The 1999 Charles & Ray Eames lecture
Michigan Architecture Papers MAP 7 Mack & Merrill
Published to commemorate the Charles and Ray Eames Lecture, sponsored by Herman Miller, Inc. given by Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam at the College on April 16, 1999. Editor: Jason Young Design: Carla Swickerath Typeset in News Gothic Printed and bound in the United States ISBN: 1-891197-10-X
ÂŠ Copyright 1999 The University of Michigan A Alfred Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning and Scogin Elam and Bray Architects, Inc., Atlanta
In collaboration with Herman Miller, Inc.
The University of Michigan A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning
2000 Bonisteel Boulevard Ann Arbor, Michigan
734 764 1300 734 763 2322 fax www.caup.umich.edu
mack &merrill the work of scogin elam and bray architects
Now, a note about the lecture. This is really making me extremely nervous. Merrill and I, I think we were discussing on the plane ... ! think we have done this once before. It's really miserable lecturing with each other.
She makes me nervous. Of course, I have no effect on her at all. You're going to have to bear with us. This may take twice as long as a normal lecture, I promise you , I warn you , and if you leave ... go right ahead. We'll understand. But we're not going to speed up.
They managed to draw the elevation of the building on the cake.
At the opening of the first building we did for the Clayton County Library System, the cake was the shape of the library. They couldn't even figure it out this time, so they just drew it.
throwing together nomentana residence laban center for movement and dance john j. ross -william c. blakely law library carol cobb turner branch library mountain house atlanta pavilion the architect's dream house - the house above the bug line 64 wakefield
24 34 42 52 66 78 86 98
circumstance brian carter
The Charles and Ray Eames lecture celebrates the work of two of America's most outstanding designers, and connections between art and industry. In their inventiveness, enlightened patronage, and the serious play of collaborative work, Charles and Ray Eames, together with Herman Miller, Inc., transformed the landscape of design, not only in America, but across the world. The lecture also marks the significance of this region relative to that work. Charles and Ray Eames met in Michigan. They first worked together here, and were to develop deep and rewarding friendships in this place, friendships with Eliel Saarrinen, his son Eero, the Detroit industrialist Colonel Evans, and perhaps most significantly, an inspired entrepreneur and furniture maker from Grand Rapids. Mr. D.J. De Pree was one of the founders of Herman Miller. From their earliest work together, Charles and Ray Eames and Herman Miller explored the properties of materials, economy, and the potential of production, in order to make good design more widely accessible. It was work with integrity and a deep social commitment that led to a long and fruitful period of collaboration. Work that for almost fifty years produced an extraordinary range of internationally recognized designs. Those designs are as compelling today as in those moments when they were first made.
This book celebrates the 1999 Charles and Ray Eames Lecture which was given by Mack Scogin and Merril Elam. Since establishing Scogin Elam and Bray Architects some fifteen years ago, they too have been collaborating with Herman Miller. Mack and Merrill are also, in their own way, continuing the trajectory of Charles and Ray Eames. Meaningful exposure to the idiosyncracies and proclivities of a practice of architecture as important as Scogin Elam and Bray is rare and, therefore, worth sharing. The combination of images of the work and their own stories about the projects will hopefully prompt new conversations.
right smart jason young
My grandmother is known to use the term right smart as a unit of measure. I have always been confounded by the origin of the term, but it seems to work. Right smart describes the condition of more than enough . She would ask, "how much ice cream do you want' A right smart'" It was always enough, and more than enough . The architecture of Scogin Elam and Bray is a right smart.
Once a year, for two weeks, a small town in Georgia celebrates the harvesting of the sweet onion that is its namesake. During that time the whole town smells like an onion. So intense is the smell of onion that the word Vidalia could never be wrestled away from its use as an interchange between the town and its cash crop.
This verbal interchange is incredibly simple. The intensity of the experience - the town becomes onion - conspires with the novelty of the sweet onion; itself a paradox. Its sweetness pushes vegetable towards fruit. You can eat it like an apple. There is an efficiency to this interchange. It works. A word proves to be durable enough to hold two situations in tension without seeming to (be a) stretch. Words can gather things together. lncommensurables can assemble and produce words: the chicken snake, the catfish, horsefly; a bird dog, a lightning bolt, a lean-to, juke joint, the bible belt; a moon pie, a monster truck.
TRUCK STOP. Oxymoron can be seen as an emblem of incongruities yoked together. A condensed paradox with an ironic charge, oxymoron is itself an oxymoron. Built from the prefix oxi, which means sharp, or pointed, and moras, which means dull, stupid or foolish, oxymoron, like truck stop, is an interchange between a name and a use, both of which are attempts to bind two things together that are not necessary. The trucks are left running at the truck stop. It's as if the trucks themselves are ambivalent about the stop.
The opportunity to reflect on the architectural interests of Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam offers an inroad into the relationship between ways of seeing and ways of making architecture. While this might be said of reflections on many architects, there is no practice as celebrated as that of Scogin Elam and Bray Architects more saturated with the idiosyncrasies of a personal pursuit of architecture. Mack and Merrill, together with Lloyd Bray, have actively cultivated their own set of sensibilities through the practice of architecture. The body of work executed by this practice over the last fifteen years has earned many, many awards, attesting to the fact that they have captured the particular possibilities of commissions that cover a diverse array of sites, programs, and circumstances. The numerous awards indicate that their architecture transcends the work that goes into its making. It is out of a deep respect for the buildings and projects that I attempt to momentarily divert attention away from them. There is a larger project here.
Mack and Merrill have managed to locate a practice of architecture inside this idea of an efficient interchange between things that seem incongruous. In their work, architecture, as we might conventionally define it, finds itself bound to a series of fantastic circumstances the like of which we have all seen but only a few of us have taken seriously. In the work of Scogin Elam and Bray, the conventions of architecture are left running. It is as if the conventions themselves are ambivalent about their own fixity.
Mack and Merrill have given us a lightning bolt. Their practice is full of juke joints and moon pies. Through these gifts, we might begin to understand the practice of architecture as a switching back and forth between what is already architectural and what could be.
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and insight. It is. The projects published in this collection attest to this. (In fact, Mack and Merrill are "architect's architects." They spent 17 and 12 years respectively working in the international practice of Heery and Heery Architects in Atlanta. I can't be su re, but I like to think that they first stayed in the large corporate practice until they learned how to do architecture right. Then they stayed until they forgot, or at least saw through it into something more that could be done with architecture). In their hands, architecture is a medium that is well suited for commenting on our world(s). They have cultivated their own sensibilities to the point that they can do with architecture what is usually outside of architecture. While we were busy learning how to use architecture to solve problems, they were out capturing possibilities using architecture as the net. While we were reproducing the discipline of architecture, they were out moving its boundary. While we were instrumentalizing cultural interests into architectural forms, they were busy considering how culture might (in)form an architectural practice. It might be said that Mack and Merrill were in Vidalia becoming onion becoming fruit.
Recently, Merrill shared a story about a visit to Daniel Burnham and John Root's Rookery Building in Chicago. She spoke about seeing the delicate tracery work in the atrium of the building and being captivated by the virtuosity of the details. She went on to say that she was relieved when she reached the height in the building where she could see the roof of the atrium. There she was able to see the crude manner in which the roof and parapet had been waterproofed with multiple inexact layers of tarpaper. Merrill was as delighted by the messy reality of keeping the water out of the building as she was intrigued by the level of care evident in the interior ornament.
I was taken by Merrill's ability to "double think." She was able to be simultaneously and equally moved by two things that seemingly contradict one another. The atrium offered two contrasting versions of itself at the same time and Merrill was interested in the relationship between them instead of foregrounding one over the other. I think this attitude is prevalent in the work of Scogin Elam and Bray. There is a sort of embraced madness in the practice. There is no visible anxiety about the production of forms, yet you sense that it does exist. There is a productive tension between the aspirations of each project and the question, "can architecture do that?" There is a single commitment to a self-reflexive practice, yet three principals collaborate around that commitment in diverse ways. In a fascinating twist, the practice is the thing over-determined, not form .
My own interest is in understanding architecture as a term that we can never wrestle away from its use as an interchange between the form and the form of the practice. I want architecture to be a verb without losing its inherent charge as a noun. And I have found hope for this in the work of Scogin Elam and Bray. They have made their ethics of practice available to us and it is something we can find vital and nourishing. The projects published in this book are exemplary in their formal qualities, but sprinkled among the images are invitations to get inside the practi ce that produced them.
They would never say this themselves, but they are very brave. Courageous, because they do not shy away from what they have found in the world. Our disciplinary matrix within architecture biases
origins that are already architectural. Conventions within the discipline are treated as if they are guideposts to what is inevitable and proper for the work of architects. Mack and Merrill do not (necessarily) begin with the inevitable and the proper. Their ethic is sometimes more challenging and less manageable. But they also do not set out to change the conventions of architecture, or to abolish the inevitability that architects will make buildings with use and meaning. Instead, they augment architecture with the enduring lessons of the irregular. This is their project: mix together what we know architecture can do and what we, in our wildest speculations, think may be possible.
