Starchitect Spotlight: Thom Mayne

Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting mini profiles on the L.A. architects—some famed, some lesser-known—whose works are worth discovering.
Thom Mayne
Thom Mayne

Photograph courtesy

Tom Mayne (1944-)
Firm: Morphosis Architects
Style: Deconstructivist

The L.A.-based “bad boy” of American architecture, has quite a presence around the city (and the world, for that matter). Notable local buildings of his include the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters downtown, the boldly aggressive Diamond Ranch High School in Pomona, and the Star Trek-worthy Emerson College building on Sunset. His style is boxy, bold, and metallic, with an air of confident solidity—an air Mayne himself brings to projects that shake up the status quo.

Born in Connecticut, Mayne moved with his mother to Whittier when he was ten. In 1968 he graduated from the architecture program at USC and took on a teaching position at Cal Poly Pomona. Young and confident in the thick of the sixties, he (in true counterculture spirit) split from too-traditional Pomona and founded the experimental Southern Califronia Institute of Architecture and the architecture firm Morphosis.

Ever the maverick, his defiant attitude has led marvelously distinct contributions to the architecture world, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming darling of the Feds, with major government commissions across the nation. Mayne won the enviable Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2005 and currently teaches at UCLA. 

Emerson College on Sunset Boulevard

Photograph courtesy ArchiMedia

• In January of 2015, Mayne demolished the former home of beloved sci-fi author Ray Bradbury to build a new water friendly garden-house for himself and his wife (complete with underground swimming pool). Pieces of the old house were repurposed as bookends and sold.

• In March, 2015, Mayne non-ironically proposed a massive skyscraper hotel for in a rural town in the Alps—just as little reminder of how unconventional he is.

“Mayne’s Emerson building, with its energetic scale and enthusiastic disregard for what surrounds it, [is a] fitting tribute to Griffith and Hollywood flamboyance.”
Christopher Hawthorne, LA Times architecture critic


Click the orange pins for images of Thom Mayne and Morphosis projects across the city. The other pins denote the work of architects from our Starchitect Spotlight archives. You can hide them in the dropdown menu on the left.