RICK MATHER DONE IN

RICK MATHER, ARCHITECT DIED APRIL 20TH , 2013. THE DEATH THE RESULT OF ASBESTOS EXPOSURE 40 YEARS AGO THAT TURNED ACTIVE RECENTLY AND DID HIM IN.

Virginia Museum

virginia museum of fine arts, usa

READING THE OBITUARIES, THE SAME THEME WAS EXPRESSED: GOOD TASTE AND EXCELLENT USE OF LIGHT AND SPACE. A SOFT SPOKEN ARTICULATE CULTURED AMERICAN ARCHITECT LIVING IN LONDON. HE HAD A WAY OF COMBINING THE OLD WITH THE NEW IN A SENSITIVE LIGHT HANDED WAY.

IN HIS BOOKS HE NEVER MENTIONS THE EARLY DAYS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON WITH GLEN SMALL AND JOHN HARRIS . RICK HAD MOVED ON AND WAS SELECTIVE OF HOW HE WANTED TO BE PORTRAYED.

BUT NOW THAT HE IS GONE, HE MIGHT GET A CHUCKLE OUT OF HIS ASSOCIATION WITH US.

rick in town house, london

WHEN RICK HIT THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON AS A FRESHMAN IN 1955 HE WAS ALREADY AN OLD MAN PROFESSIONALLY. HE HAD WANTED TO BE AN ARCHITECT FROM AN EARLY AGE AND KNEW THE MASTERS OF ARCHITECTURE . HIS PARENTS BEING MIDDLE CLASS INTELLECTUALS WITH LIBERAL VIEWPOINTS THAT SUPPORTED HIS DREAM. HE HAD READ THE FOUNTAINHEAD AND COULD TALK TO THE PROFESSORS FROM A POINT OF KNOWLEDGE. HIS EARLY STUDENT WORK WAS CREATIVE AND STRETCHING THE LIMITS, I WAS JEALOUS AND COMPETITIVE. THERE WAS A PROJECT THAT HE USED PING PONG BALLS ON A MODEL AS OBJECTS TO SUPPORT A FLOAT ON THE MILL RACE. ANOTHER USING THE PRINCIPLES OF A JAPANESE MODULAR HOUSE WITH ALL THE MOVING WALLS ETC. EARL MOURSUND PROFESSOR WAS OUR MENTOR THAT OPENED THE FLOOD GATES FOR EXPLORATION. RICK AND EARL PONDERING OVER PROPER DETAILS ETC. RICK STATING YEARS LATER THE BEAUTY OF OUR EDUCATION AT OREGON WAS THAT ANYTHING WAS POSSIBLE AND WE WERE ENCOURAGED TO EXPLORE.

I HAD A FLAIR FROM THE BEGINNING, BUT LACKED THE KNOWLEDGE RICK HAD, AND THE ABILITY TO ACCUMULATE MORE WITH EASE. WE WERE FRIENDS AND DROVE TO LOS ANGELES IN 1958 TO THE ROSE BOWL. A CLOSE GAME, BUT OREGON LOST. MY FRATERNITY ROOMMATE, JIM SHANLEY THE STAR OF THE GAME. RICK WAS MY GUEST AT MY HOME IN LA AND WE VISITED THE FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT BUILDINGS, GREEN AND GREEN AND LLOYD WRIGHT WAYFARERS CHAPEL. WE WENT UP TO MALIBU AND SAW THE CRAIG ELWOOD DUPLEXES ON THE BEACH. THE ART AND ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE ERA.

 

THE LATE JOHN HARRIS WAS OUR BUDDY. JOHN A FREE SELFISH SPIRIT SIGMA CHI FRATERNITY BROTHER OF MINE THAT WAS FUN TO BE AROUND, HE WAS INTO DESIGN AND EXPLORATION. HE HAD THE POPULAR JOE COLLEGE LOOK LIKE THE KINGSTON TRIO. ONCE WE ALL CONTRIBUTED TO PILLING JOHN’S DRAFTING TABLE TO THE CEILING, BECAUSE JOHN HAD STOLEN SO MANY THINGS FROM FELLOW STUDENTS. JOHN HAD NO MATH NOR WRITING SKILLS, HE HAD RELIED ON HIS MOTHER TO GET HIM THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL, AND MARRIED EDDIE CHURCH A MATH WIZ, THAT GOT HIM THROUGH LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE . RICK TOURED EUROPE WITH JOHN AND GOT HIS FULL DOSE OF FUN AND SCRAPES.

