Inspirationist Exclusive: Interview with Jürgen Mayer H. – Head of J. MAYER H. und Partner, Architekten

J. MAYER H. was founded in 1996 by Jürgen Mayer H. in Berlin. In January 2014, Andre Santer and Hans Schneider joined as partners in the firm. Jürgen Mayer H. studied at Stuttgart University, The Cooper Union and Princeton University. His work has been published and exhibited worldwide and is part of numerous collections including MoMA New York and SF MoMA and also private collections. National and international awards include the Mies-van-der-Rohe-Award-Emerging-Architect-Special-Mention-2003 ,Winner Holcim Award Bronze 2005 and Winner Audi Urban Future Award 2010. Jürgen Mayer H. has taught at Princeton University, University of the Arts Berlin, Harvard University, Kunsthochschule Berlin, the Architectural Association in London, the Columbia University, New York and at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Jürgen Mayer-Hermann – Photo: Joseph Wolfgang Ohlert

 J. MAYER H. und Partner, Architekten focuses on works at the intersection of architecture, communication and new technology. From urban planning schemes and buildings to installation work and objects with new materials, the relationship between the human body, technology and nature form the background for a new production of space.

We caught up with Mr. Mayer H. in an exclusive interview for Inspirationist:

Metropol Parasol  – Photo: Nikkol Rot Fotografie for Holcim Foundation

INSPIRATIONIST: Where are you from and where do you live now?

Jürgen Mayer-Hermann: I grew up near Stuttgart, Germany and studied in Berlin and New York. In 1994 I came to Berlin after graduating from Princeton and living in New York for a while, especially to confront a critical architectural education with a quite charged and vivid cultural urban condition.

Metropol Parasol  Photo: Nikkol Rot Fotografie for Holcim Foundation

I: What’s your background?

J.M.H.: I grew up in the 70s and 80s and it was a moment where we were surrounded with a lot of critical discussions about architecture. My generation went through the 80s with a somber outlook on the future. In the shadow of the Cold War, we were talking about anti-nuclear demonstrations, dying forests under acid rain, and Pershing Rockets in Germany. It was all about fear and protection. I wanted to reclaim a future that was taken away when we were young, and I was glad to witness a wide range of people in our generation trying to catch that moment of curiosity about the future. I guess all this lead me to become so interested in our built environment.

Metropol Parasol  Photo: Nikkol Rot Fotografie for Holcim Foundation

I: How did you fall in love with architecture and why? 

J.M.H.: A little black and white photo of Erich Mendelsohn´s Schocken Department store in Stuttgart, destroyed in the 1960´s, caught my eye and made me study architecture.

Metropol Parasol  Photo: Nikkol Rot Fotografie for Holcim Foundation

I: Where do you spend most of your time, and what does a typical day for you entail?

J.M.H.: Travelling is a major part of my work schedule, and routine is not an option.

Metropol Parasol  Photo: Nikkol Rot Fotografie for Holcim Foundation

I: What is your favourite part of your job?

J.M.H.: Getting started in the morning.

STADTHAUS SCHARNHAUSER PARK – Photo: David Franck

I: Can you describe an evolution in your work from when you began until today?

J.M.H.: Parallel to establishing a practice, I started teaching, and since then teaching is a major factor in testing the architectural condensations of cultural phenomena. Competitions and smaller art installation projects became the laboratories to make certain assumptions about the production and performance of the architecture operative. Winning the Stadthaus competition in 1996 became the driving factor to set up my own company.  We grew very gradually, and now we are a team of about 20 people working on a highly exciting set of projects nationally and internationally. The Stadthaus is our first project and to receive the Mies Award was such a stimulating and supporting recognition and exposes our work to the world. If I check our archive I can see we have designed more than 200 projects since 1996, and quite a few of them got built!

STADTHAUS SCHARNHAUSER PARK – Photo: David Franck

I: If you had to choose one single architect who has provided a source of inspiration for you personally – who would it be and why?

J.M.H.: One important inspiration for our work is Frederik Kiesler who´s work spans from objects to exhibition design and architectural speculation. Especially the endless house is a key project for rethinking the boundaries of architecture. And there are also many Brazilian luminaires that rotate in our orbit, like Oscar Niemeyer‘s Vertebrae chair, the landscapes of Burle Marx and the designs of Sergio Rodrigues and Ricardo Fasanello.

STADTHAUS SCHARNHAUSER PARK  Photo: David Franck

I: Which is your favourite building?

J.M.H.: Frederik Kiesler’s Endless House.

STADTHAUS SCHARNHAUSER PARK  Photo: David Franck

I: Which of your designs is your personal favourite and why? 

J.M.H.: Metropol Parasol. Located on an archaeological window into the history of Sevilla, the parasols cover the very heart of the city for a new urban place for the 21st century. Metropol Parasol covers history, hosts the everyday life in the food market or in commercial spaces, offers open public space for events and contemplation, and it refers to a ‘visionary’ culture with rising structures to elevate visitors onto a panoramic Sevilla city view on the roof-scape. All these different programs are open and active at various times of day and night. It is now one of the hot spots for people from Seville and abroad. At Metropol Parasol social media dynamics and public space collapse into a packed place where people meet, discuss and relax, with cafes, shops and concerts – a real urban democratic open cathedral.

STADTHAUS SCHARNHAUSER PARK  Photo: David Franck

I: How do you unwind? 

J.M.H.: I like to keep secrets! 🙂

I: What kind of music are you listening to at the moment?

J.M.H.: Radio music.

I: What is your favourite colour?

J.M.H.: Cosmic latte – beige.

STADTHAUS SCHARNHAUSER PARK  Photo: David Franck

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