Designer of glass dome wins contest

After meeting the four finalists Monday, a nine-member jury selected Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne to design a new capitol for Alaska.Mayne is the only architect of the four competitors who retained the tradition of a dome - an icon of American capitols - in his design.

"Some people said it looks like an egg. When I finish the design, it won't look like an egg. If it still does, I fail," said Mayne, lead architect of Morphosis, of Santa Monica, Calif.

"What is Alaskan architecture? Maybe you don't have that. This project is the beginning of that evolution."

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, who spearheaded the competition, said the contest was intended to select a design team that is willing to work with Alaskans to find out what the icon of Alaska should be.

Botelho and Juneau's Capitol Planning Commission will present a financial plan and the design team to the governor this month. Botelho expects the Legislature to approve funding for the project in this session and dedicate the building Jan. 3, 2009, Alaska's 50th anniversary.

"Once funding is secured, we believe that Alaskans will finally get the capitol we have been waiting decades for," Botelho said.

Mayne and three other design teams underwent three tiers of the competition and were chosen from a pool of 43 applicants from all over the world. The jury, which consists of seven Alaskans and two nationally renowned architects, unanimously chose Mayne.

Juneau Juror Puanani Maunu said she likes the traditional elements of Mayne's design.

"I like the dome, the columns and the stairway leading up to the building," Maunu said. "I can imagine a glowing globe that represents our state. He will create a capitol that makes the state soar."

Mayne spent weeks studying the history of U.S. capitols to prepare for the project. Known for his unconventional designs, Mayne surprised many when he created a capitol with a dome that rises 150 feet. The dome's glazed interior would be etched with the state constitution.

"The dome is a symbolic statement," Mayne said. "It is important to keep the connectivity with a common icon. The capitol shouldn't be confused with other public buildings."

Mayne said other elements of the design will be open for discussions. "There isn't anything that isn't up to mutations and dialogues."

Mayne, who has worked on the project with Anchorage architect Mike Mense, said he understands he is stepping into not just a design competition but also a cultural and political debate.

"All the great civilizations in the world - Rome and Greece - have been through the same process," Mayne said. "The competition is a way to get Alaskans to define who they are and talk about it in cultural terms."

Juror Ed Feiner, chief architect of the U.S. General Services Administration, said Mayne is practical, innovative and optimistic.

"He has a vision for the future and Alaska is a state that looks toward the future," Feiner said. "This capitol is going to be built upon that optimistic view toward the future."

600450 Designer of glass dome wins contest
Date: 4 March 2005

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