Their BugHouse project is the ultimate example of this ethic. Given the opportunity to project a dream house, Mack and Merrill resist the temptation to rethink the very nature of architecture. Instead, they wonder, "what would it be like to live in the South without bugs7" This yearning for a place just outside the territory of domestic pests sets into motion the ultimate double thinking. The result is an architecture that cannot be segmented away from the circumstance from which it is made. Architecture is mobilized as a medium for dreaming about being bug-free. Bugs and houses - joined now in a new relationship as the BugHouse. This is an assembled incommensurable. But it is also a condensed paradox with an ironic charge. The paradox involves the joining of the discipline of architecture (its conventions and its traditions) and bugs. The use of the word architecture is paradoxical in that it indicates the BugHouse - literally, the form - and it stands in for the process of thinking bugs in the mode architecture. Architecture means these things together, at the same time, and forever more.
As an undergraduate student at Georgia Tech, my classmates and I "grew up" keeping track of the construction of the Buckhead Branch Library and the Turner Chapel at Emory University. Excitement was in the air each time we snuck onto the construction site. As students we were lucky. Mack and Merrill were out there doing it. There seemed to be little difference between those construction sites and our studio. We saw ourselves in those buildings. Idealistic, unrealistic, governed only by how far our imagination could take us, we saw ourselves there. When we saw the slate being hung on the frame of the Buckhead Library, we knew that our "world" was the real world more than it was separate from it. We graduated believing that there was possibility out there, that if we just kept cultivating our sensibilities, we too might be able to catch that possibility and use it as fuel inside a practice of architecture.
There are a number of things that make this a very special event for us. It is personally very meaningful, a great honor.
Herman Miller has played a large role in our lives over the years. Of course, Charles and Ray Eames have had an effect on every single person in the design and architecture field , not only in the United States, but in the world . Their amazingly humane point of view, their touch for architecture combined with their skillful and knowledgeable application of technique and technology makes them unique. It is a true joy and an honor for us to be here tonight and to give this lecture in the
D.J. De Pree joined the Star Furniture Company
name of Charles and Ray Eames and Herman
in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1909 as a clerk.
Miller. Thank you very much for asking us here to
The company, which was four years old at the
time, manufactured high quality, traditional style residential furniture. Ten years later he became the President and in 1923 convinced Herman Miller, his father-in-law, and a small group of investors to join him in purchasing a majority of shares of Michigan Star stock.
They renamed the company, but not until the New York industrial designer Gilbert Rohde visited the Grand Rapids Showroom of the Herman Miller Furniture Company in 1931 did the idea of manufacturing simple and flexible modern furniture become of particular interest to them. Rohde became the company's design leader, and it was his proposals for furniture that led the company to pursue innovation in both design and technology. In 1933, modern furniture manufactured by Herman Miller was shown at the "Century of Progress" exposition in Chicago. Six years later, with sales shipments totaling $160,000, the company opened a showroom there followed by one in New York and a third in Los Angeles in 1942. By this time, with a new modular system designed by Rohde, Herman Miller had entered the office furniture market. As corporate sales increased, the company phased out the manufacture of all traditional style furniture in favor of modern designs.
In 1976, Max De Pree, Hugh De Pree, and D. J. invited us up to Zeeland , I had absolutely no idea why we were there. They started showing us around the factory. We came across ... I'll never forget it, we' came across this plaque of all the people who worked at Herman Miller at that time. I've never seen so many vowels in my life on one plaque. Names that had six A's in them. Of course, so many family members, it was amazing... generations working at Herman Miller. Of course, this had been hallowed ground for us to see the work done over many, many years by Charles and Ray Eames, Quincy Jones,
When Gilbert Rohde died, D.J. De Pree invited the architect
the practice of Caudill Rowlett and Scott. 1can
and author George Nelson to serve as design director. From remember sitting in the meeting, I was a very
1944, under Nelson's able leadership, the company was
young designer then. Finally I just couldn't stand
to establish long-term relationships with a number of
it. I asked them why we were there, were we
outstanding young designers. Charles and Ray Eames first
interviewing or something? They just laughed. They left the room shortly thereafter and never
started working with Herman Miller in 1946, a partnership
did tell us why we were there. A few weeks later
that spanned more than forty years and produced a wide
we received a call. Herman Miller was planning
range of outstanding furniture. Molded plywood chairs
to build a factory outside Atlanta. Could we help?
fabricated in 1946 were followed by a series of molded
Since that time we've had the privelege of
fiberglass chairs developed out of experiments into airplane
working with Herman Miller on a number of
production techniques, the famous Eames lounge and ottoman of molded wood and leather in 1956, and, two years later, the aluminum group chairs which led to a series of new approaches to seating.
occasions on projects of varying size and scope. They have been a constant for us. The people at Herman Miller, especially Max De Pree, have been great supporters of ours. I am not sure why. I think it may have something to do with their curiosity.
In 1962 Hugh De Pree assumed the leadership of Herman Miller as President and Chief Executive Officer, with D.J. De Pree taking up the position of Chairman of the Board. In 1968 the company introduced Action Office, the world's first panel system for office furniture, designed by Robert Propst and a team of designers. By the time D.J. De Pree died in 1990, the company had a series of manufacturing centers in America and abroad, a new Corporate Center in Zeeland, and the Design Yard in Holland, Michigan Continuing to act as an inspired patron and working with designers from England, Germany and the USA, their design studies in work seating led to the introduction of ergonomic chairs in 1972 and the recyclable no-foam Aeron chair in 1994. Three years later, and with sales of $1.5 billion, Herman Miller was ranked by Fortune Magazine as one of the top twenty-five most admired companies in the United States.
The showroom for Herman Miller, in Atlanta , was located in an existing office building. The project evolved from very interesting conversations with Herman Miller around their introduction of new furniture systems. They wanted a showroom that from the first moment you entered began to make you rethink your ideas about interior spaces. They wanted something that was very unfamiliar, a new kind of geometry and experience, but made in some way complementary to the way in which Herman Miller makes their objects and products. So the initial entry experience wanted to be unique. After the initial entry sequence, the space was a bit more familiar, a gallery space where product was shown as objects on display, as in an art museum. From there the space became an even more familiar office space where product was being used in a day-to-day application.
This was an extremely important project for us. It was one of our first commissions as .Scogin Elam and Bray Architects. In the process of the project's making we discovered wonderful people who could make wonderful things. For example, during construction we came face to face with this column and this overhead thing that goes two hundred feet back into the plan and ends up in this point. We had drawn a dot on the plan but had not explained it in elevation. One day at the project the builder asked about the dot. I explained that it was where a column "could be." He asked, " Where is it going?" I replied, " It goes through that thing," indicating the overhead piece ending with the point. " Okay." I came back two days later and he took me to the site of the dot. I looked at him, astonished. " Oh my gosh, what happened?" "Well , the column wanted to lean a little bit, and then it wanted this thing added to it." He was right.
Merrill: The Herman Miller Georgia Operations Consolidation in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta is currently under construction. This is a very important and technically interesting project for us. It is straightforward concrete tilt-slab construction , which is the cheapest way to build these big-slab/big-volume buildings in our area. We are infatuated with this technology. The concrete slabs are thirty feet tall. Some are twenty feet wide, and they are only seven inches thick. It is really incredible, the structural ability of these panels. Not only do they hold themselves up, they also hold up the roof structure of the factory. Sheer size moves this project type into the realm of the fantastic , where these huge boxes make their own internal landscape. It's a great opportunity to reconsider the industrial building at the end of the century and to continue a working relationship with Herman Miller into the next.
footnote 1 "'we"' refers to the group from Heery Architects and Engineers, including Mack Scogin, who travelled from Atlanta to Zeeland for the meeting. The resulting project was the Roswell Facility completed in 1980 just north of Atlanta.
Margaret had been living for twenty years in Venice Beach, California. After the 1994 great earthquake we had a call from Margaret, " Will you do a house for me? " She was ready to move to Maine. She had what she called a 'green deficit.' She was ready for the East Coast again. When she bought the property it was under five feet of snow. It is about three acres of land overlooking Horseshoe Pond and Lord 's Hill, which is part of the White Mountains National Forest. We can't quite understand, as Southerners, how you can buy a piece of property under five feet of snow, because if you can't kick the dirt in the south, you won't buy it, for sure.
This is Margaret with one of her three wonderful poodles, the architect (overly bundled) from the south, and the great builder, Mark Conforte.
On our first visit to the site, we began to see what they call in Maine 'big house, little house, back house, barn.' It is a way of grouping the rooms of a house so that people can do their winter farm chores without being beat up by the weather. We took that as a cue for collecting spaces together. We also observed that the 'big house, little house, back house, barn' usually sat on a flat plane. This is totally unlike Margaret's site, which drops off to the pond. So, we built a new datum, a new plane above the earth for Margaret's house. It takes off from the saddle of the hill and moves out towa rd the pond.
It's a house all about seeing back on itself, so you're never alone in the house. You 're always at the house, with the house, as you 're in the house. The house is all about Margaret. This house could not have been built for anyone else.
