Thom Mayne is an architect located in the United States. Throughout his career, he has created several architectural marvels and is currently a mentor and trustee for a number of colleges. In 2005, he was also awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was much praised. He is the founder of Morphosis, a business that specializes in residential and public building projects. He is well-known for his theories on space design as a well-known designer and visualizer.

TED talk for Architects: Thom Mayne: Architecture is a new way to connect to the world - Sheet1
Thom Mayne_©

Thom Mayne, widely considered one of the world’s most intriguing architects, is only focused on the new, present, and now. Rather than designing a simply imagined building, he sees architecture as a beginning point for a bigger conversation. Morphosis, his Santa Monica based studio, produces work that demonstrates the outcomes of concept and reality conflicts.

People telling Mayne that something can’t be done has been the sole consistency in his professional existence, according to him. But he and his team continue to wow clients all around the world, including government buildings, hospitals, restaurants, homes, and schools. Mayne and Morphosis are developing stunning new landscapes for a strikingly modern world by redefining how structures operate both inside themselves and within their environment.

TED talk for Architects: Thom Mayne: Architecture is a new way to connect to the world - Sheet2
Thom Mayne-TED Talk_©TedTalks

He gave a TED Talk in 2007 in which he discussed his thoughts on locations and building design. To begin with, the presentation was difficult to comprehend because it included not just architectural terminology but also human emotions.

Architecture is the beginning of something,” says Thom Mayne. It’s a method of creating something far larger and greater than your physical self. It’s a way to share your ideas, feelings, and goals with the rest of the world. It’s more of a statement! Architecture means more to him than just making a building seem nice. It is more significant than any other type of construction because it adds greater worth to our lives. He says that the process of forming things, giving them shape, and concretizing them begins with some sense of how one organizes. There has always been a connection between his own inventions and reality, which has been significant to him. 

TED talk for Architects: Thom Mayne: Architecture is a new way to connect to the world - Sheet3
Emerson College Los Angeles, 2014_©

The unpredictability and diversity of patterns attract him. Every perfect architectural design, he says, is a flow of ideas that leads people along a specific route. This method arouses emotions, encourages relativity, and piques their interest. It eventually establishes a user-site interaction, and the user gains a sense of relativity to their surroundings. When building environments that matter, the user experience is fully used. He doesn’t believe in one-of-a-kind existence. 

“It’s the interaction — it’s the dynamics between the systems,” he says, “that have the capacity to change, innovate, and construct an architecture that would not otherwise exist”. Those systems might then be discovered and grouped together to generate the repeating pattern. More so, with computer technology and quick prototyping, we now have the mechanisms to comprehend and respond to these systems, as well as to allow them to conform to varied functional adjustments. We’re creating environments that support human activity. And what fascinates him is not the aesthetics of these places, but the interaction between them and the activities they promote, which ties into the concept of city planning.

TED talk for Architects: Thom Mayne: Architecture is a new way to connect to the world - Sheet4
Thom Mayne-The Caltrans District 7 Headquarters Replacement Building_©

He goes on to say that the Caltrans building in Los Angeles is an example of this. The skin of the building, or facade, appears to have separated from the framework. It provides the impression that the skin is merging into the ground. It preserves openness while establishing a relationship with the site. He depicts the utilization of light as a medium, in which light becomes a physical construction material. We might discuss the interaction between the building and the earth in a biological sense.

He then goes on to tell about a high school he developed in Pomona. Because it is a system that is not sculpted, an institutional structure necessitates some form of investigation. The design follows a broad, continuous logic that may be deciphered as one moves around the structure. The structure itself should contribute to a positive educational environment. Because he was interested in a fairly didactic approach to the subject, he wanted to establish an overt concept of a building that relates to the earth in a totally distinct way.

TED talk for Architects: Thom Mayne: Architecture is a new way to connect to the world - Sheet5
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, College Park, Maryland _©

He then discusses the headquarters of NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency. Maryland is located just outside of Washington. The landscape was an important theme for them. He wanted to create it in a caring manner because the agency considers itself to be the world’s caregiver. He wanted them to examine their satellite as if it were their own property, the eight-acre plot. They kept the place well planted, including three baseball fields, by playing with the greens. This prompted them to consider larger-scale designs in which the landscape-building interaction functions as a connecting tissue.

Thom Mayne-Oregon’s Supreme Court, Exterior of building_©

Finally, he discusses his most complex and fascinating undertaking, the courtroom. He was the architect of Oregon’s Supreme Court. As a designer, you can’t move forward without negotiating your own ideals with the relationship of the character you’re working with and how you see the court.

And he’s a character who is really curious about the essence of that created world. He created it with a classic courthouse in mind while using modern design elements.

To sum up, his views resonate with me. For me, the concept of a building being connected to its surroundings is fundamental. There is no other way for a structure to be faithful to its identity. Every customer is different, and he or she has their own vision for the project. As a result, we must evaluate and expand on specific ideas in order to create a design that is relevant and genuine to its environment.


Rajita Jain is an architect by profession who engages with the dynamics of urban spaces and the people. She aims at developing ways of amalgamating cultural and traditional beliefs with modern day technology to give the urban fabric a vernacular sensitivity.