Tucked in at the edge of USC’s campus, along downtown Los Angeles' Exposition Boulevard, stands Southern California's first accredited architecture program, which has spent the past year celebrating its centennial class of students with a variety of school events. At the resolution of the academic year is USC School of Architecture's Blue Tape, a two-day climactic event showcasing work from throughout the year, across all disciplines and student levels.
Representing Archinect’s editorial team, Amelia Taylor-Hochberg and I attended Blue Tape to catch a glimpse of USC’s architectural scene -- surveying the exhibitions and final reviews, and talking to students and administrators.
The event gets its name from the blue painters' tape that students first used in Blue Tape’s earlier years to pin up their project boards. For two days, visitors were free to roam the studios and hallways of Watt and Harris Halls while being able to check out an array of semester-long research topics. The Blue Tape name stuck as an indication of the somewhat informal but lively and rich exhibitive mood.
Out of the 700 projects that the school estimates were on display for Blue Tape, students covered topics like rethinking the role and infrastructure of L.A.'s streets, exploring material properties in outdoor pavilions, and starting lengthy discussions on the disconnect between form and function through a surrealistic approach. For the entire event, the whole school is buzzing, with everything from first year BArch critiques to master’s thesis reviews.
Blue Tape is free and open to the public, and aims to serve as a liaison event bridging the schools’ architectural community to the outside population (of USC and beyond). But it’s proven difficult to attract those who aren’t already involved in architecture, keeping the event an insular affair. The upshot is that it allows for a strong environment of camaraderie and support for the students, while the school’s administrators grapple with how to better capture the attention of non-architecture folk throughout the L.A. region. The end-goal is for Blue Tape to become a keystone event for architectural discourse in Southern California, with USC as a major influencer.
Until then, Archinect was on the ground to see what USC Architecture is up to in its 100th year. To kick-off our coverage, we’re featuring a spontaneous interview with Dean Qingyun Ma, conducted by Amelia Taylor-Hochberg amidst frantic students preparing for critiques. We’ll be featuring additional content from Blue Tape throughout the next few weeks.
Ma spoke about the history of Blue Tape and his hopes for future cross-disciplinary collaboration within architectural education.
Editor/Writer for Archinect + sister site Bustler. Leans toward: community-based art + design, illustration, graphic design, social issues, and history. Enjoys a good bowl of noodles.