polytekton is the synonym of Mikesch Muecke, a German-born designer and academic who lives and works in the United States. The word ‘polytekton’ comes from the Greek poly-, meaning ‘many,’ and tekton, a common term for artisan or craftsman; loosely translated polytekton means: the maker of many [beautiful] things.
My work is disseminated through academic, commercial, and philanthropic venues that are part of a larger network of interdisciplinary endeavors concerned with the built and unbuilt environment in its material, historical, cultural, theoretical, and temporal representations (see the om page for links). To say it differently, I (or we, the royal we of The Big Lebowski) enjoy the following activities: to imagine, draw, think, make, build, write, design, and publish.
Currently I make the bulk of my living and working at Iowa State University (ISU) in the Department of Architecture where, in my role as an academic pinch hitter, I teach studios at pretty much any level of the professional undergraduate BArch or the professional MArch degrees, and to lead history/theory seminars and/or digital courses.
In its earlier incarnation—as mikeschDesign—polytekton has been web-accessible since the mid-1990s but its origins go back to the 1970s when I began my career as an itinerant artist, producing drawings, paintings, and murals on automobiles and buildings in Germany and Canada (there may still be a mural of the Neuschwanstein castle on a house in Bowden, Alberta that I painted in 1979), then advancing this diffuse artistic vector many years later—following an academic career—into a full-time calling as a designer, researcher, scholar, and teacher.
Since 1979 my scope has progressively broadened and deepened to include architectural design, book-publishing, graphic- and web-design, ceramics, print-making, as well as more conventional design-build projects such as condominium conversions, house renovations, and small buildings. This material work has been tempered by academic schooling with degrees from the University of Florida (B.Design with a Major in Architecture and an MArch) and Princeton University (post-professional MArch and Ph.D.).
Something More Vague Perhaps?
How to cultivate an identity in the here and now is always grounded in a well-maintained mythology derived from an increasingly hazy past. So, let me remember spending hours in a forest adjacent to Spork-Eichholz, a small village near Detmold, Germany, where I may have grown up for the first seven years of my life. This is where I created perhaps imaginary places in my head, where I could have played on the harvested wheat and barley fields to the north of our rental apartment, where I probably, but not certainly, ran with kites in the Fall, and bicycled—perhaps furiously—during the long summers.
This is where I could have learned to whistle because the door bell of the house, to which I was delivering the news magazine Der Spiegel every week, appeared not to work. The village, I vaguely remember now, was the site of an inconsequential accident but a persistent memory. I may still wear a scar on my lower arm from scraping along a car parked next to my falling bicycle, a bicycle that felt rigid to me because it belonged to a friend, and my kinesthetic frame had not adjusted to it yet. That accident probably taught me the concept of difference, at age six.
Quite a few years later, right about now, or maybe a few weeks or months ago, I want to believe that those hours spent imagining, playing, whistling, and falling in three dimensions gave me a well-rounded foundation to become both a designer (in the sense of pro-jecting ideas into the present and future through representations like drawings, models, etc.) and a scientist, if we understand scientists not only as nerdy professors in white lab coats but also as innovative tinkerers who desire to learn. After all, the word ‘science’ derives from the Latin ‘scire’, to know, and the word ‘design’—in my German mother tongue I would use the word ‘Entwurf’—is a kind of throwing-out-into-the-world of something that has not existed before, an invention of sorts; something new to know.
Let me conclude this brief fictional and mythical life overview with a favorite author of mine, the late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; not only because he carefully crafted his stories but perhaps also because, with his craggy face, he looked a bit like my late father (who didn’t work as a freelance writer like Mr. Vonnegut but as a newspaper journalist at the Lippische Landeszeitung in Detmold, Germany). Vonnegut, not my father, wrote in 2007:
The very best thing you can be in life is a teacher, provided that you are crazy in love with what you teach, and that your classes consist of eighteen students or fewer. Classes of eighteen students or fewer are a family, and feel and act like one.
I am a teacher…and a maker.