Saturday, June 25, 2005

Bruce Mau: Lifestyle


1. It takes two (or three or four). Collaboration is our wellspring - both within the studio and without. We enter into projects looking for the work that lies between our clients' ventures and our studio practice, finding that area where we can make the greatest contribution. This inevitably results in our opening up a terrain we can't enter into alone, and the absolute necessity for collaborative efforts.

2. We see projects, not accounts. This follows from the first point and explains why many of our clients have been with us for a decade or more. Zone, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Getty Center, Gehry Partners, all have stayed with us because our methods respect the integrity of their projects. Our clients come to us with ambitions that we can build on. They are ongoing projects that are never "closed".

3. We see readers, not viewers. We privilege the receivers of our work as readers - as people who are intelligent and appreciative of subtlety. Doing so expands the possibilities for more sophisticated levels of communication - for active involvement rather than passive reception - which in the end gives our work greater resonance and a more lasting effect.

4. The root of studio. We look at the studio as a place of study in service to its projects. Admittedly, this is partly selfish, a product of the desire for continual growth and a constitutional aversion to complacency. Our projects, and the intensive research we favour, provoke us to learn about the world, and we are enriched and changed by that level of engagement. But this rigorous process has also proven to be the way to produce the best people with the highest capacity for tackling the most difficult projects. It is a process that produces work that cannot be arrived at by other means.

5. Re-Iteration moves design upstream. Solving a design problem is not a linear practice; it's an iterative one. Rather than focusing at the outset on producing that "perfect" thing, our method is loose and consequently very productive. All of the "what" questions are asked through a process that sketches out possibilities to their logical conclusions. We visualize a range of ideas to the point that we can say to our clients, "this is actually what you are asking us to do." This affords our clients the ability to see business decisions and their attendant implications early in the process - before design of the end product even begins.

6. Upstream the water's deeper. Rather than flowing down river, we prefer to labour against the current, to resist the simple solution, because that's where we find the real opportunity within a project. It's also where our contributions will have the greatest resonance.

7. We love things. And we love making them. We aspire to a level of quality you could call perfection, but it is more multifarious than that word implies; it comes out of a real love for the tactile object, for things that are beautiful, clever, unexpected. One of the ways this is manifest in the studio is that we make production part of the process - our creative input does not cease until the receiver sets their eyes or hands upon it.

8. The studio is not a tree. The studio's trajectory could best be described as rolling. Our capacity is constantly evolving in response to projects undertaken and as a defense against unhappiness. Our collective desire is to maintain a long life of real contribution - something we cannot maintain through repetitive practices. We want to grow in terms of what we are capable of, and technology has complied by advancing to the point that such an ambition is attainable.

9. We're claustrophobic. Not unrelated to the statement above, but with an addendum. Actually, it is the crux of the practice: we don't like boundaries. What drives client/studio collaboration is that we say, forget about what is usually done in this situation, let's look at what makes the most sense, what is the most exciting, what produces the best results, what is the most beautiful. If we feel we are contributing something of value, our ambition has no boundaries.


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