Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam Architects

Atlanta-based architects Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam chat with Ana Miljački about inventiveness and emotional specificity.

Recorded on Aug 23, 2022. Read a transcript of the episode below.

Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam

Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam are the principals of Atlanta-based studio Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam Architects. Established in 1984, the firm has taken several different configurations over the years. It has been responsible for many academic, civic, and residential projects that vary in type, size, and location, each embodying a personal search for an architecture of “expansive specificity,” as Scogin and Elam put it.

Both Scogin and Elam are important figures in the landscape of US academia, and promoters of architects and of architectural imagination. Together and separately they have received numerous architectural accolades. In 2016, the duo were tapped to design the United States pavilion for the Venice Biennale.

In addition to other projects, the firm is currently working on the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, a courthouse in Des Moines, and apartment buildings in Queens.

About I Would Prefer Not To

Conceived and produced by MIT’s Critical Broadcasting Lab and presented with The Architectural League, I Would Prefer Not To1Herman Melville, “Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street,” The Piazza Tales (1856). tackles a usually unexamined subject: the refusal of an architectural commission. Why do architects make the decision to forfeit the possibility of work? At what point is a commission not worth it? When in one’s career is it necessary to make such a decision? Whether concealed out of politeness or deliberately shielded from public scrutiny, architects’ refusals usually go unrecorded by history, making them difficult to analyze or learn from. In this series of recorded interviews, I Would Prefer Not To aims to shed light on the complex matrix of agents, stakeholders, and circumstances implicated in every piece of architecture.


Transcript lightly processed and provided for reference only. May not accurately capture all aspects of the conversation.

Ana  00:21
Hello and thank you for tuning in. I’m Ana MIljacki, Professor of Architecture at MIT and director of the Critical Broadcasting Lab. On behalf of the Architectural League of New York and the Critical Broadcasting Lab, I welcome you to our architecture podcast series titled I Would Prefer Not To. I Would Prefer Not To is an oral history project conducted through audio interviews on the topic of perhaps the most important kind of refusal in architects toolboxes, refusal of the architectural commission. By definition, the topic of refusal stays hidden from public scrutiny, and is also hidden from history. Withdrawals of this kind tend not to leave paper trails and are not easy to examine or learn from and yet, the lessons contained in architects deliberations about and decisions not to engage are politically relevant and urgent. Decisions to not engage a commission or types of commissions or commissions with certain characteristics inevitably forfeit potential profit, placing other values above it, at least momentarily. My guests in this episode are Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam, thank you for joining me, Mack and Merrill.

Merrill Elam 01:30
Happy to be here.

Mack Scogin  01:32
We’re glad to be here, Ana.

Ana  01:35
Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam, the two principals of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam architects in Atlanta have worked together throughout their careers. The firm was established in 1984, has taken a couple of different configurations prior to current Mack Scogin Merrill Elam architects. It has been responsible for many academic, civic and residential projects diverse in type, size and location, but as they would say, each embodying a personal search for an architecture of expansive specificity. They have both been important figures across the landscape of US academia, promoters of architects and of architectural imagination. Together and separately, they have received many architectural accolades, and just to list a few, Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam received the 2022 Rothchild award from the Georgia American Institute of Architects, Shutze medal from Georgia Institute of Technology, Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Architecture, the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Academy Award in architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Chrysler Award for Innovation in design, and others. In 2016, the firm was selected among 12 firms nationally for the 2016 Venice Biennale, the United States pavilion to create new speculative architectural projects designed for specific sites in Detroit, Michigan, and collectively entitled The Architectural Imagination. Among other things, they’re currently working on the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, a courthouse in Des Moines, apartment and amenity buildings in Queens, and others. Now, I hope that we will be able to discuss some aspects of this vast body of work by talking first about the work that is not on the boards in the office or in your portfolios. So are you ready to start with the most memorable decision to not engage or to drop a commission, and we can zoom out from there, but we can start with that one.

