Spotlight: Thom Mayne

The principal architect of LA firm Morphosis, Thom Mayne (born January 19, 1944) was the recipient of the 2005 Pritzker Prize and the 2013 AIA Gold Medal, and is known for his experimental architectural forms, often applying them to significant institutional buildings such as the New York's Cooper Union building, the Emerson College in Los Angeles and the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters.

Spotlight: Thom Mayne - More Images+ 11

Courtesy of Princeton University Lecture Series

Mayne's experimental streak was visible early on in his career: in 1972, he was part of the group which founded the SCI-Arc school with the intention of developing a world-class independent architecture school along the lines of the Architectural Association in London or the Cooper Union in New York. Also in 1972, Mayne co-founded Morphosis architects; during the firm's early days many of their projects were small commissions for friends. He eventually received his Masters from Harvard University in 1978 and returned as the principal architect and lead designer of the firm, growing it into the internationally renowned practice it is today.

Caltrans District 7 Headquaters. Image © Liao Yusheng

Morphosis is known for their bold designs, striking a balance between sculptural and monolithic forms. In the jury's citation for his Pritzker Prize, his architecture was described as showing a commitment "throughout his career to create an original architecture, one that is truly representative of the unique, somewhat rootless, culture of Southern California."

Cooper Union Building. Image © Iwan Baan

As such, Mayne is not afraid of challenging conventional notions of architecture, often courting controversy in the process. For example, his recent proposal for a 381-meter tall hotel in the small alpine town of Vals attracted significant criticism, even from the competition jury who publicly distanced themselves from the client's decision; anticipating the heated public reaction, Morphosis' own press release described Mayne as "The Bad Boy of Architecture."

Perot Museum. Image © Iwan Baan

Throughout his career, Mayne has been heavily involved in education and has remained close to SCI-Arc, as well as teaching at Columbia University, Harvard University, Yale University and the Bartlett School of Architecture.

Bill & Melinda Gates Hall. Image © Roland Halbe

Check out all of Mayne's completed works on ArchDaily via the thumbnails below, and our other coverage of Mayne below those:

Spotlight: Thom Mayne - More Images+ 11

Thom Mayne, Recipient of the 2013 AIA Gold Medal

The Indicator: When Architects Attack

Guy Horton dissects a feud between Thom Mayne and LA Times critic Christopher Hawthorne, analyzing how prominent architects like Mayne can respond for a better architectural culture.

Morphosis Architects Headline AIA's 2015 Technology In Architectural Practice Innovation Awards

Interview With Thom Mayne: "I Am a Pragmatic Idealist"

Talking With Thom

"Campus of the Digital Age": Cornell Tech Officially Debuts on Roosevelt Island in New York

VIDEO: Thom Mayne Talks the Cooper Union Building

Thom Mayne Completes Research on Houston's Urban Future

Archiculture Interviews: Thom Mayne

6 Architects Share What It's Like to Build in New York

The Berlage Archive: Thom Mayne (1996)

About this author
Cite: Rory Stott. "Spotlight: Thom Mayne" 19 Jan 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Emerson College Los Angeles. Image © Iwan Baan


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