California Architect Thom Mayne Becomes the 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

Thom Mayne, who founded his firm Morphosis to surpass the bounds of traditional forms and materials, while also working to carve out a territory beyond the limits of modernism and postmodernism, has been chosen as the 2005 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The Pritzker Prize caps a three-decade career in which Mayne has received 54 AIA Awards, some 25 Progressive Architecture Awards, as well as numerous other honors around the world. The sixty-one year old architect is the first American Laureate in 14 years.

Mayne’s most recent built works to capture major media attention include the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters and the Science Education Resource Center / Science Center School, both completed in 2004 in Los Angeles.

Mayne has numerous other Southern California landmarks: the Diamond Ranch High School in Pomona, two Salick Medical Office buildings on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, and several distinctive private residences. Mayne is also currently working on the Cahill Center for Astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. Nationally, Mayne is completing three projects of major importance for the United States General Services Administration’s Design Excellence program including a Federal Office Building in San Francisco, California, the Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon, and the NOAA Satellite Operation Control Facility in Suitland, Maryland. Two major competitions in New York City were also recently awarded to his firm: the New Academic Building for The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art; and the NYC2012 Olympic Village, a project in association with NYC’s bid for the 2012 Olympics. His most recent commission, granted just this month as the result of a winning competition design is for the new Alaska State Capitol building to be constructed in Juneau, Alaska. On the world stage, he has the Hypo Alpe-Adria Center in Klagenfurt, Austria; the ASE Design Center in Taipei, Taiwan; the Sun Tower in Seoul, South Korea; and a Social Housing project slated for completion next year in Madrid, Spain.

Throughout his career, Mayne has remained active in the academic world. He currently holds a tenured professorship at the University of California in Los Angeles and is a founder of the influential and progressive Southern California Institute of Architecture. He has been a visiting professor and/or lecturer at institutions and universities around the world. In announcing the jury’s choice, Thomas J. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, said, “When this prize was founded in 1979, Thom Mayne had just received his Master of Architecture degree from Harvard the year before. The intervening years have seen 28 Laureates chosen. Thom Mayne is the twenty-ninth, and only the eighth American to be so honored.”

The formal ceremony for what has come to be known throughout the world as architecture’s highest honor will be held on May 31, 2005 in Chicago’s Millennium Park in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a structure named for the founder of the prize and designed by juror and 1989 Pritzker Laureate, Frank Gehry. At that time, a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion will be bestowed.

Lord Palumbo, beginning his term as Pritzker Jury Chairman, spoke of the jury’s choice, “Every now and then an architect appears on the international scene, who teaches us to look at the art of architecture with fresh eyes, and whose work marks him out as a man apart in the originality and exuberance of its vocabulary, the richness and diversity of its palette, the risks undertaken with confidence and brio, the seamless fusion of art and technology.”


Bill Lacy, an architect, speaking as the executive director of the Pritzker Prize, quoted from the jury citation which states, “Thom Mayne is a product of the turbulent 60s, who has carried that rebellious attitude and fervent desire for change into his practice, the fruits of which are only now becoming visible in a group of large scale projects.”

Frank Gehry, in his capacity as Pritzker Juror, said, “I was thrilled that our new laureate hails from my part of the world. I’ve known him for a long time, watched him grow into a mature and, I like to say, ‘authentic’ architect. He continues to explore and search for new ways to make buildings useable and exciting.”

Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic and member of the jury, commented further saying, “The work of Thom Mayne moves architecture from the twentieth to the twenty-first century in its use of today’s art and technology to create a dynamic style that expresses and serves today’s needs.”

Another juror, Carlos Jimenez from Houston who is professor of architecture at Rice University, said, “Thom Mayne’s work exemplifies an astonishing level of consistency and conviction. The dynamics of this focused pursuit do not result in predictable or rarefied architecture, but produce an architecture that invites us to be full participants and recipients of the architect’s abundant inventiveness. In the process, we come to experience architecture anew: from how it is imagined to how it is drawn, to how it is constructed and becomes a collective experience.”

And from juror Victoria Newhouse, architectural historian, author, and founder and director of the Architectural History Foundation, “I feel that in the past few years Thom Mayne’s work has shown an impressive development, from being merely good to being outstanding. Diamond Ranch High School (2000) was for me the benchmark. I visited it the year of its completion and found not only the original design admirable, but the way in which the architect adapted that design to the government’s financial limitations was ingenious.”

Juror Karen Stein, who is editorial director of Phaidon Press in New York, commented, “Thom Mayne sees architecture as a contact sport—a group activity that pushes physical limits, in this case of form making. From his earliest complex, multi-layered drawings to his more recent completed buildings, he has used the latest technologies as both theme and apparatus of his designs, creating a body of work that has consistently explored and expressed architecture as a risk-taking, visceral experience.”