Thom Mayne with Andrew Zago Sixth Street House project, Santa Monica, California, Sixth Street: Figure 6 1987

  • Not on view

Mayne’s drawings for Sixth Street House invoke architectural conventions only to surpass their limitations. By collapsing plan, elevation, and detail through juxtapositions of scale, oblique angles, projection, and rotation, Mayne challenges the historical view of drawing as a passive medium at the service of architecture. The design involves the insertion of eleven found machinery parts into the shell of a preexisting bungalow. Reworked as functional elements—staircase, fireplace, shower—these innovative elements embody an imagined prehistory or archeology of the site. The complex operations characteristic of this and other early works by Mayne resonate with deconstruction’s philosophical goals, destabilizing normative procedures and producing new interpretations of cultural objects. As Mayne has said, his decontextualization of these different parts affirms “the presence of an artistic intervention” just as it “distorts scale, subverts typological expectations, and asserts functional neologisms.” Ultimately, they create an awareness of architecture’s potential to shift our perception of reality—opening up the possibility for transformation.

Gallery label from 9 + 1 Ways of Being Political: 50 Years of Political Stances in Architecture and Urban Design, September 12, 2012–March 25, 2013.
Additional text

Mayne's design for his own home began with the insertion of eleven disused mechanical objects into the existing structure of a conventional frame house. These alien fragments are positioned to activate and redefine the regular spaces of the original house, and Mayne creates subtle connections between them. Each piece is reprogrammed as a functional element—a stair or fireplace, for example—and remains in the altered space as an artifact of the design process.

In order to represent the complex configuration of elements within the house's interior effectively, Mayne and Zago developed two graphic innovations. First, all sections and elevations are taken at an oblique angle to the primary axes of the building, slicing across the house diagonally to expose new relationships not prescribed by the rectilinear geometry of the existing structure. Second, two representations are included on each drawing—a plan, section, or elevation of the house and an isometric study of one of the eleven inserted objects. Each detailed study of an object is positioned on the page relative to its location in the house, to expose the spatial ramifications. The drawing becomes a palimpsest in which layers of information unfold, creating a spatial experience on the page.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, p. 120.
Architectural firm
Morphosis, Santa Monica, CA
Collaborating artist
with Andrew Zago
Serigraph with metal foil on paper
40 x 29 7/8" (101.6 x 75.9 cm)
Given anonymously
Object number
© 2024 Thom Mayne
Architecture and Design

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