Thom Mayne, head of California-based Morphosis, was named the surprise winner of this year's $100,000 Pritzker Prize on Monday (21 March).
Mayne, who was praised for his boldness and unorthodox originality by the jury, used the opportunity to refute his bad-boy image, express thanks to his family and pay homage to his heroes.
In one of his first interviews after the announcement, and having just reached his desk, Mayne told the AJ: 'I'm at my computer trying to go through the hundreds of emails that I've received from all my friends and family.' Commenting on his public image, he continued: 'For some reason the whole bad-boy thing seemed to stick. There are a series of people who have got this award who are supposedly prickly.
'But in my office I run a collective. I'd compare myself to the way Richard Rogers runs his office in the UK. But that's not to say I don't know how to make staff move when I need to.' Mayne's most high-profile recent built works include the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters and the Science Education Resource Center/Science Center School, both completed in 2004 in Los Angeles. His most publicised recent commission is the Albert Nerken School of Engineering at the Cooper Union in New York.
On the world stage, Mayne has designed the Hypo Alpe-Adria Centre in Klagenfurt, Austria;
the ASE Design Centre in Taipei, Taiwan; the Sun Tower in Seoul, South Korea; and a social-housing project slated for completion next year in Madrid.
Thomas Pritzker, president of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award, said: 'When this prize was founded in 1979, Thom Mayne had just received his master of architecture degree from Harvard. The intervening years have seen 28 laureates chosen. Thom is the 29th, and only the eighth American to be so honoured.' Commenting on the prize money, Mayne said:
'My wife and I have talked about supporting a couple of causes, but have not decided what to do. I'm not going to go out and buy a Ferrari or something.' He added: 'I've been doing this for a long time.
In the US you're not allowed to practise until you're 55 and I've just turned 61, the same age as Frank Gehry when he got it. I'm just growing up now.'