All That Glitters: Mark Foster Gage Celebrates Aesthetics, Tradition, and Technology

On Friday, January 26, Mark Foster Gage—an architect, principal, and founder of New York–based Mark Foster Gage Architects, as well as the Assistant Dean of the Yale School of Architecture—delivered a lecture titled Full of Vexation Come I, with Complaint at SCI-Arc ahead of the opening of the exhibition “Geothermal Futures Lab,” for which he served as the lead researcher. The exhibition is on view to the public in the SCI-Arc Gallery through March 4, 2018.

While “Geothermal Futures Lab” marks the first formal collaboration between Yale and SCI-Arc, “It is a continuation of an informal dialogue between the two schools,” said SCI-Arc Director and CEO Hernan Diaz Alonso in his introduction of Gage, who is a longtime friend. “Mark has several unique qualities: He’s a designer and a teacher, but he also takes writing very seriously and is someone who is shaping architectural discourse. He embraces the shifts in technology of recent decades; but at the same time, he advocates for historical relationships and placements while also acknowledging influences from popular culture. It’s a risky proposition.”

Gage’s research projects have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Venice, Rotterdam, and Beijing Biennales. He is an advocate for the role of aesthetics—not in terms of taste and form, but rather as an agent for political and social change. Gage believes that there is a “great flattening” as hierarchies collapse across disciplines, including philosophy, architecture, social rights, economics, and the media, and this has affected the public’s perception of reality (cue the expression “fake news”).

Unlike the gold-plated toilet that has become a pop culture punchline, “Geothermal Futures Lab,” which features a gold-clad sculptural element, is a prototype that is backed by scientific research. Gage drew from his explorations into modern and historical materials and forms in recent projects when conceiving the installation. Though nonfunctional, it offers visitors insights into the potential to harness laser ablation geothermal resonance technologies, which could be capable of generating up to 19 times more power than existing geothermal energy extraction techniques—potentially increasing California’s reliance on sustainable geothermal power sources by 62 percent by the year 2022.

While Gage is serious about research and technology, he also maintains a sense of humor. The exhibition bears this disclaimer: “This is an architectural public service announcement to be more aware of your reality and develop a healthier skepticism for information presented without proper journalistic or scientific verification, especially from architects.”

For more information on the science and theory behind the exhibition, click here.