The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s leading artist residency program, will present its Edward MacDowell Medal this year to architect Thom Mayne. He will be the 49th recipient of the MacDowell Medal, which is awarded annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the arts. Mayne joins an impressive list of past recipients, including Leonard Bernstein, Thornton Wilder, Georgia O’Keeffe, and fellow architect I.M. Pei.
The award will be presented in a public ceremony during the Medal Day celebration on Sunday, August 10, 2008, beginning at 12:15 p.m. on The MacDowell Colony grounds in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Robert MacNeil, chairman of The MacDowell Colony, will award the Medal, along with Carter Wiseman, president of the board, and Cheryl Young, executive director.
In naming Mayne as the 49th Medalist, Pulitzer-winner and Boston Globe architectural critic Robert Campbell, who chaired this year’s Selection Committee and will be the Medal Day presentation speaker, said, “I am pleased the Colony has chosen Thom Mayne. Thom was long regarded as a kind of outsider of American architecture, with his inventive, daring, and sometimes controversial buildings. But in recent years, he has moved to the center of the architectural culture with a series of major works for public and civic purposes.” In addition to Campbell, other members of the Selection Committee included Fred Clarke, cofounder of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (New Haven, CT); William Rawn, founder of William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc. (Boston, MA); Calvin Tsao, cofounder of Tsao and McKown Architects (New York, NY); and Billie Tsien of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (New York, NY).
Often called the “maverick,” the “antihomogenizer,” or the “authentic architect,” Mayne was born in 1944. Before founding his current architectural firm, Morphosis, in 1972, he received an architectural degree from the University of Southern California and a Master’s degree from Harvard. Education, in fact, has been a significant part of Mayne’s professional legacy, specifically his creation of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), a school begun by him and several young architects to foster the unconventional and visionary in the field. The Institute has since become one of the most innovative architectural programs in the world.
Morphosis, whose name means “to be in formation,” came into being during the first year of SCI-Arc’s evolution and can be viewed as an extension of Mayne’s pioneering aesthetic. That aesthetic has been widely praised as “exuberant,” “a seamless fusion of art and technology,” “moving architecture from the 20th to the 21st century,” and “a risk-taking and visceral experience.” Morphosis’s projects have ranged from the School of Engineering building at Cooper Union and the Alaska State Capitol building, to the Federal Building in San Francisco and the Sun Tower in Seoul, Korea. Commissions have also come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for a satellite control facility in Washington, D.C., and from Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles for its Comprehensive Cancer Center. Morphosis has also been involved in The MIR Project, a nonprofit collective of architectural firms seeking to rebuild areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Among his 54 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Awards and 25 Progressive Architecture Awards, in 2005 Mayne was given the Pritzker Architecture Prize, arguably the most prestigious honor in architecture. He was the first American in 14 years to be chosen. In naming him laureate, the committee said, “Every now and then an architect appears on the international scene who teaches us to look at the art of architecture with fresh eyes, and whose work marks him out as a man apart in the originality of its vocabulary.”
Since the inception of the Edward MacDowell Medal in 1960, the Colony has awarded it among the seven artistic disciplines supported by the Colony, but Mayne is only the second Medalist in architecture. The Colony began supporting architecture as a discipline in 1990 and remains one of the few residency programs in the world to provide architects with Fellowships. MacDowell Fellows in architecture include such well-known individuals as Les Robertson, Fred Clarke, Tom Kundig, and Joel Sanders. These Fellows join the more than 6,500 artists from all disciplines who have worked at the Colony and whose works have benefited from a MacDowell residency. Such artists and works include Our Town by Thornton Wilder, Mass by Leonard Bernstein, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, and more recently, Alice Walker’s first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland; Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones; and Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.
After this year’s Medal Day ceremony, Colony guests will enjoy picnic lunches and current MacDowell artists-in-residence will open their studios to the public from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. There is no charge to attend the Medal Day ceremony or the open studios. The Colony is grateful for the support of our 2008 Medal Day Corporate Partner, Lincoln Financial Group Foundation.
Situated on 450 acres of woodland in Peterborough, New Hampshire, The MacDowell Colony welcomes more than 250 composers, writers, visual artists, architects, filmmakers, theatre and interdisciplinary artists from the United States and abroad each year. The sole criterion for acceptance is talent; a panel in each discipline selects Fellows. In 1997, The MacDowell Colony was awarded the National Medal of Arts for “nurturing and inspiring many of this century’s finest artists.” In 2007, the Colony celebrated a yearlong Centennial celebration with nationwide events honoring the “freedom to create.”