Merrill Elam  03:43
I for me, it was a project in Clayton County, Georgia, which we had, we had already realized three small, well, the headquarters library and two branch libraries for the Clayton County Library System. And we were invited to, once again, put forth our credentials for a, yet one more branch library. And we did and we were selected once again. And we had had what a marvelous relationship with the library board and with the head librarian and we were expecting to have a similar go of it, you know, with this other, this new branch library. And it was interesting that for the first time in our history with them, one of the commissioners, the county at the county level, interceded and just brought forth: this is what I want, this is the library I want, it will be this, this and this. And I don’t, I like to think we weren’t being haughty or selfish, but it seemed like that there would be no way for us to collaborate with this commissioner in a way that we had been collaborating with the board, and the head librarian, and with many, many, many, many other clients over the years, I mean, we’ve had marvelous clients, we’ve had just the best, lovely lists of people that we’ve collaborated with. And anyway, it seemed like it would not be, what is it, fulfilling for either the commissioner for for us, you know, it was the hardest thing I think we’ve ever done was to walk away, from that project, but we did.

Mack Scogin  06:04
I think Merrill hasn’t given you enough background on the kind of the importance of this, these libraries that we were doing for this county you know. For over 20 years, we worked in and actually ran a very large firm here in Atlanta, very complex firm that was very unique in their approach to architecture. The whole practice is really truly unique. We literally on all of our projects, guaranteed the time and cost control of the projects, and we started out doing a lot of industrial work, but worked our way up doing industrial work, for firms like Herman Miller and Becton Dickinson and Westinghouse, that had on top of their kind of expectations for the project were layered a real desire for good architecture, and especially as it related to their, the people that work for them. And they would say, considered it to be sort of the key to their success as industrial entities. So anyway, the point is that I’m trying to make is that when we started our own firm, we had that kind of background, but we certainly were not, didn’t have the sort of horsepower to go after that kind of work, which we eventually did get. But when we first started it was, we were going to be doing small projects. So this library was like way off our charts in terms of a building type and client type, it was just a new, a new world for us. But what was so exciting about it was the way they came to us, especially the head of the library system, which, what was her title?

Merrill Elam  08:21
Director of the library system, I think.

Mack Scogin  08:23
Well, anyway, they had a very specific and interesting and open idea about what a library actually was and what it meant to the community. And, you know, how you engaged the public to make a place that was really exciting and fun, and most important, that attracted all, a cross section of the population of that area of the city, and that goes from very young people, kids all the way, children all the way through to the elderly. And so they were very, they had a very progressive program. And they really wanted something special. And this was going to be the headquarters for the for the county. So, it was an interesting match, because they were, you’d go to a meeting and everybody had all these really intense and great ideas about what a library should mean to the community and how they would expand their attraction to the full population of the county, all those kinds of things that you know, we’re like music to the ears of an architect looking, looking to make something sort of special in terms of architecture, they had really very high expectations for the architecture and for some reason, and I’m not sure why, they believed, they believed that architecture, that’s what architects, and that, they were truly engaged and truly excited about the expectations of these things, so anyways…

Ana  10:31
I understand, I understand how important the whole library commission was, or many libraries together sort of was. So it does, what you’re saying now, in a way, I think, specifies or explains the kind of trauma that I heard in Merrill’s explanation about or story about refusal in this context. And I’m wondering if you would say, then, that your understanding at the point that you had to refuse the project was that there would be no room to do the kind of work in the way that you wanted to? Or how would you characterize, sort of, what wasn’t right about it at that particular moment?

Mack Scogin  11:12
Right, that really was the, was the issue, was that… I don’t want to point fingers at one single, singular person, but what was put on the table was a complete kind of deflation of this series of libraries that we had done for them and all of those kinds of aspirations.

Ana  11:40
I mean, I’ll try to ask also something about sort of how you think about work more generally. But just a sub-question to this one is maybe- is this the most memorable project? Or a singular project that you haven’t, or that you had to refuse? Or are there types of commissions? Are there particular requests that have come from elsewhere that you would want to share with us? On top of it?

