Thom Mayne’s Combinatorial Form Morphosis, Tomie Ohtake Institute

Modern buildings with sculptural forms arethe projects signed by the American architect Thom Mayne, partner and director of the Morphosis office, based in Santa Monica, California. His work is so successful around the world that Thom has even won the Pritzker Prize, the “Oscar” for architecture, in 2005.

Now the Brazilians will be able to check, close up, seven recent works and little disseminated in Brazil, of the renowned architect, in his first individual show in the country. Entitled Thom Mayne – Morphosis, combinatorial forms, the exhibition in Tomie Ohtake Institute, gathers 86 building models that count, in addition to audacious architecture, with technical innovations, climate control and, of course, a lot of comfort.

Among the works are the sustainable commercial building Phare Tower, under construction at La Defense, Paris; the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science, which will be completed in 2013 in Dallas, Texas; the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, completed in 2011; the Giant Interactive Group Corporate headquarters in Shanghai; the KunShan River Park, in China; 41 Cooper Square in New York; and Bankmed’s headquarters in Beirut.

Thom Mayne (born January 19, 1944) is an American architect. He is based in Los Angeles. In 1972, Mayne helped found the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), where he is a trustee. Since then he has held teaching positions at SCI-Arc, the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is principal of Morphosis Architects, an architectural firm in Culver City, California. Mayne received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in March 2005.

Early life and career
Mayne was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. He studied architecture at the University of Southern California (1968) and also studied at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1978, with a social agenda and urban planning focus, receiving his bachelor’s degree, he began working as an urban planner under Korean-born architect Ki Suh Park. During that time he recalls that “policy and planning were not going to work for me” and that he “needed a more tangible resolution.” Mayne found himself living on a commune with the grass-roots group Campaign for Economic Democracy, many of whom became his earliest clients.

In 1972, Mayne abruptly left Cal Poly Pomona and collaborated with five other students and educators whom he met at while at USC, to create the Southern California Institute of Architecture, or SCI-Arc. The rift was due to differences between the dean at Cal Poly at the time and Ray Kappe, who headed the school’s architecture department. The goal of the new institute was to reinvigorate formal architectural education with a keener sense of social conscience. SCI-Arc was “to bring to Los Angeles the critical attitude toward the profession that was being practiced at Cooper Union in New York and the Architectural Association in London.”

His Style
Mayne and some others founded Morphosis in 1972; Michael Rotondi joined in 1975. The firm’s design philosophy arises from an interest in producing work with a meaning that can be understood by absorbing the culture for which it was made, and their goal was to develop an architecture that would eschew the normal bounds of traditional forms. Beginning as an informal collaboration of designers that survived on non-architectural projects, its first official commission was a school in Pasadena, attended by Mayne’s son. Publicity from this project led to a number of residential commissions, including the Lawrence Residence. Mayne describes the early days of the group as more of a “garage band” than a practice. They spent their free time experimenting with new inventions for their clients, whom consisted of friends and parents of students.

When work was at a standstill, Mayne took a year off to earn his Master of Architecture degree from Harvard University. He graduated in 1978 and returned to work for Morphosis where he became the principal architect, lead designer and principal in charge for all of Morphosis’ projects. The firm has grown into prominent design practice, with completed projects worldwide. Under the Design Excellence program of the United States government’s General Service Administration, Thom Mayne has become a primary architect for federal projects. Recent commissions include: graduate housing at the University of Toronto; the San Francisco Federal Building; the University of Cincinnati Student Recreation Center; the Science Center School in Los Angeles, Diamond Ranch High School in Pomona, California; and the Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon.

The work of Morphosis has a layered quality. Visually, the firm’s architecture includes sculptural forms. In recent years, such visual effect has been made possible increasingly through computer design techniques, which simplify the construction of complex forms.

Mayne teached at the University of Pennsylvania and has held teaching positions at many institutions including Columbia University, Harvard University, Yale University, the Berlage Institute in the Netherlands and the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. He was a tenured faculty member at the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture. In 2013, he contributed a foreword to the book “Never Built Los Angeles” by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin.Now he is a faculty member at SCI-Arc.

Related Post

The exhibition
Mayne has produced a powerful view of how an architect can re-envision the city. Combinatory Urbanism is not just an architect’s summary of his latest or greatest projects, but a true challenge to all of us in the design community-to think differently, challenge the norms, and seek new ground in the form of open collaborations for re-envisioning the city.

The exhibition is a tour for landscape urbanists and landscape architects. Combinatory Urbanism delves into armatures and manouvers which is what an urban mechanism-a city-is made up of. Looking at structure, not style, Mayne actually inhabits style-if we redefine the word to suggest invention engaging with logic.

86 models referring to seven recent projects: the commented Phare Tower (2011 –2015), commercial building being built in La Defense, Paris; the headquarters of Giant Interactive Group Corporate (2006–2010), in Shanghai, center with offices, boutique hotel, gym, swimming pool, etc.; the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas, Texas (2010–2013); in addition to the KunShan River Park, in China (2011); 41 Cooper Square in New York (2006 – 2009); the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas (2011); and Bankmed’s headquarters in Beirut (2011).

In addition to the models, the exhibition features urban intervention projects on panels, such as Greenwich South Visioning / New York (2009); East Darling Harbor Development / Sydney, Australia (2006); New Orleans Jazz Park / New Orleans, LA (2006); Manzanares River Park Development / Madrid, Spain (2005); NYC2012 / New York (2004); Pudong Cultural Center / Shanghai, China (2004); New City Park / New York (1999), among others.

Considered by Peter Cook, one of the great stars of current architecture, the English critic comments that the office, under the direction of Mayne, designed unimaginable buildings, but not only for the reason of the “show off”. According to him, Morphosis manages to reach buildings with comfort, climate control and essential technical innovations and, at the same time, many of which present maneuvers that intrigue architecture connoisseurs.

Celebrated by several thinkers, including Peter Cook, who dedicates special text to this exhibition, and with more than 130 awards, exhibitions in prestigious spaces, such as Center Pompidou, in Paris (2006), retrospective at the Netherlands Architectural Institute – NAI (1999), having participated in the 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 editions of the Venice Biennale of Architecture and in several exhibitions around the world, strangely the work of Morphosis is not widespread in Brazil.

Tomie Ohtake Institute
Instituto Tomie Ohtake, opened since 28 November 2001, is one of the few spaces in São Paulo to have been designed with the specific purpose of staging national and international art, architecture and design exhibitions.

Honoring the artist it was named after, the Institute is home to exhibitions that shine a light on artistic developments over the past six decades, as well as on earlier artistic movements that contribute to a better understanding of the period in which Tomie Ohtake lived and worked. Since opening its doors to the public, the Institute has staged shows previously unheard of in Brazil, including Louise Bourgeois, Josef Albers, Yayoi Kusama, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró, among others.

As well as its trailblazing exhibition program – amplified through a parallel program of debates, research, content production, archival work and publications – Instituto Tomie Ohtake has, since its founding, conducted significant research on approaches to teaching contemporary art. This is manifested in pioneering new training methods for teachers and students in public and private schools, a program of events open to all, and projects designed to encourage new generations of artists to develop and thrive.