Event Recap

“Reflexivity” by Martin Summers – Recap

As always, we’re very appreciative of anyone who takes the time to share their experiences of working within the architectural profession. When that person has spent 10 years working at one of the most world recognized architectural firms, Morphosis, we appreciate it even more so. The evening’s discussion was an enlightening and inspiring look into a whole different world of architecture, one where facades are inspired by dark matter, and fire stairs are 3d printed to explain their complexity. If you missed out, here are a few notes from the presentation…

  • Facade designer at Morphosis. Went to school at University of Kentucky, went to UCLA with his wife for their graduate degrees. Had Thom Mayne as a professor. Ended up working there for ten years.
  • The Giant Interactive Group Corporate Headquarters in China was the first project they did that the client came to them, everything else had been competitions.
  • The building facade is to the building as clothing is to a human.
  • They were 26 people doing a billion dollars worth of work.
  • Design process is very iterative. Printed 3D models all the time. Caltrans was a 2 year project, with a million square feet. During schematic they were meeting with the client every other day. At every meeting they had a new model that reflected the conversations had at the previous meeting.
  • Interesting example of working with 3D models. They printed a city context model, one for their client and one for themselves. Every few days they would print two copies of their latest schematic designs. They would mail one set of the models to their client and then have a conference call during which they would both have physical models to look at even though they weren’t physically together.
  • Alan Price at Cal-Tech led the design team to think of things in a different way, very high-level stuff.
  • Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Caltech was all about getting scientists to run into one another. Informal conference spaces. Put bathrooms on one side and coffee-room on the other, forced opposing groups to cross paths/territories to reach areas. Lots of back and forth forced by program.
  • There is no nature anymore, it has all been touched. 
  • Morphosis won the Perot Museum competition, but the economy tanked. They scrapped their original design and showed the client a box of structure, to prove they could meet the halved budget.
  • Morphosis is able to stay competitive because they are so hyper-aware of every detail of their project. If an issue is discovered/created in the field they are rapidly able to adjust the documentation to account for it. This is aided by their heavy use of computer programs.
  • The iterative process leads you to discover where the limits are. You find what isn’t right for the project, you know it so well. It’s like an organism.
  • Marty has now left Morphosis and is teaching at the University of Kentucky. He has also started his own firm, PLUS SUM.

These notes barely do the presentation justice, but it was a great event and I’m sure we can expect to see more from Martin Summers in the future.

Cahill Center


Written by Ben McGhee



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