I HAVE MANY STORIES ABOUT JOHN HARRIS, BUT ONE OF MY FAVORITE BEING: JOHN CUTTING A LARGE PALM TREE DOWN IN LOS ANGELES AND USING THE TRUNK AS A BASE FOR A TABLE, PUTTING A SLAB OF GLASS TO TOP IT OFF. AFTER THE TABLE BEING PURCHASED, THE UPSCALE INTERIOR SHOP GETS A CALL SHORTLY THERE AFTER, THE TRUNK HAD ROTTED OUT AND THE TABLE COLLAPSED.

ashmolean, oxford, uk

RICK, AROUND 1985 WAS DOING A CLASSY CHINESE ZEN RESTAURANT IN MONTREAL CANADA. THESE RESTAURANTS FAMOUSLY POPULAR WITH CREATIVE THINGS LIKE SHALLOW BOWLS OF WATER CASCADING WATER DOWN THE HAND RAILS. THIS IS WHERE RICK LOOSENED UP AND HAD FUN. RICK HAD LARGE SLABS OF GLASS CANTILEVERING OUT OF THE FLOOR FOR SCREENS IN MONTREAL. SINCE JOHN HARRIS WAS INTO BUILDING THINGS WITH HIS HANDS AND A SENSITIVE DESIGNER, RICK THOUGHT JOHN COULD HANDLE THE INSTALLATION.

JOHN BY THIS TIME WAS ON HIS THIRD WIFE, SHE A FIERY CANADIAN RED HEAD THAT WAS A PERFECT MATCH FOR HIM. JOHN WENT OFF TO CANADA WITH HER IN HIS GMC MOTOR HOME. UPON SEEING THE JOB CONDITIONS, JOHN ASKED FOR A RETAINER OF $30, 000 THAT WAS DELIVERED TO HIM. THAT WAS A BIT TOO MUCH FOR JOHN TO HANDLE, SO HE AND HIS WIFE TOOK OFF WITH THE $30,000. LEAVING RICK HOLDING THE BAG. RICK WAS A PERFECT GENTLEMAN AND FILLED IN BY SENDING HIS OWN MAN OVER FROM LONDON TO OVERSEE CONSTRUCTION. RICK EXPRESSING TO ME, OH WELL GLEN, THAT IS JOHN.

THE IRONY BEING JOHN’S WIFE DITCHED HIM AND TOOK OFF WITH THE MONEY, FRUSTRATING JOHN TO NO END. NO HONOR WITH THIEVES.

ALVIN BOYARSKY WAS THE GAME CHANGER FOR RICK AND I. HE HIT OREGON WITH STATEMENTS LIKE COMMUNISM IS GOOD. BOYARSKY TAKING RICK, HOWARD BACKEN, I AND OTHERS INTO THE LIBRARY AND DELIVERING HIS VIEW OF LE CORBUSIER. ALVIN A VERY POWERFUL KIND MAN. HE WOULD INVITE HIS BETTER STUDENTS TO HIS HOUSE AND SERVE THEM DINNER TO SHOW US A SOPHISTICATED FUTURE. ELIZABETH, ALVIN WIFE CALLING ME IGNORANT, SHE GOT THAT RIGHT. ALVIN COMING TO OREGON AFTER DOING A TEACHING STINT AT CORNELL, SAYING THE STUDENTS AT CORNELL WERE TOO WELL EDUCATED AND HAD TO BE MOTIVATED, WHILE OREGON STUDENTS, WERE RARING TO EXPLORE AND DELIVERED THE WORK.

HOWARD BACKEN ( OF SAN FRANCISCO FAME, BACKEN, ARRGONI AND ROSS) AND I GOT ALL CHARGED UP WITH THE PATTERN AXIS VIEW GAMES OF CORBU, RICK WAS MUCH MORE SUBTLE IN HIS APPROACH. RICK THESIS ALL BOXY AND AND RESTRAINED. OBVIOUSLY ALVIN BOYARSKY LIKING THE RESULTS. TELLING ME RICK HAD THE MAKINGS OF A CORBU. RONCHAMP BEING THE CLIMAX FOR ME WAS NOT WHAT RICK AND ALVIN SOUGHT. ALVIN ENDED UP THE HEAD OF THE AA IN LONDON FOR YEARS IN IT’S HAY DAY.AND BRINGING IN RICK TO REMODEL THE INTERIORS AND TEACH WITH DALE BENEDICT. THE BAR BEING THE FUN SPACE WHERE PEOPLE GATHERED. YOU HAD PETER COOK, RON HERRON, ZAHA, JAN KAPLISKY ETC., TEACHING AT THE AA, ALL CAPABLE OF MAKING SOMETHING EXCITING AND POWERFUL, AND YET ALVIN WENT WITH RICK. DOWN DEEP ALVIN WAS CONSERVATIVE AND LIKED THE GOOD TASTE AND SIMPLE MOVES OF RICK AND DALE BENEDICT, THE MAN THAT KNEW EVERYTHING ABOUT DESIGN AND THE HISTORY OF DESIGN. SOFT SPOKEN AND FULL OF KNOWLEDGE, ALVIN AND RICK MARVELED AT THE TREASURES DALE BENEDICT WOULD REVEAL AND BROUGHT HIM OVER TO THE AA FROM OREGON TO TEACH WITH RICK IN FIRST YEAR FOR A FEW YEARS.