Merrill Elam  12:12
I can try, I can start, but I think it, as you are registering, that it was surely the most emotional. I mean, there have been invitations, and, oh, sometimes invitations to present credentials and so on. And you just evaluate them in a way, you try to determine if the project is within your capability, is it something you can you feel like you can bring value to that you can make better, that you’re qualified to do it, that there’s a, that you feel like there would be a good rapport between you and that particular… And those things, oftentimes, they’re not a hard to evaluate. I mean, you always take them seriously, and you try to evaluate carefully. But it’s a combination of intuition, of geography, of workload of, you know, just, it’s all these influences that go into trying to determine whether you will respond positively or not to a particular RFQ.

Mack Scogin  13:37
It’s an interesting question, because you, that happened in early stages of the design, in other words, we were selected, and then we started doing design work and that’s where the kind of registration went over I, between us and what it was then all of a sudden, the new client in front of us. But you know, in a, in a selection process, where you, you may have connectivity to some part of the, lets say panel that is going to make a decision, and you submit your credentials, and you get on the shortlist, and you see who else is on the shortlist and you know at least if you’re in, you’re in the kind of arena that you’re accustomed to or not. But on the other hand, you may not know who’s going to be in that room and make the selection. And sometimes you can walk in the room, you can walk in the door without a word said and you know you’re in trouble. And that happens really, in projects that you don’t get, I think it happens very often. It just happens often. You can just read the room, as they say, and the room is reading you. And the important people in the room…

Merrill Elam  15:18
And the story’s not going well!

Ana  15:22
Yeah, I mean, I am interested in the kinds of red lights that go off when you are invited or consider something. What is the thing that communicates to you: oh, we should stay away? Or…

Mack Scogin  15:40
Once you’re in the room, its the worst thing in the world that can happen to you! It’s a terrible feeling, actually. And you can just, you can just feel it, you really kind of know,

Merrill Elam  15:55
Mack is talking about when you’ve gone through all the process, and you’ve gotten to the interview, right. This is the room where the interview takes place.

Ana  16:04
Yeah, I’m a little bit before it. Let me, let me zoom us out a little bit. So on your, one of the office blurbs, it says that Mack Scogin and the Merrill Elam have made the commitments to organize all of the work in a manner that ensures their involvement in the day to day development of each project, which keeps the work personal and directed, and brings the best of the firm’s collective knowledge and experience to each client. So I’m hoping we can discuss this kind of aspiration and promise that you’ve sort of made on behalf of the firm and maybe the organization of the firm and how it influences your decisions to take and not take particular commission. The kind of space that maybe is allowed for personal directed, specific…

Merrill Elam  16:58
Let me just say that, before we get into the specifics, that it is the way we work, we are involved. And I mean, that’s the joy of it, is to see the project evolve, and to be part of the making of it and to believe that architecture matters, and that you can make some positive input into the project. But your broader question was, I think, not that so much, you weren’t questioning Do we really operate that way? You were asking what?

Ana  17:45
Well, to me, this suggests that there’s a kind of organization of the firm and an emphasis on things that would be personal, directed and also specific, which is what we saw in the way in the earlier your introduction site-specific in some way as well. So I’m wondering how these commitments influence your decision making process when you’re thinking about particular commissions, do you sort of use that as a litmus test? Are we able to operate this way? And therefore, is that a kind of a yes or no to something?

Mack Scogin  18:24
Well, it’s an interesting question, because, well, if you look at our portfolio, none of the projects look alike, nothing, we don’t have, we don’t have a look. They’re very specific to program and place. And every time, it’s not like we’re starting over, obviously, with every time that we have a project, but what we do enjoy is the, is having the, making something very, very special for that particular client, that particular place for that particular budget, blah, blah, blah, that is really what we enjoy the most. And what that does, it puts the pressure on us and the client to actually face up to a certain level of invention that is going to be required, that is going to take a certain level of confidence or courage to move past the obvious solutions and into some realm where it’s going to make that project both physically and emotionally specific to it and no other place and for no other client. That’s actually not hard to, is not hard to assess. So very quickly, in a very short period of time with a client, if that’s what they’re looking for or not. Like I said, when we started this list of industrial clients that we started out with, The Becton Dickinson and the Herman Millers, they not only, they not only write it down their aspirations and their theory and their approach to the making of their product and the commitment to their employees and their lives and their happiness and the blah, blah, blah, they write it down. And they have a list of principles that they ask you to operate around, that opens up possibilities rather than shuts them down. It really opens them up, and then the conversations with those types of organizations are phenomenal. They’re just amazing. Because I mean, they would drive a lot of people crazy, because they’re never quite satisfied, actually. Because every time out they’re raising the bar, every time out. It’s a different world. And it’s a different situation and so you’re going to build a factory to build Herman Miller furniture out in Atlanta, Georgia… You know, what they wanted to do? I’m not telling secrets here. They wanted to build in a place that got to the history of the city of Atlanta, and its importance. And, there, it was basically, we tried to remind them that there was a little bit of an altercation here in the city of Atlanta in the 1860s, late 1860s, where it kind of wiped out any historical kind of condition of the city. But they were still, I mean, they still, they did find, they found an antebellum house and they found a city, small city, a suburb, really now a suburb of the of the city, and they said, well, we want to locate the factory here, because of its history, and the fact that there are still some pre Civil War structures and whatnot, because it’s connected to the history of the place. That’s no secret, by the way. They’re very open about those kinds of discussions,

Ana  23:01
Meaning they wanted to transform, or to?

Mack Scogin  23:06
They wanted to transform, I mean, it’s impossible, actually! They wanted to transform a farm, a beautiful farm, with a with a farmhouse and a lake, a pond, and they wanted to build a furniture factory, on that piece of property.

Ana  23:28
How did you mean structures? Maybe that’s the question.

Merrill Elam  23:31
So let me just say this, that they wanted to recognize the roots of the place, not transform them. But in this case, it turned out to be agrarian or agriculture.

Mack Scogin  23:46
I’m not gonna let you off the hook this. They wanted to transform it in every way possible. But they also wanted to build a furniture factory in the South in Atlanta and not air condition it. And those were for principle, those were set on principles of, you do not, anyway. So we had to, we had to create a factory that had ventilation all the way through it all day, every day, 365 days a year. So things like that. So it actually defined the architecture. Those are the things that defined the architecture.

Ana  24:29
I’m excited to talk about principles that you could say, also drive your office, right. So in a way, similarly to the example you’re describing, would you say that there are categories of work or types of situations that you have preferred not to engage or have preferred to engage on one end that may be related to that, but maybe not I’m not sure, is a question about maybe what has determined the typological specificity of your portfolio? Even though the buildings are different from one another, there are certain types of buildings that sort of course through the body of work. These are two slightly different questions that could be related but don’t have to be.

Merrill Elam  25:16
I don’t know which typologies you have in mind. But I would think that we’ve always taken very seriously work in the public realm, whether it’s been at the county level, or the federal level, or whatever, this notion that everyone can enter a public library, that the courthouse is dedicated to the rule of law, and we find those to be such important, important important aspects of public work- its that it’s for the public good, you somehow have to believe in the power of architecture to support those ideas and to make people’s lives better, because of that, because of the idea and the architecture and how they, how that comes together.

Mack Scogin  26:27
The courthouse is a good example. I mean, we’ve done a couple of courthouses and, but we can’t do a traditional or classical, quote, style courthouse. And that prevents us from and has gotten, we’ve lost projects because of that. Because we simply said, we can’t do that. Because we just can’t do it. We’re not classicist architects. We don’t have the capability, we wouldn’t want it. We wouldn’t want it. We don’t actually believe it, but we also don’t want to take on.

