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Thom Mayne and Morphosis


American architect and academic, Thom Mayne (1944) was born in Connecticut but raised firstly in Indiana and later in California, relocating due to his mother’s series of jobs.
Graduating in architecture from the University of Southern California in 1968, he completed his master’s degree at Harvard ten years later. Mayne is a founding member of SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture).
SCI-Arc group (now a private university in Los Angeles with 500 students) was launched by Mayne and other colleagues. The young lecturers at the Department of Architecture, Pomona, having been fired from their positions, took around forty students with them and founded the school as "a radical alternative to the conventional education system”.

Originally called the New School, SCI-Arc was based on the concept of a "college without walls" and it remains one of the few independent architecture schools in the world.
Initially, instead of academic hierarchies the school favored a horizontal relationship between lecturers and students who took responsibility for their own course of study.
In addition to SCI-Arc, Mayne has become well-known for work carried out by his Morphosis design studio. In 1972, during SCI-Arc’s first year, he founded the Santa Monica practice in partnership with Livio Santini, James Stafford and Michael Brickler.
As Mayne himself stated later, the studio initially "really was not an office, it was an idea".

Thom Mayne won the Pritzker Prize in 2005. The jury stated in their citation for the prestigious award: “Mayne’s approach towards architecture and his philosophy is not derived from European modernism, Asian influences or even from American precedents of the last century. Throughout his career he has sought to create original architecture one that is truly representative of the unique, somewhat rootless culture of Southern California, especially the architecturally rich city of Los Angeles. Like the Eameses, Neutra, Schindler and Gehry before him, Thom Mayne is an authentic addition to the tradition of innovative, exciting architectural talent that flourishes on the West Coast.
The Morphosis design studio takes its name from the Greek term to "form or be in formation". The firm is a dynamic and evolving practice that responds to the shifting and advancing social, cultural, political and technological conditions of modern life."
Over the decades up to the present day, its projects include all types of buildings worldwide, from residential and institutional to large urban planning projects.

Morphosis gained acclaim in 1976 with the arrival of Michael Rotondi (1949). Under their combined management (Rotondi left in 1991 and founded RoTo Architects), Morphosis “grew significantly becoming a landmark for architectural culture beyond California”. (Gibello)
Some of their projects in the 1980s had a major impact on criticism in the discipline and were further consecrated when exhibited in the “Deconstructivist Architecture” exhibition at MoMA, New York in 1988.
One of the focal points of their philosophy is “an experimental approach to design”.

The Los Angeles area, where the studio was initially based, is multifaceted, complex and unstable including at a tectonic plate and landscape level. Morphosis approaches each individual project with its environmental characteristics and the client’s specific requirements, aware of not being able to apply valid principles universally and at all times.
The result is a series of renowned houses and restaurants in California. Residential dwellings include Mexico II in Baja (1978), 2-4-6-8 (1978) and Lawrence House in Santa Monica (1981). Restaurants include 72 Market Street in Venice (1983), the Angeli in Los Angeles (1984) and Kate Mantilini in Beverly Hills (1986).

In its work, Morphosis also tries to absorb the historic spirit of the location, in a “relationship played out entirely on an intellectual level, recalling particular archaeological presences and symbolic affinities”. In this way the buildings maintain their value as a “unicum”and are stratified, without any particular links to the existing context.

The practice’s body of work during the last two decades includes "Graduate Students Housing for the University of Toronto (2000), Diamond Ranch High School Complex in Pomona, California (1994-1999), Hypo Alpe-Adria Center in Klagenfurt, Austria (2002)" (Treccani) and the Dr. Theodore Alexander Science Center School in Los Angeles (2004), San Francisco Federal Building (2007), executive offices for the Giant Interactive Group in Shanghai (2010), Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas (2012) and Emerson College Los Angeles Center (2014).

Morphosis now employs more than 60 professionals working on a vast array of projects throughout the world, and has received dozens of awards. Mayne himself has stated: “I am willing to give up building a project but I will not give up on developing its concept (...) On a number of recent projects I have gone down a different road [from the client] without feeling lost at all”.
Thom Mayne and Morphosis selected works and projects
- Beirut New Embassy Campus, Beirut (Libano), 2023 (previsto)
- 8850 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood (USA), 2021-2023 (previsto)
- United States Land Port of Entry, Alexandria Bay (USA), 2022 (previsto)
- Orange County Museum of Art, Costa Mesa, California (USA), 2021
- Vialia Estación, Vigo (Spagna), 2021
- Hanking Center Tower, Shenzhen (Cina), 2020
- Kolon One & Only Tower, Seoul (Corea del Sud), 2018
- Bloomberg Center - Cornell University, New York (USA), 2017
- 7132 Hotel, Entry Canopy - House of Architects, Morphosis Hotel Rooms, Vals (Svizzera), 2016
- Taubman Complex, Lawrence Technological University, Southfield (USA), 2016
- Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, Campus Rd, Ithaca, New York (USA), 2014
- Emerson College Los Angeles Center, Los Angeles (USA), 2014
- Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas (USA), 2012
- Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine, New York (USA), 2012
- Giant Interactive Group Headquarters, Shangai (Cina), 2010
- 41 Cooper Square, New York (USA), 2009
- Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics - California Institute of Technology, Pasadena (USA), 2008
- San Francisco Federal Building, San Francisco (USA), 2007
- Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse, Eugene (USA), 2006
- Hypo Alpe Adria Bank Spa, Tavagnacco, Udine (Italia), 2006
- Campus Recreation Center - University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati (USA), 2005
- Caltrans District 7 Headquarters,  Los Angeles (USA), 2005
- Hypo Alpe-Adria Center, Klagenfurt (Austria), 2002
- Residenza studentesca Campus St. George - Università di Toronto (Canada), 2001
- Diamond Ranch High School, Pomona (USA), 1999
- Sun Tower, Seul (Corea), 1997
- 6th Street Residence, Santa Monica (USA), 1997
- Edificio per uffici Salick Healthcare, Los Angeles (USA), 1991
- Crawford Residence, Montecito (USA), 1990
- Leon Max Showroom, Los Angeles (USA), 1988
- Club discoteca Post Nuclear, Laguna Beach (USA), 1987
- Cedar Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, (USA), 1987
- Ristoranti: 72 Market Street, Venice, California, 1983; Angeli, Los Angeles, 1984; Kate Mantilini, Beverly Hills (USA), 1986
- Casa III, Venice, California (USA), 1982
- Ampliamento casa Sedlak, Santa Monica (USA), 1980
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