11 March 2010

DOES THOM MAYNE HATE BICYCLES??? (and insider photos from special tours of two Thom Mayne-designed buildings)

A short piece in Momentum, a magazine for urban cyclists, about the struggle by employees to get bike racks installed in San Francisco's newish Thom Mayne-designed Federal Building, made me remember these posters I saw put up by frustrated students advocating for bike racks in the brand-new, Mayne-designed Cooper Union academic building in New York.

We know that architects can only design in response to their clients' project programs, but Mayne and his morphosis architecture firm--who have utilized their starchitect heft to ensure specific design elements remain in their projects--pride themselves on their progressive green and urban vision. But how sustainable and connected can new, large-scale, central city projects be without secure and accessible bike storage for tenants?

I actually love the overall aesthetic and design vocabulary for both these projects (I grew up in a mid-60s Brutalist/Corbu inspired building so I get my affinity for raw concrete honest) the way they fit into and relate to their urban contexts, and the attempt to create gathering spaces within the buildings. But I think the bike issue is a good example of a lack of follow-through: I saw first-hand that the implementation isn't well-done, detailing and construction are not top-drawer, and most importantly, many of the spaces and connections within the buildings don't work well for users.

I also got a look inside the newish, Caltran Los Angeles District headquarters when I was working with the City, Caltran, and Metro on a Los Angeles TOD (Transit-Oriented Development) Strategic Plan.


  1. Wow. You raise such a good point. No bike parking/storage in NYC and SF? That is *crazy*. Not okay. I wonder what can be done about it now, at this point?

  2. It took more than 65 organized employees over 2 years to secure indoor bike parking in the SF Fed Bldg--under an emergency exit stairwell--with no assistance or input from the architects about integrating bikes into their design. Maybe the Cooper Union students can get insights from them for their work.


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