A grayscale picture consisting of curvy lines and circles that show neutrino interaction in the Fermilab 15-foot Bubble Chamber with heavy neonhydrogen liquid mixture, taken in April, 1976.

Picture of neutrino interaction in the Fermilab 15-foot Bubble Chamber with heavy neonhydrogen liquid mixture taken in April, 1976.

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.

The work of polytekton 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, 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 a pinch hitter, the chair can assign me to teach studios at any level of the professional undergraduate BArch or the professional MArch degrees, and to conduct history/theory seminars or digital workshops.

In its earlier incarnation—as mikeschDesign—polytekton has been web-accessible since the mid-1990s but its origins go back to the 1970s when its founder began his career as an itinerant artist, producing drawings, paintings, and murals on automobiles and buildings in Germany and Canada, then advanced this diffuse artistic vector many years later—following an academic career—into a full-time calling as a designer, researcher, scholar, and teacher.

Painting a car by hand in 1980 with three children from the Wiehmbeck Kinderheim looking on.

Since 1979 polytekton’s 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 and Princeton University.

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 (see map above), 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. 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 projecting ideas into the present 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, 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.