Thom Mayne

Principal, Morphosis

Santa Monica

Specialty: Office buildings, education facilities

Architects might be startled to hear Thom Mayne describe his practice as "just making the leap" in the past four years.

The 54-year-old principal of Santa Monica-based Morphosis is one of the best-known architects in Southern California, with dozens of built projects and nearly as many design awards.

Although his office is small, with only 15 employees, Morphosis is turning out a lot of work, including office buildings in Austria and Seoul, a gallery in Taiwan, a prototype elementary school designed under the state's "space saver" standards, a high school in Diamond Bar (in association with Blurock Architects), and the reuse of the historic Armory Building in Exposition Park as an elementary school.

Mayne said he enjoys the school projects more than the office buildings. "The simplest projects are commercial buildings, because they are enormously constrained (by developers' budgets and functional programs)," he said. "Schools, if you allow them to be, are extremely interesting projects. The architecture participates in education."

Mayne's own commitment to education is well established. In the early 1970s, he was one of the founding faculty members at Southern California Institute of Architecture, and is currently an instructor at the UCLA School of Art and Architecture.

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