As you enter the front door, you are confronted by a library space, which has a vertical glass well at
its center. So you enter the house, but you're back outside again. In other words, if it's snowing or raining, you see the snow and rain right in front of you and at the same time you're surrounded by Margaret's library. This is very emblematic of Margaret. She is a voracious reader. She is a great outdoors person. She loves all sorts of sports. Immediately, you understand something about Margaret and her interests and her personality. It is also a house about making tiny spaces - Margaret's program called for tiny,
tiny rooms - and opening them up in various positions on the site so that they feel much bigger than they actually are, and so that each has its own orientation.
laban center for movement and dance
Generally, we don't do many competitions but we did two last year. The few that we have done have been important projects for us. This competition is a dance center, the Laban Dance Center in London which had a fantastic program based on the work of Rudolf Laban. Laban was arguably the inventor of modern dance. He devised a way to notate dance, and it was the first time dance had ever been successfully written down or scored in the same way that music is scored. In the late 30s, early 40s, if you can believe it, he was actually building models of his dances, and some of his drawings of the space of movement are truly remarkable. He was a committed , multi-talented person. He was very interested in day-to-day movement, commonplace movement. His dances involved the public , not always trained dancers. Great masses of people moved together at his 'dance farms.' His work was avant garde and exploratory. This school continues exactly this attitude. They have spawned avant garde companies who learned movement, choreography, and dance there. The school also has great outreach programs to the general public. It is a very, very, interesting place with a non-hierarchical organization. I could talk about it forever.
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When we started the design, for some reason , we kept thinking about weight and heaviness. For weeks that's all we talked about. "What was the heaviest thing that you 'd ever seen in your life?" " What was the thing that seemed so heavy but had some sort of effect over time, either erosion or lightness or displacement, that somehow established a certain kind of weightiness from which you could spring or defy gravity, in other words, dance? " There was a lot of discussion about all of that. We looked at things, places, artists. Actually, a very good friend of ours, a writer and art critic, joined us in discussions about dance. He said he was an expert because he had dated dancers for fifteen years. That was his whole cache for dance. It was a great opportunity to just talk about the subject with a critic who is said to make other art critics look like tax attorneys.
(a) After our writer friend left Atlanta , this is what we had of the scheme. (a) It seemed perfectly logical at the time. We had talked about ways in which the public could interface with the school itself; literally W!llk through the school on the way to Greenwich from Deptford .
Somehow, we went from that to this. Then we got a little confused, or even more confused , and started doing these things!b) and making that. (c) These were actually serious propositions but now that I look at them I think "Oh, my God." What we did was design a park that opened up to Deptford Creek and a publicly accessible way to walk through the project. There are two courtyards - a public courtyard, and the private courtyard for the school. What we did was, in effect, de-objectify the program. The program was actually the residual of these courtyards, the sort of ground left by the figure of the courtyards themselves. The courtyards were the symbolic programs, the outreach to the public. The non-hierarchical plan reinforced the non-hierarchical program.
We made about fifty models but we never built a model of Deptford. The rule was that every competitor was supposed to bring their white-onwhite model and insert it into a model of Deptford that had been made in London for presentation purposes. We took our model and inserted it. I can remember audible gasps coming from the jury and someone saying "Oh my goodness, who shrunk Deptford?" Our scheme was a bit aggressive in scale, but exuberant in spirit!
john j. ross - william c. blakely law library
The aspect most particular to this project is its location in Arizona. The Southwest has such an extreme, harsh climate. There is great visual richness ... incredible light. It is just amazing. But it is really difficult to allow this light into a building. We tried really hard to take advantage of that harsh light. We wanted to introduce it, but to control it a bit so that it was acceptable. It was important to us that students who entered the building at eight in the morning and stayed there until ten at night would have at least registered the passing of the day by the movement of the light.
We have always found this project difficult to explain. You have to go there to get it. There is no single photograph of this building which is satisfying to me. The problem with looking at a single image of this building is that it frames it as an object, which it is not. The project is all about edge conditions. It is all about context. It is involved with the horizon and the expanse of the sky. It is not about one particular photograph, a singular moment. We are so conditioned to the image or the framed moment that it is extremely difficult to try to show a framed moment and then talk about something that is broader in scope. This project always seems to make that distinction immediate.
The interior is equally difficult to photograph because it also is not singular. The building is about a constantly changing sequence of large spaces and small spaces, from the dome to the study carrel, and the relationships between them . The students can find their own places. It is at once a place for a single person and a place for a collective body. This is important because law students are like architecture students in that they spend a great deal of time in their building. A variety of spaces makes it more livable for them.
The project is really about capturing the sky... about bringing the sky into the building... the presence of the sky... the sky registered by the artifact of the building. As with the dynamic relationship of the spaces, the dynamic of the light cannot be captured in a single, framed moment.
The client for this project was incredible. They knew that a law school in the Southwest could be much different than one, say, in Washington D.C. From the beginning, they knew that this project was not going to be a 'traditional .' or 'neo-classical' design. It was not going to be a design that one would immediately imagine as a law school building. This is what made this such an exciting project to work on. They were so intent on doing something distinctly and importantly different.
A significant constraint on the project was the tight budget. I think that, in the end, there are moments in the architecture where this is evident. It can be said that we could have done something not so complex in form , simplify the building to make it easier and more affordable to build. I think, though , that in doing so we would have sacrificed many of the larger, arguably more important expectations for the architecture. I think the strengths of the building come from its complexity, a complexity that accurately reflects the desires of the client and the dynamics of the place.
carol cobb turner branch library
Merrill: At the opposite end of the program scale, very small, and now outside Atlanta in Morrow, Georgia we are talking about the second library which we have designed for the Clayton County Library System. For this project, we're in the land of "Gone With The Wind" and Double-D Dart and Embroidery for Men and Women , whatever that is. I never had the courage to go in.
We were commissioned by the Clayton County Library Board to be the architects for a small branch library there in Morrow. The site was very small and would only accommodate the building and the parking lot. We learned that there were going to be self-storage units and apartment buildings adjoining the site. Ranch houses existed across the street, and Sarge's Broasted Chicken occupied the area south of the site. The only really beautiful and reliable element was the fence row around the site where the pine trees grew up and touched the sky. Our scheme is about capturing the pine trees and the sky. We used the little central tower and the uplifted roofs as excuses for upward oriented glazing.
We took this model to a meeting, crude as it was. You could move the basswood posts up and down in order to determine the inclination of the roofs. We started moving roofs around a little bit and the Board Members asked us if the roofs on their building would move up and down. We said we hoped not.
This building became a community event. Kids from the summer reading groups were invited to put their handprints in the building. These kids are standing in line with their rubber gloves on waiting to make their mark in the stucco. All of this came about because we were faced with a very low budget, and we knew we were going to have to use artificial stucco. We did everything we could to try to make it richer than it actually was. The texture on the surface was made by the workmen. They took pine boughs and tied them together to make brushes. As the children were putting their hands in the stucco, the workmen were beating the walls to get this overall texture. We did the hand exercise for about three days, and by the end of the first day word had gotten out. Grandparents were bringing grandbabies, and aunts and uncles were showing up with nieces and nephews. It was really hot weather and the kids were very good. They stood in line and the subcontractor helped the kids, each one of them. Nobody got hurt. We didn't get sued.
. a soft embracing e tilted wallis ' like l'ttle tower works . Âˇce The I d space. The light IS m . I. ht moves across an 1 g the 1g a sundial. All day on t We were there one at that spo. it's very pleasant . d an electrician was tructiOn, an k d day during cons . the lights. We as e
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on the ladder installing orne questions nd answer s up him to come down a h'm alone, that he was and he sal'd no â€˘ to leave I making art. 0
I must say... l'm sorry to interrupt you Merrill... we almost never show this project to potential clients. It makes them a little nervous we found out. I think it's one of the best projects we've ever done. It's so much at the edge, that I think in many ways we achieved a certain limit with its aesthetic. After we did Morrow we didn't need to do it any more.
This house is a bit deceptive. It is the biggest small house or the smallest big house you have ever seen. You cannot get the scale of it. You arrive on a very formal courtyard which is a tilted plane. It is tilted just enough so that when you drive up on it you cannot see the edge of the house. The foreground is destroyed. You literally think you are at a toy house. It is bizarre what a minor change in perspective does to the height of the house. It is a small house. What makes it big, or appear big, are these space catchers. The building seems to be making space, or implying space, or confusing your definition of the limits of space. Your eye actually appropriates exterior space into the interior experience and vice versa . For example, looking from the courtyard into the house at the art collection there is a confusion as to what is interior and exterior. It became a question of how to do a small house in a large landscape and have the building hold its own; of how it could be a constant ly changing experience embodied within a limited program.
The clients for this house are gracious and generous people and the house kind of comes out of that. He is an urbanite and she is an outdoors person. This inspired two different aspects of the house. It is at once formal and informal, casual and deliberate. For example, although the courtyard sequence is forma l - it is a square you arrive on axis. But you are on axis with the screened porch, not the formal front door.
