'Humor Is a Fundamental Tenet of Our Studio'

Architect Bryan Cantley, 32, was inspired by the farm machines he saw while growing up in the Carolinas. Now he works with computer technology and designs more machine-like than architectural to push the conceptual edge.

For instance, his altar device, designed for a 1994 Temple of Laughter competition, computerizes the reaction of a participant standing before a huge screen showing humorous events. "It digitally records what happens to your body when you laugh and projects it onto the screen, so you would become part of the temple," Cantley says.

Cantley is a theoretical architect, which means "my designs never get built and I never get paid." This is not a lifetime goal, he adds.

Cantley focuses on experimental architectural concepts over designing "the stucco and glass boxes where we live and work," because they are skill-sharpening exercises that push the boundaries of imagination. Trained as a musician and martial artist, he applies both to his design career--"just as you play scales or block kicks over and over again for techniques, I look at these experiences as exercises."

Working by Internet with partner Kevin O'Donnell (who recently moved to New York) in a virtual studio named Form:uLA, he has explored such problems as public restrooms by creating an urban outhouse, which folds up out of the sidewalk, pops up a toilet, then folds back down again. "Humor is a fundamental tenet of our studio," says Cantley, who teaches design full time at Cal State Fullerton.

Cantley, who retains a soft drawl, came to UCLA for a master's degree 10 years ago from North Carolina. "I was obsessed with farm equipment, and L.A. told me that architecture and machines could have a relationship. I like the diversity in terms of people and culture."

Most of all, he likes the dynamism here. "I have a new daughter, and the idea that she was conceived and born here, in this energy, is wonderful to me."

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