Thom Mayne

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Mayne's New Academic Building for Cooper Union (2009)
University of Toronto Graduate House (2000)
Caltrans District 7 Headquarters, Los Angeles (2004)
University of Cincinnati Rec Center (2006)
NOAA National Satellite Operations Center (2007)
Part of the street-level base of the New Academic Building (2009)

Thom Mayne (born January 19, 1944) is a Los Angeles-based architect. Mayne helped found the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in 1972, where he is a trustee. Since then he has held teaching positions at SCI-Arc, the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona)[1] and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is principal of Morphosis, an architectural firm in Santa Monica, California. Mayne received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in March 2005.[2]

Early career[edit]

Mayne was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. He studied architecture at the University of Southern California (1968)[3] and also studied at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1978, with a social agenda and urban planning focus, receiving his bachelor’s degree, he began working as an urban planner under Korean-born architect Ki Suh Park. During that time he recalls that "policy and planning were not going to work for me" and that he "needed a more tangible resolution.”[4] Mayne found himself living on a commune with the grass-roots group Campaign for Economic Democracy, many of whom became his earliest clients.

In 1972, Mayne abruptly left Cal Poly Pomona[5] and collaborated with five other students and educators whom he met at while at USC, to create the Southern California Institute of Architecture, or SCI-Arc. The rift was due to differences between the dean at Cal Poly at the time and Ray Kappe, who headed the school's architecture department.[5] The goal of the new institute was to reinvigorate formal architectural education with a keener sense of social conscience.[4] SCI-Arc was “to bring to Los Angeles the critical attitude toward the profession that was being practiced at Cooper Union in New York and the Architectural Association in London.”[6]

In January 2015 a controversy developed when Mayne bought and had demolished the house that noted writer Ray Bradbury had lived in for 50 years.[7]


Mayne, Livio Santini, James Stafford and Michael Brickler founded Morphosis in 1972;[8] Michael Rotondi joined in 1975. The firm's design philosophy arises from an interest in producing work with a meaning that can be understood by absorbing the culture for which it was made, and their goal was to develop an architecture that would eschew the normal bounds of traditional forms. Beginning as an informal collaboration of designers that survived on non-architectural projects, its first official commission was a school in Pasadena, attended by Mayne's son. Publicity from this project led to a number of residential commissions, including the Lawrence Residence. Mayne describes the early days of the group as more of a "garage band" than a practice.[6] They spent their free time experimenting with new inventions for their clients, whom consisted of friends and parents of students.

When work was at a standstill, Mayne took a year off to earn his Master of Architecture degree from Harvard University. He graduated in 1978 and returned to work for Morphosis where he became the principal architect, lead designer and principal in charge for all of Morphosis’ projects. The firm has grown into prominent design practice, with completed projects worldwide. Under the Design Excellence program of the United States government's General Service Administration, Thom Mayne has become a primary architect for federal projects. Recent commissions include: graduate housing at the University of Toronto; the San Francisco Federal Building; the University of Cincinnati Student Recreation Center; the Science Center School in Los Angeles, Diamond Ranch High School in Pomona, California; and the Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon.

The work of Morphosis has a layered quality. Visually, the firm’s architecture includes sculptural forms. In recent years, such visual effect has been made possible increasingly through computer design techniques, which simplify the construction of complex forms.


Mayne remains a presence in the academic world. He currently teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and has held teaching positions at many institutions including Columbia University, Harvard University, Yale University, the Berlage Institute in the Netherlands and the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. Currently, he is a tenured faculty member at the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture.[9] In 2013, he contributed a foreword to the book "Never Built Los Angeles" by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin.[10]

Major projects[edit]


In progress[edit]

Awards and honors[edit]

Mayne has been the recipient of many distinguished awards over the course of his career. Among them are the Rome Prize Fellowship which he received in 1987 and the Pritzker Prize in 2005.[9] Mayne was a member of the Holcim Awards global jury in 2006 and a member of the Holcim Awards jury for region North America in 2005.[15] In 2009, he was appointed as a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.[16] He was elected to the board of trustees of SCI-Arc in 2011.[17]

List of awards and honors



  1. ^ "Mayne to get Pritzker". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-09-11. 
  2. ^ Edward Lifson (March 21, 2005). "American Wins Architecture’s Highest Award". 
  3. ^ Pogrebin, Robin. "American Maverick Wins Pritzker Prize" The New York Times (March 21, 2005)
  4. ^ a b Iovine, Julie V. (May 17, 2004). "An Iconoclastic Architect Turns Theory Into Practice". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  5. ^ a b Ng, David. (April 4, 2011), "Architect Thom Mayne joining SCI-Arc's board of trustees" Los Angeles Times
  6. ^ a b Lubow, Arthur (January 16, 2005). "How Did He Become the Government's Favorite Architect?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  7. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (January 14, 2015), "Bradbury House Being Torn Down" Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ "Information" on the Morphosis website
  9. ^ a b Thom Mayne. Morphosis. London: Phaidon Press, 2006
  10. ^ Carolyn Kellogg (January 11, 2013), Winter book preview Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Vincent, Roger. "Emerson College is building a new West Coast campus in Hollywood" Los Angeles Times (March 2, 2012)
  13. ^
  14. ^ Camuti, Liz. "Cornell Names Architect of NYC Tech Campus Building" Cornell Daily Sun (May 10, 2012)
  15. ^ CV on Holcim Foundation Website
  16. ^ David Ng (November 2, 2009), Sarah Jessica Parker, Thom Mayne, Anna Wintour named to Obama's arts committee Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ David Ng (April 4, 2011), Architect Thom Mayne joining SCI-Arc's board of trustees Los Angeles Times.


External links[edit]