Super proud to be among this year's League Prize winners! Come to the opening on June 23rd. And my lecture on June 25th.
Thom Moran is an American architect, designer, and educator. He joined the University of Michigan’s Taubman College as the 2009-2010 Muschenheim Fellow where he is currently an assistant professor. Humor and lightheartedness are at the center of his practice, which involves solo projects and several ongoing collaborations that each explore particular issues. THING THING is a Detroit-based design collaborative that makes things with plastic, using novel fabrication methods to hijack post-consumer material ecologies. With Meredith Miller he works on an architectural scale, exploring media and environment as sources for multiple, simultaneous effects. Thom and Michael Savona collect designs that engage the relationship between people, interiors, and objects at Frontieriors.
Thom holds a Master of Architecture from Yale and a BS in Architectural Studies from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His work has been exhibited at the Center for Architecture, Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the 2012 Venice Biennale.
In response to a brief that asks for a temporary platform for all sorts of urban discourse, from the most casual and intimate to the most public and bombastic, we propose a giant blanket fort. These camp-like, childhood constructions create states of exception where secrets can be told, dares can be enacted and parents are not allowed. As an urban but no less consequential, communication typologies of children.
The blankets are actually metal inflatables: heavy gauge aluminum foil held together with super strong tape (3M VHB) and inflated with a bike pump. Each of the two blankets is a different shiny color, silver and gold, and a different quilting pattern, zig zags and pillows.
If, as the competition brief states, a folly is something between sculpture and architecture, is enough sculpture, pushed sufficiently close together, a folly? Neither a singular object, nor an enclosed space, BETWEEN YOU & ME invites visitors into an intimate crowd of tall, self similar forms inspired by the history of the human figure in architecture. Not quite columns or human figures, these contemporary caryatids turn people into objects with both hilarious and disturbing results. Their close grouping creates unique spaces in between, and their tactile surfaces of crinkled aluminum unify their different postures. Those people happen to be us, by the way, as the forms were created from high resolution 3d body scans of ourselves. We posed like classical sculpture in a machine designed to create virtual crash test dummies for the automotive industry.
The name of the project, SBAGLIATO, means “mistaken” in Italian. A clever variation on the famous Campari-based cocktail, the Negroni Sbagliato is the drink of choice for designers in Milan at the legendary Bar Basso. SBAGLIATO is a playful homage to (1) the Negroni Sbagliato (2) the importance of Bar Basso to designers (3) works that can sustain alteration and modification while remaining recognizable and reproducible (4) learning from others and (5) copying.
This project is ongoing...
The gallery director provided a unique brief for this installation of the Archizines world tour: create a space for shell-shocked students to relax as the semester comes to a close. Since I’m certain few people actually enjoy sitting in galleries and reading in front of other people, I gave students little sheds to hide in. Rocking calms people down, so why not make them rock as well? People seeking privacy and comfort by hiding and rocking produces the overall effect of a room full of little moving buildings. It’s actually pretty funny.
These pieces built on the techniques and forms developed for the Battery Relaxed project. While designing an entire furniture alphabet has its appeal, we wanted to make our favorite letterforms into more substantial, robust objects. Made of solid plastic, they are surprisingly heavy. People are almost always delighted upon discovering this, and seem to value something more if it is hard to move around. They might be bulky, but they are also pretty unsteady. A gallery owner’s son once fell off of the ‘tt’ while climbing on it. He was fine, don’t worry. But it was great to see the slapstick built into the thing. People might like heavy things but they don’t like furniture that falls over.
Polyethylene is not much lighter than marble, but we only ever encounter plastic as a thin material, not the bulk of stone. The fabrication technique we invented allowed us to make shredded up plastic bottles look and feel like terrazzo, which people seem to love even though terrazzo is just another kind of fake stone made with polymers.
Battery Relaxed is an entry for the Battery Park “Draw Up A Chair” competition. The brief asked for a design for a lightweight, moveable chair that could be arranged in the park for different events as well casual everyday use by park visitors. We developed 3 primitive shapes that can be combined to form the letters of the alphabet. The ambition is to create a very-cheap-to-make system that can result in whimsical, challenging furniture objects based on conventional letterforms. Each of the three primitive shapes is a hollow recycled plastic object. We aimed to register and celebrate the imperfections of the process in order to communicate a sensibility of playfulness and looseness. We imagined people dragging and arranging these giant letter to spell out their names, or write messages to friends in their lower Manhattan offices above. A ‘relaxed’ typeface is one that leans back, like an italic typeface leans forward.
For the We Are Here program, we constructed a “factory” in the 12x12 gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art. We worked in the space during the week of the installation, producing multiples of hand-crafted balloons for museum guests to purchase. The factory functioned as a workspace and spectacle at once. Through it, we explored methods of producing objects for consumption in a direct way, collapsing production, distribution and consumption into one space. The project combined elements of industrial production and hand craft to demystify the production processes behind familiar objects, in this case a balloon, by making them visible and explicit.
In 2009 I bought a house in Detroit with four other architects for $500 at the tax foreclosure auction in order to conduct architectural experiments at full scale. I provided the house with its missing staricase. Something between a shelf and a ladder, the stair can serve as permanent home for plants or a temporary place for a book or a drink. Its bleacher-like quality creates a space to both move through and linger in. Each tread measures 15 inches on a side, large enough to comfortably sit on, use as a surface, and maintain a manageable, if unusual, rise and run. Inspired by Enzo Mari's Autoprogettazione project (this translates roughly to "self-made" or "self-designed"), the stair was intentionally realized with minimal means. It was designed with a nod to the sensibilities of survivalists, Home Depot, and the typical apartment dweller’s toolbox. This frankness and simplicity in making, initially a response to the lack of infrastructure (like electricity) in many Detroit homes, celebrates practicality and an economy of means.