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Thom Mayne Wins Major Architecture Award

by Stephen Becker 7 Dec 2012 11:23 AM

The designer of the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science is named the 2013 AIA Gold Medal Award recipient.


The Thom Mayne-designed Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Photo: Mark Knight Photography

How do you like the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science? If you find yourself gazing out the window at it as you sit in traffic on Woodall Rodgers, you’ve got Thom Mayne to thank. And you’re not the only one impressed with his work of late.

Mayne has been named the 2013 AIA Gold Medal Award recipient – one of the highest awards in the field of architecture. According to the AIA, the award goes to, “an individual whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.” (Jerome spoke with him in November.)

In winning the award, Payne joins a murder’s row of architects with North Texas landmarks on their résumés: Louis Kahn (Kimbell Art Museum), I.M. Pei (Meyerson Symphony Center), Frank Lloyd Wright (Kalita Humphreys Theater), Santiago Calatrava (Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge), Tadao Ando (Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth), Richard Meier (Rachofsky House), Norman Foster (Winspear Opera House), Ricardo Legorreta (Latino Cultural Center), Antoine Predock (Trinity Audubon Center) and Renzo Piano (Nasher Sculpture Center, the Kimbell’s addition).

The AIA release is below:

Washington, D.C. – December 6, 2012 The Board of Directors of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) voted today to award the 2013 AIA Gold Medal to Thom Mayne, FAIA, who ascended to prominence and esteem through his ambitious government and institutional projects.

The AIA Gold Medal, voted on annually, is considered to be the profession’s highest honor that an individual can receive. The Gold Medal honors an individual whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. Mayne will be honored at a special event in March in Washington, D.C. as well as at the 2013 AIA National Convention in Denver.

Mayne’s commitment to architecture as a journey and not as a destination is evidenced through the forms and materials of his buildings, his personal and professional life, and the name of his firm, Morphosis, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1972. In his own life, he’s evolved from a rugged iconoclast to a collaborative government works mainstay.

In the same year he formed Morphosis, Mayne and several colleagues founded the Southern California Institute of Architects, or SCI-Arc. Since then, Mayne has had a long record of academic involvement, which has helped to spread his enthusiasm for experimentally pushing architecture’s role in society further into the cultural forefront among decades of students.

An unexpected champion of the federal government’s General Service Administration’s (GSA) Design Excellence program, Mayne’s palette of bold, angular forms, exposed structural elements, and double-skin veils that play on notions of dynamic transparency have become trendsetting motifs in a growing number of governmental and institutional projects.

“He is one of the few architects able to head a large-scale, successful practice while influentially designing theoretical premises,” wrote former AIA Gold Medal Winner Antoine Predock, FAIA, in a letter of recommendation. “The result has been a 40-year body of work that is intellectually rigorous and consistently searching.”

In 2009, Mayne was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2009 was the recipient of the Centennial Medal of the American Academy in Rome.

Examples of his work include:

      • Diamond Ranch High School in Pomona, Calif., a school that places students in the middle of a dramatically pitched canyon of concrete and corrugated metal.
      • The California Department of Transportation District 7 Headquarters in Los Angeles, whose materiality and structural elements allude to the freeway, while its kinetic architecture and façade refers to the automobile.
      • The Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse in Eugene, Ore., whose steel ribbon façade reflects the fluidity of the American justice system.
      • The San Francisco Federal Building, a slender, 18-story tower with a dual façade of glass and a folded and perforated metal skin that is graceful, yet powerful. The building is the first office tower in the U.S. to forgo air-conditioning in favor of natural ventilation.
      • The University of Cincinnati Student Recreation Center, which knits together a disparate campus through expansive curvilinear forms.
      • 41 Cooper Square in New York City, a Cooper Union art, architecture, and engineering classroom and laboratory building that inspires interdisciplinary collaboration with a central vertical piazza.

Mayne is the 69th AIA Gold Medalist. Past recipients of the AIA Gold Medal include: Thomas Jefferson (1993), Frank Lloyd Wright (1949), Louis Sullivan (1944), LeCorbusier (1961), Louis Kahn (1971), I.M. Pei (1979), Santiago Calatrava (2005), Renzo Piano (2008), Peter Bohlin (2010), Fumihiko Maki (2011) and Steven Holl (2012). In recognition of his legacy to architecture, his name will be chiseled into the granite Wall of Honor in the lobby of the AIA National component in Washington, D.C.

About The American Institute of Architects
For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct to ensure the highest standards in professional practice. Embracing their responsibility to serve society, AIA members engage civic and government leaders and the public in helping find needed solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit