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Thom Mayne

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Thom Mayne
Thom Mayne speaking at the USC School of Architecture in 2023
Born (1944-01-19) January 19, 1944 (age 80)
Alma materUniversity of Southern California, Harvard University
AwardsAIA Gold Medal
Pritzker Prize
Rome Prize
BuildingsDiamond Ranch High School, University of Toronto Graduate House, Caltrans District 7 Headquarters, Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse, San Francisco Federal Building, New Academic Building at 41 Cooper Square, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Emerson College Los Angeles

Thom Mayne (born January 19, 1944) is an American architect. He is based in Los Angeles. In 1972, Mayne helped found the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), where he is a trustee and the coordinator of the Design of Cities postgraduate program.[1] Since then he has held teaching positions at SCI-Arc, the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona)[2] and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).[3] He is principal of Morphosis Architects, an architectural firm based in Culver City, California and New York City, New York. Mayne received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in March 2005.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

University of Toronto Graduate House (2000)

Mayne was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. He studied architecture at the University of Southern California (1968)[5] and also studied at Harvard University's 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."[6] 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[7] 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.[7] The goal of the new institute was to reinvigorate formal architectural education with a keener sense of social conscience.[6] 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."[8]

Caltrans District 7 Headquarters, Los Angeles (2004)
University of Cincinnati Rec Center (2006)
Morse Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon (2006)
San Francisco Federal Building (2006)
NOAA National Satellite Operations Center (2007)
41 Cooper Square (2009)
Bill & Melinda Gates Hall at Cornell University (2014)



Mayne and some others founded Morphosis Architects in 1972;[9] 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.[8] 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.


Early in his career, Mayne became notorious for having an abusive temper, and screaming at clients. "None of my clients would recommend me," he later admitted.[10]

In late summer 2002, Mayne was asked by New York magazine to contribute a proposal for the World Trade Center site, where recovery and cleanup had just ended. In discussing his plan, Mayne told an interviewer his thoughts about the September 11 attacks. "I have no empathy; it doesn't make me weep. I could make a better case for justifying the terror than the other way around."[10]


Mayne taught 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. He was a tenured faculty member at the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture.[11] In 2013, he contributed a foreword to the book "Never Built Los Angeles" by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin.[12] Now he is a faculty member at SCI-Arc and UPenn.

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 which he was awarded in 1987 and the Pritzker Prize in 2005.[11] 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.[19] In 2009, he was appointed as a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.[20] He was elected to the board of trustees of SCI-Arc in 2011.[21] In 2015, Mayne was a member of the Prix Versailles judges panel.[22]

List of awards and honors

Ray Bradbury house[edit]

In June 2014, Mayne bought the Cheviot Hills, Los Angeles house that noted writer Ray Bradbury had lived in for 50 years. In January 2015, the building was scheduled for demolition which caused a media controversy. According to Mayne, who had not known about the fact that it belonged to Bradbury, the Bradbury family – which has not commented on the situation – had no interest in preserving the house. Mayne further explained that he had bought the house from a foundation that was not associated with the Bradbury estate. A city demolition permit was issued on December 30, 2014 with demolition to take place in January 2015. Materials from Bradbury's home office were donated to the Indiana-based Center for Ray Bradbury studies, which intended to raise money to recreate it as it was in the mid-1960s. When queried, the Morphosis office reported that the house was not being razed, but "deconstructed" so that some of the materials could be recycled – including into 451 sets of bookends – a longer and more complicated process. It was reported at the time that a contractor said that the house Mayne intended to build would have three underground levels, including a swimming pool and two stories above ground – although Mayne himself said that plans for the house were not finished. "Our house will not be ordinary – our house is going to be a garden", and expected it to be a "prototype that is landscape-neutral and water friendly". The new house was supposed to embody the new ecological and sustainable standard for architecture in Los Angeles, according to Mayne. He further stated that a memorial wall to Bradbury and his works was planned to be part of the project. Construction on the new house was scheduled to finish in 2017.[23][24][25][26][27]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Thom Mayne to take over SCI-Arc's cities program". The Architect's Newspaper. 2018-12-18. Retrieved 2021-01-14.
  2. ^ "Biography: Thom Mayne". The Pritzker Architecture Prize. Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  3. ^ "THOM MAYNE DESIGN UNVEILED FOR FUTURE HOME OF ORANGE COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART". UCLA Arts: School of the Arts and Architecture. Retrieved 2020-05-20.
  4. ^ Edward Lifson (March 21, 2005). "American Wins Architecture's Highest Award". NPR.org.
  5. ^ Pogrebin, Robin. "American Maverick Wins Pritzker Prize" The New York Times (March 21, 2005)
  6. ^ a b Iovine, Julie V. (May 17, 2004). "An Iconoclastic Architect Turns Theory Into Practice". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-21.
  7. ^ a b Ng, David. (April 4, 2011), "Architect Thom Mayne joining SCI-Arc's board of trustees" Los Angeles Times
  8. ^ a b Lubow, Arthur (January 16, 2005). "How Did He Become the Government's Favorite Architect?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-21.
  9. ^ "Information" on the Morphosis website
  10. ^ a b "Thom Mayne's Moment". Metropolis. 2003-03-01. Retrieved 2020-02-09.
  11. ^ a b Thom Mayne. Morphosis. London: Phaidon Press, 2006
  12. ^ Carolyn Kellogg (January 11, 2013), Winter book preview Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ "Sun Tower". www.morphosis.com.
  14. ^ "Madrid Housing | Morphopedia | Morphosis Architects". Archived from the original on 2009-03-03.
  15. ^ "Facilities | Cornell Information Science". Archived from the original on 2013-06-06.
  16. ^ Vincent, Roger. "Emerson College is building a new West Coast campus in Hollywood" Los Angeles Times (March 2, 2012)
  17. ^ Camuti, Liz. "Cornell Names Architect of NYC Tech Campus Building" Archived 2012-07-31 at archive.today The Cornell Daily Sun (May 10, 2012)
  18. ^ "Taubman Complex" Lawrence Technological University website
  19. ^ "CV on Holcim Foundation Website".
  20. ^ David Ng (November 2, 2009), Sarah Jessica Parker, Thom Mayne, Anna Wintour named to Obama's arts committee Los Angeles Times.
  21. ^ David Ng (April 4, 2011), Architect Thom Mayne joining SCI-Arc's board of trustees Los Angeles Times.
  22. ^ "Prix Versailles | 2015 Jury". prix-versailles.
  23. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (January 14, 2015), "Bradbury House Being Torn Down" Los Angeles Times
  24. ^ Barragan, Bianca. (January 13, 2015) "Starchitect Thom Mayne is Tearing Down Ray Bradbury's Cheviot Hills House Right Now" Curbed Los Angeles
  25. ^ Barrigan, Bianca (January 20, 2015) "What Does Starchitect Thom Mayne Have Planned For the Site of Ray Bradbury's Old House?" Curbed Los Angeles
  26. ^ Shephard, Alan. (January 16, 2015) "Why was Ray Bradbury's home demolished? An interview with architect Thom Mayne" Melville House
  27. ^ Kudler, Adrian Glick. (July 7, 2015) "Ray Bradbury's House Turned Into 451 Sets of Bookends" Curbed Los Angeles


External links[edit]