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.