FROM THE BEGINNING OF RICKS PRACTICE IN LONDON, I KEPT SAYING THE SAME THING TILL HIS DEATH. RICK CUT LOOSE AND MAKE SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT.

RICK BUYING HIS WHOLE OFFICE STAFF PLANE TICKETS TO GO SEE GEHRY’S BILBAO UPON COMPLETION. MUSEUMS BEING THE MAJOR PART OF HIS PRACTICE. ALTHOUGH HE TOOK ME TO A FUN ZEN CHINESE RESTAURANT AND A RESIDENCE WITH AN INTERIOR SWIMMING POOL AND GLASS TREADS ON THE STAIRS. ALL SO MODERN, BUT STIFF. PLAYING THE DE STIJL BUT WITHOUT THE ZEST I KNEW COULD HAPPEN. RICK HAVING PROBLEMS WITH THE CLIENT NOT PAYING AND CHANGING THINGS.

NORMAN FOSTER RECOMMENDED RICK FOR A COMPLEX AT SAINSBURY COLLEGE. ALL CORRECT AND BORING TO ME.

RICK LOVED PARTIES AND HAD A VARIETY OF FRIENDS FROM ALL THE ARTS. EARLY ON HE HAD A ROW HOUSE ALL PILED UP WITH LOTS OF ROOMS THAT HE REMODELED. HIS BEDROOM AT THE TOP HAD A RETRACTABLE STAIR FOR ACCESS. HIS FURNITURE BEING RARE CLASSIC MODERN FROM THE MASTERS. RIETVELD’S CHAIR IN ALL ITS COLOR , BOLDNESS AND DISCOMFORT BEING IN A ROOM WITH ALTO AND CORBU. RICK LIVED MODESTLY, AND WAS PROUD OF THE ECONOMICAL CAR HE OWNED, I SUGGESTED HIM GETTING SOMETHING WITH A SIGNIFICANT DESIGN LIKE A FERRARI, HE HAD A COTTAGE ON THE MEDITERRANEAN , WHICH I NEVER VISITED, HE RESTORED IT WITHOUT SHOUTING AND ENGAGED IN GARDENING ANOTHER OF HIS PASSIONS.

arched atrium space frame

RICK LOVED MUSIC, AND HAD A GRAND PIANO THAT WAS WELL USED BY HIMSELF AND TALENTED HOUSE GUESTS. THE ENCHANTING NIGHT FOR ME AND JAN KEUTER, ON OUR WAY BACK FROM A PSYCHOLOGIST CONFERENCE IN PARIS IN 2000, JAN A MUSIC LOVING SOPHISTICATED PSYCHOLOGIST BEAUTY QUEEN FRIEND OF MINE. THE EVENING BEING WILD WITH RICK, HIS PARTNER DAVID SCRASE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE FITZWILLIAM MUSEUM IN CAMBRIDGE, AND FRIENDS IN A LONDON MOROCCAN RESTAURANT WHERE RICK’S PIANO HOUSE GUEST ACCOMPANYING AN OPERA SINGER. ALL THAT VIBRATION OF MUSIC AND JOY STILL RESONATING IN JAN’S AND MY BRAINS.

RICK STATING, HE WAS OVERWHELMED WITH THE PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS HE HAD ACHIEVED. NEVER DREAMING THAT HE WOULD BE SO SUCCESSFUL. WHAT RICK POSSESSED WAS THE ABILITY TO ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION IN A MANNER OF PUTTING PEOPLE AT EASE. HE WAS CONSTANTLY EXPANDING HIS KNOWLEDGE AND COULD ABSORD NAMES. THIS COMBINED WITH HIS KEEN DESIGN EYE AND CREATIVE ABILITY MADE HIM A NATURAL IN THE UPWARD MOBILE WORLD OF CULTURE. ALWAYS READY TO CHAT ABOUT WINE, FOOD, PLANTS, PLAYS , CONCERTS , BOOKS OR POLITICS.