Ana  27:08
But this, I think you’re getting to my question now, in the sense of this sounds like a sort of refusal, right? There is a kind of situation in which, even though you believe in this public facing institution, and that architecture has something to contribute to it, you prefer not to engage it, given the conditions of that request, right?

Mack Scogin  27:32
And there have been doing very specific projects in the federal program, where the judges of the community make up their mind ahead of time that they want a classical piece of architecture. And that’s just simply something that we will not go after. I mean, because we don’t, I don’t think we’re really capable of doing that. And we also don’t believe that it’s expressive of the culture, our present day culture and in the evolution of the democracy, blah, blah, blah, you know, that is reflected in the modern day court courthouse systems. Harry Cobb did the first one. Well, that’s a long story about the courthouses. But you know, Harry Cobb’s first, he was the first courthouse they built in like 100 years, brand new courthouse, he was given permission, Harry Cobb to do the Boston courthouse, certainly, in their Design Excellence Program. And it was quite an undertaking to go through that process, its the initial one. And, in fact, knowing from day one, it was not going to be a classical building. But it was… anyway. That’s the best example I can think of this kind of, and we’ve not gone after those projects, when they have specified from the start that they would want a traditional piece of art.

Ana  29:22
Conversely, let me ask you, what would you say, maybe this is a kind of a slightly more abstract, a kind of a request for a little more abstraction in how you answer is, what would you say are the conditions that allow you to practice your best work or to produce your best work?

Mack Scogin  29:44
Oh, I think our best work is when a client has very, very specific aspirations for the architecture. In terms of program. They know what they want, but what they’re after is some kind of aspirational condition around how, let’s say a traditional program for our house can fit the specificity of the way they live.

Ana  30:19
So you want them aspirational, but not specific, in architectural terms?

Mack Scogin  30:24
you can’t, I think it’s a delicate, this is a very delicate and complicated balance. Because if they don’t have aspirations, and they don’t have some specificity, you’re pretty much lost,

Merrill Elam  30:42
I think, to sort of tag on that, it’s the moment when both the architect and client don’t know what the outcomes going to be. But they know they want, they know they have a problem. They know they have a program, but nobody knows exactly what that outcome is going to be.

Mack Scogin  31:07
And the really great, not us necessarily for sure, but the really great architects take that situation and create yet another question with the architecture. They don’t shut down with the discussion with some quote solution. They simply pose the question in a way that sustains it and makes it almost eternal. You know, the person that you did the house for is excited about that house every single day they go to it. And it’s not because everything is so right. And perfect. It’s because it’s an endless, infinite question that they love to have, it’s sort of like finding a really good partner in life.

Ana  32:00
I’ll get there. we’re gonna talk about collaboration a little bit at the end, because I think that’s important, I think, for this question as well, right, but I’m still pushing the question about where are the boundaries? Or do you have been boundaries that you don’t cross when you’re taking work or not taking work? Or how you think of what conditions are right for you? Right, so maybe the question with that, the question, another one to tag on to that larger question is the extent to which this kind of concern transforms with the transformation of the office or the arc of the office’s growth and maturation? Are there things that you might have taken early on that you wouldn’t take now? Or was the set of criteria by which you decide whether something is right for the office still the same, are always the same?

Merrill Elam  33:08
This is interesting, I think, an interesting question that in a lot of ways it hasn’t changed at all. I mean, we’re just as interested in having a client come to us and say, can you design this ATM machine? As we are, Can you do this 50 storey building, or whatever. So, whatever the program is. So I think it’s all bound up in not necessarily the project type or the size of it, or it’s something bigger about the question of architecture as a project, as a program, the discipline of architecture and how you can work with a client in a situation to dig into that, into the project of architecture. I mean, that never stops being of interest to us. I mean, that’s what drives you. That’s what keeps you going is and what you love about it, its that it’s always the question. And the question, what Mack was referring to is that question then gets embodied in some way in the architecture itself. And it’s what keeps the architecture alive over time.

