Mark Mack — Architect

by Kim Steele

Art Annex 2, St. Margareten i. L., Austria, 2020, photograph by Pepo Pichler

Mark Mack was obviously a rebel from day one when he bloodied the nose of a son of a German teacher in his hometown of Judenburg, Austria, which resulted in his failure to pass the entry exam to the local Humanistic Gymnasium. From there he studied at the Technical High School, in Graz, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna; then on to working with Hans Hollein, then to Haus-Rucker-Co in New York, which led him to work in the basement of MoMA for Emilio Ambasz. Mack then relocated to San Francisco, to practice and teach at UC Berkeley, which in turn took him down south to teach at UCLA (28 years on the faculty), to practice and live on the canals in Venice, Los Angeles, with his wife and son.

Ritenour Fire Rebuild, Malibu, CA 2012, photograph by
Mark Mack

The story was punctuated by activities of Western Addition–based on a neighborhood with public housing in San Francisco, Mack founded an evening architectural lecture series in a coffeehouse named Lido, and a publication in San Francisco magazine Archetype–a dead serious and also upbeat, even cheerful, magazine about art as architecture, and architecture as art.

At Mack’s retirement symposium at UCLA, Andrew MacNair contributed to the discussion on the creations of architectural publications in the late 70’s and 80’s. Andrew managed the magazine Oppositions, published by the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies from 1973-1984, edited by Peter Eisenmann, and designed by Massimo Vignelli, which addressed “a new critical discourse in American architecture,” touching on the influence of Palladio on contemporary design. The publication morphed into Skyline, to which this author contributed, and then Metropolis and beyond. Also a collaborator, was Bill Stout, who started a fledgling architectural bookstore, still open to this day, in North Beach, San Francisco.

Park Residence, Laguna Beach, 2010, photograph by
Mark Mack








Amatopia Subdivision, Hailey, ID, 2021, photograph by
Mark Mack

Frauengasse Housing, Judenburg, Austria, 2002, photograph by
Manfred Seidl











Bill Stout, Steven Holl and Mark Mack founded Pamphlet Architecture from the in-home bookstore of Stout, on Russian Hill, where Steven Holl’s role was the knowledgeable book store helper. Steven Holl was a supporter of Mack, especially attracted to his piece in Pamphlet Architecture on ’10 California Houses,’ a publication founded by Stout, Holl and Mack, to promote conceptual architecture. They were included in a book titled The New Modernists: 9 American Architects, in 2005. House Rucker Co, Mack’s first gig, had a tremendous influence on his career, where he worked on a conceptual project for the firm, “Rooftop Project.” This resulted in some compelling images of rooftops in Manhattan. The name of the firm–according to its own definition: “architects-artist community”– indicates the Hausruck, an Austrian mountain range, at the same time the name suggests the “moving (rocking away) away” of old houses in order to make space for new ones. Founded in Vienna, It focused on utopian architectural concepts with a nod to de-constructivism. It bridged art and architecture concerns, which included sculptures and installations in public places.

Thomas Residence, Las Vegas, 2001, photograph by
Richard Barnes

Mack’s use of color is reminiscent of Pritzker Prize winner (laureate) Luis Barragan’s bold primary colors creating planes within the structure, inspired by Le Corbusier’s European Modernism. His use of natural light and color, creates a rich fabric of facades. But Mack has updated the genre with intersecting planes, as exampled in his Thomas Residence and Reno’s Stremmel House. These structures punch to the sky, and the eye. The Pan Gyo Housing complex in South Korea is a refreshing update to Le Corbusier’s Marseille complex, complete with the pillars.

Pangyo Housing, Seoul, South Korea, 2003, photograph by
Dongwoo Architects

Mack is currently refining his architectural skills with the founding of MUSEUM OF UNWANTED ARCHITECTURE in Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California. This building explores the contradictory concerns of architectural practice and usages. Forms and materials are selected for sustainability by using previously used and discarded materials, as he said, “to save the planet.” Mack says, “I will be accused of being a treehugger, which I am not really, but saving materials that were previously used can be an aesthetic as well as an economic incentive.”

Mark Mack, Salton Sea, California, 2021, photograph by Kim Steele

Kaneko Collection Building, Omaha, Nebraska, 2018, photograph by
Mark Mack

Previous post: