There are architects who love the Parthenon. Greg Lynn has a thing for the blob. This would not only be the '50s sci-fi thriller about a belligerent wad of jelly. The blobs that beguile him are any "isomorphic polysurfaces," meaning shapes that are, well, blobs. Architecture is a profession in which the cube and sphere are still the literal building blocks. What Lynn prefers reminds you of amoebas and bundled foam. In the most pliant forms of nature, in very irregular geometry, he sees the future.
"Architecture has been nostalgic forever for a bygone era," he says. Lynn isn't. At 35, he's already a much discussed theorist who teaches at both UCLA and the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, Switzerland, where he is nothing less than professor of spatial conception and exploration. At FORM, his Los Angeles-based architecture firm, he practices what he preaches. When an online home-furnishing company, Prettygoodlife.com chose him to design its showrooms, it asked, he says, for "a blob that can mutate but maintain its basic identity." (Think of Liz Taylor in the '80s.) Lynn gave them swelling wall systems that can be easily manufactured in differing configurations. And in the New York City Presbyterian church that Lynn designed with Douglas Garofalo and Michael McInturf, metal stairway enclosures course along the exterior in dynamic, rolling strides.
Most architects make paper drawings, then use design software to visualize those as walk-through images. But Lynn's "paperless" practice brings computers in more radically and from the start. Using programs developed for auto designers and film animators, Lynn can find his way into twisting forms. "You define space in the computer with curves," he says. "Usually an architect would draw points, and connect lines and planes with them. With these programs, we've shifted to thinking of space as the sheltered enclosures of a flexible handkerchief." One thing that makes Lynn new is that he knows why they call that stuff software.
--By Richard Lacayo