RICK ASSISTING ME A COUPLE OF TIMES FINANCIALLY. I PAYING HIM BACK THE FIRST TIME, BUT UNABLE THE SECOND TIME. HIS REASONING BEING IF THE TABLES WERE TURNED, I WOULD ASSIST HIM. HE WAS RIGHT ABOUT THAT.

IN 1974 WHEN I WAS TAKING OFF WITH THE BIOMORPHIC BIOSPHERE, RICK CLAIMING THE EXISTING CITIES ARE HERE TO STAY. HE WAS CORRECT ABOUT THAT, BUT THE FORCES TO CHANGE SIGNIFICANTLY IN A POSITIVE WAY ARE MOUNTING. MAYBE TAKING A BIT LONGER THAN OUR LIFETIME.

south bank, england

AT ONE TIME RICK LIKED MOUNTAIN CLIMBING, WHERE ONE DROVE SPIKES IN ROCK ETC. I COULD NOT BELIEVE HE WOULD BE DOING THAT, WITH HIS LIMITED SIGHT AND PHYSICAL STRENGTH, BUT HE ASSURED ME IT MADE HIM FEEL CLOSE TO DEATH.

RICK ALWAYS LIBERAL IN HIS POLITICAL POINT OF VIEW, AND YET SERVED THE RICH. THE SOCIAL WELFARE PROGRAMS IN ENGLAND MADE SENSE TO HIM. READING THE OBITUARIES THERE WAS HIS CONCERN FOR THE POOR AND AVERAGE PERSON HAVING ACCESS TO THE CITY. HE WAS APPALLED AT GATED COMMUNITIES. ANYTIME I SENT HIM A LIBERAL ARTICLE I WOULD GET A SENSITIVE REPLY. WE WERE SO FAR APART ABOUT BIG MOVES FOR THE CITY. WE NEVER HAD THOSE SERIOUS DISCUSSIONS, EVEN THOUGH HE HAD ME LECTURE TO HIS OFFICE STAFF AND HE INTRODUCED ME , THE NIGHT I GAVE A LECTURE TO THE AA.

STANDING BACK AND LOOKING AT RICK’S PROFESSIONAL CAREER, IT MUST BE ADMIRED. SO MUCH DESIGN FOR THE RIGHT REASONS DONE WELL. MANY MUSEUMS AND MUSEUM REMODELS IN SENSITIVE PLACES LIKE OXFORD AND VIRGINIA. HE MADE A LOT OF PEOPLE HAPPY. I TELLING HIM TO GET BACK INTO HIS DESIGN DEPARTMENT . IN HIS LATTER YEARS TRAVELING AND BEING IN DEMAND FOR CLIENT CONTACT AND KEEPING THE OFFICE SHIP AFLOAT, DISTANCED HIM FROM HANDS ON DESIGN. HE A POTENTIAL SIGNIFICANT ARCHITECT TO THE GRAVE, THAT COULD HAVE CUT LOOSE, OR COULD HE? HE DID IT HIS WAY AND BUILT PROJECTS THAT ARE LOVED, A SERIOUS ACCOMPLISHMENT IN OUR ERA.

A FRIEND AND SIGNIFICANT ARCHITECT THAT WILL BE MISSED.

GLEN

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  • eric chavkin

    Hi Glen. I read the obits on Mather too. Did Mather comment on your blog, projects?

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      hi eric,

      rick never commented on my work, except to say my jouralist rotunda in nicaragua was ocar neimeyer. that is like saying rick’s buildings are richard meir . i might have had his chaple way back in my mind somewhere, but it sure did not influnce what i did in nicaragua. my design is fluid and responding to reaching into the landscape grabbing a plaza. the rigidity of neimeyer, a far cry from my multiply sizes and shapes to put the moument in motion.

      architecture is the result of an architects accoumulated knowlege expressed in the context of the design project they impliment.

      no rick was silent, tell me what that meant?

      glen

      • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

        readers,

        my last comment was filled with spelling mistakes. i forgot to spell check, before sending. sorry about that. when this happens, and it is often, i feel so stupid and ashamed. i never could spell worth a damn and never will be able to.

        regretfully,

        glen

  • eric chavkin

    Glen, Marher’s comparisons were obviously off the cuff, first thought kind of remark. Homology to well known architectures. Not interesting for a friend that should know your works and the genesis of the forms you use.