The kitchen has a picture window as a "front door." It is really beautiful, seeing March or Ron in the kitchen at the entry. It doesn 't even register as a kitchen because it is so unexpected. They can see guests coming and they can greet them before arriving at the front door. When guests do enter the actual front door it opens into a formal gallery space. An informal kitchen in the front door, then a formal gallery entry space. Inside, the understanding of the kitchen shifts again. It reads as an object inserted into the front of the house. The cabinets read more as furniture than as cabinets.
:---- --------: ..</ /
The contractor has worked in the Georgia mountains all his life. He did a remarkable job. The house is beautifully and carefully crafted. The agreement with him was made with a handshake. He never came to Atlanta. He simply sent his invoices for construction each week ... the bills for materials and the hours he and his crew had worked.
Every now and then, someone will ask us, " Well , what did you do for the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta in 1996?" This is what we did. We were asked by the City of Atlanta to design a pavilion that did nothing more than welcome people to the city. located at Margaret Mitchell Square, the site is the heart of downtown on Peachtree Street. The site was actually above the Peachtree Center rapid transit station.
We were working with a model of the site and the downtown context. I had been putting pieces of wax and clay on the model to try to begin to understand the scale or size that the pavilion should be. Mack came by and looked at it and he said "That's the ugliest looking thing I've ever seen in my life. Take that off the model." So, of course, I was humiliated and took it off the model. Then he had the audacity to step back and wad up a piece of tracing paper and throw it onto the model. We were just amazed, because this is what it was, this was the tracing paper. We loved the gestural quality of it and the sort of winged ness of it in celebration.
A brilliant move on my part. Thank you for the credit.
Merrill: Someone went from the office and got a can of that spray starch, like you put on your collars when you iron your shirts at home, and we fixed the wad of paper in place and started measuring it in a box that had strings attached to it. The pavilion was all about making a structure out of wood, out of a replenishable, regionally important product. We were working with Jane Wernick, a terrifically talented structural engineer at Ove Arup's office in london, and the wonderful thing about working with her was that she and Mack were both so intuitive about this project, and they would get in the room together and Jane would say " Put all of the columns in " and then she would say "Take half of the columns out" and Mack would say, "No, put one-third back in," and they would go back and forth. Where it hit down on the plane above the MARTA station was important because there were key points where the existing roof structure could take the loads. It turned out that the wind thrust upwards was the most important and prevailing force.
I must say that working with Arup and Jane was really fantastic. The same can be said of the Georgia Pacific Corporation who was sponsoring this project. They were actually going to donate all the wood products. The covering was something that we invented with them . We called it translucent plywood. It actually was a wood veneer sandwiched between fiberglass. The process for making it was much like a typical plywood lamination process. It allowed us about a one-eighth inch thin covering that was extremely lightweight. The challenge was the gluing process and the prospects of weathering.
We went along and problems were solved and as we proceded, everything was coming together. We would adjust the design as needed to make up for lost time as that occurred . Three days before Christmas in 1995, we learned that the wood products were now being manufactured and that the steel connectors for the wood pieces were on a ship which had just arrived in the San Francisco harbor. Everything was ongoing. The connectors had been manufactured by a German company. Our drawings were coming along. And then, about two hours later, we got another call. The project had been stopped ... cancelled. We still don't know exactly why that happened. We were heartbroken. We loved the exercise. We learned from it. It will come back and be helpful in other projects.
the architect's dream house - the house above the bug line
In the 20th century, the house has been a major vehicle for architectural research . We have come more and more to appreciate this as we have become involved with residential projects. Occasionally we have the opportunity to continue this research in unbuilt projects. One example is something we called the bug house.
We had a lot of fun with this. We were asked by the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Cincinnati to participate in the design of a fantastic house, an architect's dream house. Being from the South and fighting insects all the time , we imagined a kind of line ...
You imagined it, I didn't imagine it...
Above which a bug couldn't fly.
The lower part of the bug house is all screened in. The screened area is a place of occupation. As you move up the house, this imaginary house, you climb up higher, higher, above the bug line to the sky and then you open the house out entirely and take in the wind and the rain and the sun . Your eyes see right through the center section , wh ich has to do with the horizon line.
At the horizon line, we placed a poem on the wall. It talked about the bug house, and the bugs, and the screen, and the post-industrial era, and other things. In the exhibit you saw through the object against that horizon, but in the conceptualized reality of it, you had to get a helicopter to fly up to it.
But what really shocked us was how anthropomorphic it had become, how sexy it was. It had these little pointy toes that stuck out at you and a skirt you could see through. We didn't know we were headed in that direction when we started.
