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Meet renowned architect Thom Mayne.

Explore the groundbreaking career of GRAY Awards judge: architect Thom Mayne, known for his avant-garde designs and rebellious ethos rooted in Southern California. Learn about his journey from founding Morphosis Architects to receiving the prestigious 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

portrait of architect Thom Mayne in his office

Known for challenging conventions and pushing boundaries, architect Thom Mayne has spent the past four decades designing some of the world’s most inventive buildings and developing his own unique style—one rooted firmly in the Southern Californian ethos of rebellion and experimentation. A founding partner at Los Angeles–based Morphosis Architects, Mayne started his post-college career in urban planning. In 1972—the same year in which Morphosis was formed—Mayne collaborated with five other students and educators whom he met while studying at the University of Southern California to create the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), a school that traded the typical hierarchies of traditional academia for an avant-garde approach to design education.  

In 1978, Mayne took a sabbatical from SCI-Arc to attend the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. There, he decided to pursue architecture full time. Upon his return to Los Angeles the following year, he received several residential commissions. As Morphosis grew (the firm now employs more than 60 people), so did the size, scope, and importance of its commissions. Projects such as 41 Cooper Square (an addition to Cooper Union’s campus and the first academic building in New York City to achieve LEED-Platinum certification), the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, and a student hall at Emerson College in LA reveal Mayne’s penchant for bold angles and big shapes, as well as his keen understanding of each building’s end users. Mayne has received dozens of awards and accolades over the years, including the 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize—one of the discipline’s highest honors. 

As a design authority, educator, and creative mind, Mayne is rigorous and thorough in all he does, and he’s not one to shy away from a challenge, once noting that “we will hold to that which is difficult, because it is difficult … and by its difficulty is worthwhile.”

Portrait: Kurt Iswarienko and Milenio Magazine, courtesy MORPHOSIS.


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