    The curves, half walls half columns were part of your natural structures design vocabulary before by you way before this reference to Neimeyer’s church. Curved walls or roofs were not originated with one architect and can be found in nature anywhere

    Your motif of repeating undulated walls, either on it side or straight up were previously used in the Managua Convention Center project (on its side), Your Oregon house, the house for Noriega (somewhat flattened). some others that I do not recall right now.

    I wrote before that these forms are part of your pre-embrioyonic, organic life-shape vocabulary, like the spirals and wiggles, organized in helix form, segments, starfish etc.

    Not at all derivative. differnt

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      eric,

      noriega house, where did you come up with that? i did not know, design or build.

      you are right, mather was just searching for an association without giving it much thought.

      all those repetitive shapes slid, elongated, shrunk, expanded and rotated i have used extensively. so simple a theme that plays upon itself.

      nature does this all in the process.

      glen

  • eric chavkin

    Sun Flower Adobe. for Rosario Noriega. Peace swastika is another one.

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      eric,

      i never use her last name, because it is hard for me to remember, thanks for correcting me. i thought you were referring to the panama guy.

      yes the swastika house is a perfect example.
      you the expert on glen small.

      glen

  • eric chavkin

    ORTEGA, Rosario ORTEGA was her name, wife of Daniel Ortega

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      eric,

      rosario murllio is the name she goes by. she is the wife of daniel oretega, president of nicaragua.

      glen

  • Matt

    Hi Glen,

    I have to say I’m always interested in your telling of times past and the real stories behind you and the folks you know. I wonder in this one, when you mention a couple of times ‘cutting loose’, what you mean and what the value might be.

    I can appreciate simplicity in design, and think you can find great power in nothing more than a well placed line. And cutting loose for the sake of it can result in the meaningless creation of an empty (and sometimes sexy?) shell. Interesting blog on Zaha in this respect: http://famousarchitect.blogspot.com/2013/05/92-zaha-josephine-tale-of-two-celebrity.html

    On a related note, lately I find myself considering notions of architecture and social context. Is it ever radical if it’s socially acceptable? Is it only radical if it’s different, or not accepted? I find the idea that architecture not getting built or published equates to misunderstood ‘genius’ a hard one to swallow. Herb McLaughlin at KMD always used this justification for the horrible designs he produced.

    Equally difficult is the notion that because the magazines put it out, then it must be good. What comes first, the appreciation of a particular form, or the Dwell magazine publication of it?

    Who is the judge? Yourself only?

    Anyway, thought to throw it out there for discussion. Hope all is well.

    Matt

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      matt,

      thanks for the discussion. you are struggling being a regular architect and rationalizing your teaching and the world of what if.

      rick mather made a choice to do it his clean way. even in that limited world, i think he could have made buildings more interesting and inspiring. but he choose to hold back. that was just him, but i saw that spark in him to do more creative stuff.

      i see that in you. your poverty history makes you solvent and set in your ways. just relax and enjoy what you do. it makes people happy and profitable.

      i have worked from homeless housing modulars of 8 foot square practical boxes to the biomorphic biomorphic. at all scales being different, rejected by the the existing society. all of these projects like the green machine step on the toes of conservative society. so be it. serve them well, but i will keep throwing out what i believe are significant answers. right now doing an eco resort that builds simple cheap, and inspiring. i am in the real world. i also have build apartments, condos , houses, galleries, restaurants, churches, commercial, monuments etc. these get built because they follow the here and now formulas that the society will fund. but my roll is to put forward ideas that will inspire developer types .

      what galls you maybe is that i am a switch hitter that has been called a genius for the built and non built projects. pick up the bat and play the game, you have too much talent to gripe.

      but if you do not push the envelope on every project you get, you will lose your spark.

      glen

      • Matt

        That’s good advice Glen. I think one of the struggles is that I feel to push the envelop means to follow the money. Wealthy clients have big budgets, and walls of glass with Ipe siding get the glory. I like working with smaller budgets and being creative with constraints and limited resources (also stemming from my history). The other direction seems equally challenging, as doing B grade low income housing that could never afford to shine does not appeal either.

        I think one great opportunity is the theoretical work (not galled at all btw), even if it will never be built, it affords the opportunity to experiment and expand design thinking. I’ve done it in the past – it just won’t buy me a Maserati. Ha.

        • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

          matt,

          thanks for the money tip.
          i do not know how that affected rick mather, but i suspect that had a lot to do with the decisions he made.

          glen