing those urban problems has been a hallmark of projects Mayne has produced in conjunction with his research studios at UCLA. "L.A. Now," for instance, a massive research and design study, examined and addressed problems of overpopulation, housing and infrastructure in Los Angeles, while "Madrid Now" presented innovative visions for dealing with profound growth and change in the Spanish capital. The new book draws on his collaboration with students on urban studies of post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, a project that ultimately led to the design and construction of the FLOAT House, the first floating house permitted in the United States.
The results of these studios, Mayne has said, allowed him to recalibrate his approach, initially more formal in its emphasis, to something more strategic and tactical in its thinking.
"Combinatory Urbanism" examines new rules and techniques in the field of architecture and provides an alternative to traditional end-state planning solutions, focusing on the relationship between urban architecture and existing landscapes and filling a void in the works of architectural and urban design publications.
The book was designed by celebrated designer Willem Henri Lucas, professor and chair of UCLA Design | Media Arts. Lucas developed the strategies for recreating much of the raw visual content in order to craft a book with three distinct levels of reading and review — casual, engaged and deeply engaged. Featured projects range in scale from a 16-acre proposal for rebuilding the World Trade Center site after the 2001 terrorist attacks to a 52,000-acre redevelopment proposal for post-Katrina New Orleans.
"The book is nothing short of a tour de force and should be required reading for landscape urbanists and landscape architects too," said Alan Berger, co-director of the landscape and urbanism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Its thesis strikes at the heart of what only a handful of us in the landscape world have been saying for about a decade."
UCLA Architecture and Urban Design students and alumni involved in projects featured in the book include Linda Fu, Saji Matuk, Ian Ream, Monica Ream, Erin Smith, Legier Stahl, Ryan Whitacre, Chandler Ahrens, Andrew Batay-Csorba, Anne Marie Burke, Mario Cipresso, Ted Kane, Scott Severson, Stephanie Rigolot, Martin Summers, Patrick Tighe and George Yu.
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