Mack Scogin  34:27
It is informed speculation but you’re going to speculate. And if you’re not there, what the hell, its no fun. You know, you, you have to be in that realm.

Ana  34:40
Well, I’m wondering to what extent your people in your office, and I calculated somewhere online, around 20, but you can tell me how big is the office at the moment, but to what extent they align with these views and so that’s maybe a question about do you have procedures in place by which you expose the office, the members in your office to the realities of running the office? And do you invite them to think collectively about these commissions that you will and will not take?

Merrill Elam  35:13
I think the projects that we are invited, that people generally, we don’t keep our business, our business of acquiring commissions secret from our staff and, or from the group here, I mean, everybody gets involved, or often can be involved in that, especially when one of those, when it’s a competition, for example, it takes everybody, or a body of, a group of us to make that competition happen.

Ana  35:54
For me, the question is, like, is there a kind of moment, but you’re not, your refusals are not coming through as distinct sets of criteria upon which you can make decisions. So they’re a little bit more nuanced or atmospheric from the conversation so far. So I was trying to see, is there a way to talk about the kinds of procedures in the office that are about running the office that intersect with thinking about should we go after this? Why do we go after it? Is it because we need to support these, our staff? Primarily? Or is it because everyone agrees that this particular project comes with a potential to be a contribution? No, that’s good. Now you have we have this line, which is very good to have!

Merrill Elam  36:46
I think one of the reasons it’s so hard to answer this question is because your refusal is in a negative term. I’m pushing back, I’m refusing. And I like to, once we’ve determined that a project might not be right for us, we move on, because we’re optimistic and because we’d like acceptance, not refusals, we like to take on the projects that we think we can be helpful on and be good at and be copacetic with the client. And so, so it’s really hard to answer your question!

Mack Scogin  37:03
One, one, seriously, this sounds so trite, but people just don’t hire us to do the norm. They really and truly do not. That surprises us, that we’re in that position. And you think like, oh, boy, that’s some really great position to be in. But not really, if you’ve thought, every time out you basically are starting over. Because that’s what it takes.

Merrill Elam  38:05
But it also delights us.

Ana  38:08
Of course, I mean, as a critic of architecture for a second, I would say, you have shaped yourselves into a firm that is asked to do particular kinds of projects, in part by accepting some and not others and in part by producing the solutions you produce, right. So that, for me, is an important element of this, that in a way, architects cultivate their practices in a particular direction.

Mack Scogin  38:39
We do but you look at our clientele. You look at, look at the list of our clientele, we have some of the toughest clients imaginable. We have tough clients. They, they’re demanding. They’re really demanding. And they’re not just demanding, from an artistic standpoint, our clients, the clients we have budgets, they have timelines, they have their own very, very specific aspirations around their particular project, it has to do with money, it has to do everything that surrounds that piece of architecture and so on. That’s not, that’s not a really easy, comfortable place to be in. It’s not comfortable at all. Because there is this question every time you start a project and this atmosphere about the question to exceed the norm.

Ana  39:56
Let me move us to the last couple of questions. So one I’ll just give you but you’ve already, Merrill, you’ve already begun answering it, I think. And for me, it was about competitions. Because browsing through your body of work, I thought, competition really comes out as a, as a visible, I don’t know, dimension of that body of work. And I thought that we could talk about the function of competitions, both for your creative process and for the office’s mechanics. So you’ve addressed that a little bit. But if you have more thoughts about it, it would be great to do that. And then maybe this is related. But I wanted us to talk about collaboration as the final question. And in one of his lectures Mack said only when collaborators are truly fascinated by each other’s capabilities, can they achieve success. And there was of course more to that about qualities of work and working, at what working collaboratively enables but also some wisdom about legibility of authorship, etc. And I thought it would be good to go there in relation both to the extent to which collaboration might expand be something that expands beyond the two of you to include clients and architects in the office. And to probe how collaboration intersects again, with the question of what makes sense for MSME architects to take on. So this is now not a refusal, but uh, but a yes. Competitions and collaboration, yeah.

