Surveying L.A. Pomo: Morphosis (Thom Mayne)
In this series of articles, Metropolis celebrates the diverse, innovative Postmodern architecture coming out of La La Land between 1975 and the early 1990s.
In this series from our May issue, we revisit the underappreciated architectural experimentation that characterized urban development in Los Angeles from the 1970s to the early 1990s, and discover a variety of individualistic, unconventional, and radical styles—some of which occasionally even approached “fun.” Stay tuned to our homepage as we add more entries!
Thom Mayne is hardly sentimental about his first built works, least of all the 2-4-6-8 House. Completed in 1978, not long after Mayne returned to L.A. from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the little house was the outlet for youthful—and perhaps murky—ideas about typology, abstraction, and scale. “I’ve always thought it very curious why it was thought to be interesting, frankly,” he admits. “It’s just an early work that has little meaning to me other than it was part of a journey.”
Still, the house counts among its fans architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, who renovated and expanded the structure in 2004. They admire qualities Mayne downplays, particularly the conspicuous modularity alluded to by the project name. “It’s incredibly rigorous in terms of its dimensions and proportions,” Lee says, referring to the perfectly square plan and varied elevations, the latter of which feature a sliding scale of apertures of different sizes. “On the other hand,” he adds, “there’s a kind of casualness about it.” The asphalt roof shingles, brightly painted metal window frames and roofline markers, and salmon-hued concrete blocks round out the house’s “quirky materialism.”
Johnston Marklee’s extension, which replaced the anchor home that Mayne initially added to, picks up on the modular-hopscotch theme to produce its own set of relational windows. But by comparison, the newer volume is much more irregular than its predecessor. “It’s rare for a Morphosis building to have this kind of compactness and centrality,” Johnston observes. “There’s a purity and simplicity to it that have led it to age pretty well.”
You may also enjoy “Surveying L.A. Pomo: The Architectural Collective.”