Mack: Right. The bug line was somewhere way up there.
This is Merrill 's house in Atlanta . I call it her house because she made me do it. When we bought the house it looked like a ' Monopoly' block house. Through the yea rs we messed with it, turning a perfectly usable two bedroom house into a house with no bedrooms. A tree fell on it and mercifully killed it. All the neighbors were out front thinking, "Oh good ... maybe they'll move out now." You could see them walking away with this horrified look on their faces thinking " Oh, no ... they might actually rebuild and do something worse." And that's what we did.
~ ~ )
This is where we live. Actually, we have loved being here this last year. It's totally irrational space programmatically. There's no real use for any of the spaces. We've tried to conceive of a way to live in it where you could move the beds and move the tables and eat anywhere, and we've been pretty successful with that, except for the bed. Merrill calls it the 'healthy house' because you have to work to use it. The bed is upstairs and the bathroom is downstairs. The pool is upstairs by the bed. It's really light and quite magical when you get upstairs. What happens, and of course we predicted this, is all kinds of reflections; you can't figure out if you're inside or outside. You just don't know. It's amazing how many people have come upstairs in this house and said "Oh! You have a pool in your house," and they're standing outside when they're saying it.
Merrill never has asked for much of anything. She doesn't seem to need anything. For some reason - I can't imagine why - she wanted a swimming pool. There's a swimming pool that is three times the size of this room , I'm not kidding, right across the street from us, but she wanted a lap pool in her house. Where do you put a lap pool in a house that is right on the street? It's just thirty feet from the sidewalk. She wanted to have sunlight from the south so you end up with a house with a lap pool as the front elevation. But you can't put it on the ground, because there's a zoning regulation against that, so it ended up in the air. It seemed like the natural thing to do.
The reflections do a weird thing. It looks like you can see right through concrete, and then , the pool moves over to here. At nighttime it is really wonderful. I had never realized how many times the color of the sky changes at night and the way the moon comes and goes. It comes and goes the same as the sun comes and goes, but different. You learn about this stuff. I should have learned in elementary school, but.. .
1992 - present
Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Lloyd Bray Christopher Agosta Jeff Atwood
David McManus, Jr.
This book is published on the occasion of the 1999
Charles and Ray Eames Lecture given by Mack Scogin
and Merrill Elam. Together with Lloyd Bray, Mack and
Merrill are principals of Scogin , Elam and Bray
Architects. The work presented here is a result of their
collaboration, which seeks to take advantage of the
particular strengths of each of the principals.
acknowledgments We would like to thank Iierman Miller, Inc. tor thicr continued and generous support of the Charles and Ray !:.ames Lecture Series. The opportunity to publish the content of the lectures, making them availible to a broader audience, is also made possible by Herman Miller's enthusiastic involvement. This collaboration is very important to the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The lectures and publications are an opportun ity to celebrate thi s unique relationship. The work of Scogin Elam and Bray makes possible the belief that architecture can be a vital cultural force. The opportunity to participate in converstion with Mack and Merrill about thier work makes this belief more real. We are indebted to the two of them, but also to the collaborators in their office. Thanks to Angela Pearce for her patient assistance. All of the photographs are by Timothy Hursley except those on pages 5, 6, 10, 12, 13, 15, 20, 23, 25, 35, 36, 37, 38, 40, 44, 45, 54 (top), 58, 60, 79, 80, 81, 83, 84, 87, 88, 90, 92 , 94, 96, 108, as well as the cover. These photos are courtesy of Scogin Elam and Bray Architects. Special thanks to Christian Unverzagt for his wisdom and kind assistance in assembling the book at press time.
The things here are products of fantastic clients, not with great budgets, but with great expectations and a lot of energy and a lot of trust. More importantly, a great deal of curiosity about the power of architecture and the ability of architects to, through their medium, somehow touch their spirit and their dreams and fantasies. They talk about those things. These are not things that we are very comfortable talking about, but what we've learned is that great clients are comfortable with talking about those things and they do believe that architecture can do that. We have been fortunate to have wonderful clients over the years, and we have been fortunate to have an amazing group of young people working with us through the years that have believed in the principle that architecture can change lives and can make things that are of great value and fun, and can be fun and can actually be built with care and craftsmanship. It has been a fantastic adventure for uil?iind we are not sure where it all goes from here, but I guess we'll see. Thank you once 路i lgain; thank you for your patience and thank you for coming.
isbn 1-891197-10-X published by the university of michigan a. alfred taubman college of archtiecture + urban planning in collaboration with Herman Miller, Inc.