Making the familiar extraordinary

Tuesday 13 Mar 2012

Testing the ordinary and finding loopholes, in order to create extraordinary work

mae design cities parametrically, they design urban spaces topologically, they design buildings typologically, they design landscape topographically. These are the overarching themes that offer continuity to what we do, helping shape the direction of mæ; acting as the drivers for the firm's ideas. The beauty of being directed by themes is that it is not the same as being determined by dogma, which would be like heading down a cul-de-sac. Themes allow projects to grow organically out of the site, out of the brief, out of the opportunities and constraints of the project.

For every project that they are involved in they start by asking questions; how can they push the design, the process, the technique? The firm looks for metaphorical gaps in the hedge, identifying and using loopholes in their cumbersome procurement system to make new projects. For example:

- When designing a house for a sensitive site they made it mobile so it didn’t need planning permission.

- When designing a rooftop apartment it was pre-fabricated it so it could be craned into place.

- When designing a temporary pavilion they stacked and rotated boxes and clocked them in an extraordinary skin

- When designing a cemetery they stacked it so it could accommodate four times as many burials as a conventional cemetery.

- When they designed new family houses they semi-attached them back-to-front to optimize an awkward shallow plot.

- And when they designed a city they told a story about how they should live today, how cultural, social, environmental and economic parameters can shape the physical fabric of a place.

mæ are cultural thinkers and shapers; they design buildings and they write books about cities, they design places and write essays on architecture. Mæ comprises many people but mæ is a single entity with its own identity. 

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