Merrill Elam  41:40
The two Cs Okay. Well, it’s interesting with the competitions, that we have been successful, and I don’t know the percentages or whatever, in that arena, in the competition arena. For example, our project at Wellesley College began as a site competition, and I think there were like 10, or 12 competitors there. And the same was true at Yale. Is that what you were saying? Yeah, Yale health services project was that, it started also, interestingly enough, as a competition, and again, it was 10 or 12. Competitors. Austin courthouse was a one day charrette competition, that I think there were 5 or 6 competitors, I can’t remember what, that was interesting. They hosted us in Austin, and they let us wander around the city for a few hours. And then they shut us in a hotel. And at the time, we could have tracing paper and a coffee machine. And that was it. I digress there. But anyway, so then there’s another kind of competition that we know that we’re not likely to be selected for, but it seems to be a vehicle for exploration for maybe delving into an area that we wouldn’t otherwise be engaged with.

Ana  43:41
So you would say the competition allows for a, kind of, more space to play, or maybe even to collaborate in ways that an actual commission doesn’t? And so they have a function in the office that’s not only about getting getting work, but also about some other format for thinking together.

Merrill Elam  44:07
Yeah, I think that’s fair to say, it abstracts the idea of the client, right, the competition abstracts the client in a way, and it’s a compressed exercise. So, for example, the Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany, which Zaha realized was, again another sort of powerful thing for us,, to understand what Wolfsburg was all about.

Mack Scogin  44:47
If you look at the competition, it’s way up in the air.

Ana  44:51
Oh, I know, I know that one, it looks like guts are coming out of it.

Merrill Elam  44:57
Oh, that’s great! I Love that description. I’ve never seen it described, I actually that’s so good.

Mack Scogin  45:06
You know the problem with that was that the dummies here didn’t realize that though, and those those little legs were made of metal…

Ana  45:20
They needed to be structural?

Mack Scogin  45:21
NO NO NO NO NO structures they were, no, the model it was, they were made out of metal. Well what happens when you ship it in a box (Ana: It looked like a bomb?) it looks like a bomb. (Merrill: It never made it) It never made it, they confiscated the model. And it never made it to the competition

Ana  45:49
That’s too bad.

Merrill Elam  45:57
We just didn’t know what happened.

Mack Scogin  45:58
We got it back, we actually got it back, it was completely torn apart. It was completely, everything was peeled off of the surfaces and everything. We went on losing.

Ana  46:15
I could see that thing built. So I mean, I can picture it. Let’s end with the topic of collaboration and sort of how you’re understanding and dedication to collaboration intersects what makes sense for your office to take on?

Merrill Elam  46:40
Oh, golly, golly. Well, you know, I think any kind of long lasting collaboration between, let’s say, us or any other group that you respect, Diller Scofidio or Herzog and De Meuron, Jorge and Rodolfo, and that you have to have, you have to always be surprised by a little bit what the other person has, brings to the table. And any, just when you think you’re stuck, the person bringing something.

Ana  47:27
Do you think of your relationships with clients and with members of the studio Similarly?

Merrill Elam  47:36
Oh, yeah.

Mack Scogin  47:37
I think you’re either a collaborator or you’re not, there’s nothing in between. You really do think that an idea could be anywhere. It can literally rise to the surface for whatever reason, and good reason, a contextual reason that you can discover it. And we’re, we’re known for latching on to almost anything in some ways. In recognizing, recognizing that and running with it…

Merrill Elam  48:20
it’s such fun when somebody has a good idea. I mean, what’s better than that? Wherever it comes from, you know?

Ana  48:31
That’s a good one, maybe to end on. So, Mack and Merrill, thank you for talking to me today. And listeners, thank you for listening to this episode of I Would Prefer Not To.