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AWARD-WINNING ARCHITECT'S CAREER SEES HARSH CRITICISM TURN TO PRAISE

Architect Thom Mayne's work used to be more reviled than revered.

Now Mayne only can smile at the irony of being named the winner two weeks ago of this year's Pritzker Architecture Prize, the field's most prestigious honor.

"I joke that in my younger life I was pummeled for doing certain things, and later I've been rewarded for all the things I was criticized for," the 61-year-old Mayne said. The iconoclastic, 6-foot, 5-inch architect spoke recently from The Mansion, where he was dressed in gray and black, offset by loud green and salmon-striped socks.

Mayne also spoke in a lecture hall overflowing with University at Buffalo students, delivering an address sponsored by UB's School of Architecture and Planning and the Green Office.

Mayne is one of several celebrated Los Angeles architects whose styles are marked by unconventional materials and pushing of boundaries.

In the 1970s, Mayne, a professor at UCLA, co-founded Morphosis, the Los Angeles firm that is home to 40 architects and designers, and that launched SCI-ARC, an unorthodox school of architecture.

Today, he is designing major civic buildings that are helping to redefine cities, such as the California Department of Transportation's District 7 headquarters in Los Angeles with its mechanized, perforated metal facade and 120-foot light well.

"I think one of the things architecture should do is to engage you and stir it up a little bit. It's not cake decoration," Mayne said.

Brian Carter, dean of the UB School of Architecture, has a deep appreciation for what Mayne has tried to do in his work.

"One of the things interesting about Thom is that he thinks quite radically about architecture," he said. "In a sense, he's seen as really quite a revolutionary."

Mayne is developing three projects for the General Services Administration. One is a federal office building in San Francisco, which boasts a stainless-steel cladding designed to save $500,000 annually in energy costs. That led the New York Times to declare in January that Mayne was "the government's favorite architect."

Mayne, who was born in Waterbury, Conn., and grew up in Gary, Ind., and Whittier, Calif., credits the '60s counterculture as a major influence.

"I grew up when everything seemed possible," he said.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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