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Thom Mayne (born January 19, 1944, in Waterbury, Connecticut) is a Los Angeles-based architect. Educated at University of Southern California (1969) and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1978, 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) 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.
Mayne studied architecture at the University of Southern California (USC) with a social agenda and urban planning focus. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1968, 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.” 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 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. The goal of the new institute was to reinvigorate formal architectural education with a keener sense of social conscience. 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.”
Mayne, Livio Santini, James Stafford and Michael Brickler founded Morphosis in 1972; 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. 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 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. In 2013, he contributed a foreword to the book "Never Built Los Angeles" by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin.
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. 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. In 2009, he was appointed as a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. He was elected to the board of trustees of SCI-Arc in 2011.
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