Capitol designer is awarded prestigious architecture prize

Some in Juneau hope honor will help sell capitol to Legislature

Posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Some Alaskans' taste in architecture got affirmation Sunday.

Thom Mayne, selected March 1 to design a proposed new capitol for Alaska, won the 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the highest honor in the profession. Mayne, founder and lead designer of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Morphosis, is the first American to win the prize in 14 years.

Some Juneau officials and residents said they hope Mayne's new honor will help Juneau sell the $100 million project to Gov. Frank Murkowski and the Alaska Legislature - which ultimately will decide the fate of a new capitol.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho proposes that the Legislature approve a 30-year lease renting the building from the city. The city would use the rent to pay for construction.

"When the Alaska Capitol Planning Jury selected Thom, they didn't know he would win the award," said Maria Gladziszewski, projects coordinator of the commission. "This is a confirmation of their choice."

Gladziszewski said the award might give some Alaskans more confidence in Mayne.

He was chosen from a pool of 43 international designers, and envisioned an Alaska capitol with a huge glass dome inscribed with words of the Alaska Constitution. When the design was released, some people said the dome looked like a huge boiled egg. Others called it and the other finalists' designs futuristic.

"For those who are skeptical of him, they can understand that we have a person of incredible qualities that is ready to understand Alaska and Alaskans and create a piece of public architecture for Alaska," Gladziszewski said.

Peter Warren, an architectural intern at Jensen, Yorba and Lott, said although the award won't make people like his design, it confirmed to him that the jury has chosen somebody with great talents.

"I am not saying that we should build whatever he designs," Warren said. "All the great buildings are made not only by great architects but also great clients. If we as a state can shape the idea of what we want and work with him, he has the talents to create a product that all of us will be proud of."

Mayne, 61, said the Pritzker Architecture Prize validated his decades of hard work. He recently won a competition to design the NYC2012 Olympic Village, a $1.6-billion project in Queens. New York is competing for the 2012 Games.

"Architecture is a result of collaboration," Mayne said. "I am not passive. I am an active ingredient in solving problems."

Mayne said the Alaskan jury chose him because he listened.

Juneau Assembly member Merrill Sanford, also a member of the commission that selected the jury, said he is eager to bring Mayne to meet the governor and the Legislature.

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