Thom-Mayne-Photo-by-Reiner-Zettl.jpgThom Mayne. Photo: Reiner Zettl

By Martin Søberg

Architecture surprisingly free of traditional presuppositions and classical lingo: Morphosis represents the epiphany of American West Coast architecture. The office's projects display an intersection of the refinements of engineering with a precise understanding of the use of materials and the phenomenological effects of spatial diversity.

Early projects were primarily of smaller scale and locally based, yet today Morphosis Architects is a significant global player on the architectural scene, with offices in Los Angeles and New York and projects in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia. This includes residential, institutional, and civic architecture, as well as large-scale urban design projects and small-scale object design. Parametric modeling and BIM are new tools in the hands of an office which has nevertheless always strived for spatial complexity and intricate interplays between concept and construction.

Morphosis' designs reflect the legacy of Southern Californian architects such as Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra. The studio was founded by Thom Mayne, Livio Santini, James Stafford, and Michael Brickler in 1972. They were joined three years later by Michael Rotondi. The office is named after the Greek term, morphosis, which signifies a process of forming or being in formation. Hence the name reflects a willingness to embrace sculptural shapes and the sensation of movement.

Morphosis' design philosophy is targeted at creating meaning in architecture as a reflection of physical and mental contexts. Their buildings feature daring cuts and sectioning, with a pragmatic sense of materiality, the use of pressed steel plates, concrete, and a few well-placed elements of color. Visible constructions only add to the formal excitement of open-ended and juxtaposing spaces, which testifies to a sound understanding of urban surroundings and programmatic constraints.

Thom Mayne (born 1944) is design director of Morphosis. Mayne graduated from the University of Southern California and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and took part in the foundation of what has become one of the most cutting edge schools of architecture in the US, Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). Mayne has held several teaching positions and was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2005.

Visit Morphosis' website here.

March 15, 2017 /

The Taubman Complex
Southfield, Michigan, USA

The A. Alfred Taubman Engineering, Architecture, and Life Sciences Complex is a new academic laboratory building that provides advanced facilities for robotics engineering, biomedical engineering, life sciences and related programs.

May 02, 2016 /

Bill & Melinda Gates Hall
Ithaca, New York, USA

Gates Hall brings together Cornell University’s Computer Science and Information Science departments in a new joint facility designed to generate collaboration and spontaneous discourse between the disciplines.

March 05, 2014 /

Emerson College (ELA)
Los Angeles, California, USA

The new sustainable facility features a host of innovative amenities designed to provide students with the opportunity to pursue their creativity.

Perot Museum of Nature and Science by Morphosis in Dallas, Texas, USA. Exterior view. Photo: Iwan Baan
January 07, 2013 /

Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Dallas, Texas, USA

Rejecting the notion of museum architecture as neutral background for exhibits, the new building itself becomes an active tool for science education.

Caltrans District 7 Headquarters exterior 
Photo: arcspace
July 30, 2012 /

Caltrans District 7 Headquarters
Los Angeles, California, USA

Materials, forms, and exposed structural elements are referential to the work of Caltrans and evoke a feeling of the freeways.

Giant Interactive Group interior view
Photo: Iwan Baan
February 07, 2011 /

Giant Interactive Group
Shanghai, China

Situated amid existing canals and a new man made lake, the undulating office building interacts with an augmented ground plane, joining architecture to landscape, and environment to site.

University of Cincinnati
Campus Recreation Center
June 28, 2010 /

University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

The Campus Recreation Center at the University of Cincinnati ties together incongruous buildings into a unified expression. Both keystone and connector, the building encourages social exchange and harnesses flows onto the campus green.

Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics exterior facade
Photo © Roland Halbe
February 08, 2010 /

Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics
Pasadena, California, USA

The Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics brings together a dozen different groups with vastly different cultures, focuses, and scopes into a single structure designed to facilitate collaboration and spontaneous discourse.

41 Cooper Square exterior facade
Photo © Iwan Baan
October 12, 2009 /

41 Cooper Square
New York, NY, USA

41 Cooper Square, the new academic building for The Cooper Union, aspires to manifest the character, culture and vibrancy of both the 150 year-old institution and of the city in which it was founded.

Kunsthaus Graz by Morphosis in Graz, Austria. Exterior rendering. Image courtesy Morphosis
September 01, 2009 /

Kunsthaus Graz
Graz, Austria

"Our proposal for Kunsthaus Graz is driven by the tensions within two fundamental ideas; one urban and the other programmatic..."

NOAA Satellite Operations Facility exterior landscape
Photo: Nic Lehoux
June 01, 2009 /

NOAA Satellite Operations Facility
Suitland, Maryland, USA

In light of NOAA's mission to monitor and safeguard the earth, the architects reexamined the traditional relationship between building and landscape - figure and ground.

Hypo-Alpe-Adria Bank HQ exterior detail
Photo courtesy Morphosis
January 12, 2009 /

Hypo-Alpe-Adria Bank HQ
Udine, Italy

In this dialectical relationship between the specific architectural language of the project and the local landscape, each element informs, transforms, and adjusts the total composition.

Madrid Social Housing exterior stairs
Photo: Roland Halbe
October 13, 2008 /

Madrid Social Housing
Madrid, Spain

In a suburban Madrid neighborhood of conventional, anonymous housing blocks, Morphosis devised a typology of porosity to suit the social ideals of this project type.

Phare Tower rendering
Image courtesy Morphosis
October 29, 2007 /

Phare Tower
Paris, France

The Phare Tower is part of the redevelopment for the La Défense business district on the outskirts of Paris.

United States Federal Building exterior by night
Photo: Nic Lehoux
October 14, 2007 /

United States Federal Building
San Francisco, California, USA

The new Federal Building, a slender 65-feet-wide tower rising 18 stories (240 feet), is located along the northern edge of the Mission and Seventh Street site.

United States Courthouse exterior 
Photo: ©Tim Griffith
January 22, 2007 /

Wayne L. Morse United States Courthouse
Eugene, Oregon, USA

Discrete object buildings - a reference back to an earlier single room courthouse model.

SHR Perceptual Management interior
Photo courtesy Morphosis
May 28, 2004 /

SHR Perceptual Management
Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

Morphosis has designed a unique interior, in a three story generic office building, that communicated the identity of the client, an advertising/design and marketing firm, as creative problem solvers in contrast to the homogenous context of the existing Scottsdale environment.

Photo courtesy Morphosis, Morphosis - Diamond Ranch High School, Pomona, California, USA
May 02, 2001 /

Diamond Ranch High School
Pomona, California, USA

Fusing landscape and building into a single organic unity, the Diamond Ranch High School concerns building as topography, with a majority of the architectural program contained within the reshaped site.

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