Los Angeles, CA
A Department of Architecture was established at USC in 1916; the first in Southern California.
This small department grew rapidly with the help of the Allied Architects of Los Angeles. A separate School of Architecture was organized in September 1925. The new building with open courtyards that reflect the historic heritage of the region has served as a social nucleus and is still the heart of the School today. Arthur Clason Weatherhead, the first dean, was joined by five practicing architects as faculty, who also served as an advisory committee to the University. This established a pattern of professional service and pragmatism complementing academic inquiry that still exists today.
Working with the Educational Committee of the American Institute of Architects, the School increased its scope to implement a five-year program leading to a Bachelor of Architecture degree, with an emphasis on regional influences that remained consistent for the next two decades under Weatherhead's guidance. Additional art courses were added to the curriculum in 1928 when a major sequence in fine arts was established, leading to the degree of A.B. in the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. The School was organized as a College in 1931, at which time professional curricula in design, painting, and sculpture, leading to the professional degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts, were established. In 1932, the graduate curriculum in architecture for the degree of Master of Architecture was approved. The name of the College was changed to the College of Architecture and Fine Arts in 1933.
The emphasis of the School changed dramatically after World War II. Arthur B. Gallion, who took over leadership in 1945, transferred the fine arts curricula to the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, changed the name of the School to the College of Architecture, and added a department of Industrial Design, led by Raymond F. Loewy, whose innovations in streamlining and the use of new materials have come to symbolize the optimism of the period. The era of post-war prosperity in America during the 1950s that accelerated with the end of the Korean conflict was a period of tremendous growth in Los Angeles, and the USC College of Architecture was in the vanguard of exploring ways in which the built environment could respond to radical changes. The casual lifestyle demanded by war-weary GIs called for an open architecture that allowed more exposure and access to the outdoors, to take advantage of the benign climate of Southern California.
The faculty in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s reflected these critical social and economic changes, with Educators such as Gregory Ain, Robert Alexander, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Garret Eckbo, Sal Merendino, Emmet Wemple, Conrad Buff, Calvin Straub, and Donald Hensman were all prominent figures in the shift towards modernism. The demographic change and social transformation resulted in a move toward more personal freedom and mobility that began in Los Angeles and reverberated across the rest of the nation after the war; a trend that continued through the 1960s.
The Case Study House program, which had critical implications for the American building industry, was a bold initiative started by John Entenza in Los Angeles. Many of the other protagonists in this important project had graduated from USC. Pierre Koenig, who designed and built Case Study Houses #21 and #22, was a leader in this effort and continues to represent this valuable legacy at the School today. As a student at USC, under the aegis of Dean Gallion, Koenig, a returning G.I., extended the modernist language to incorporate a new material, steel, and advocated prefabrication techniques that would make American construction and housing production more efficient. As natural resources become more scarce, his investigations take on new importance. He won two California Council AIA awards in 1996: The Maybeck Award for lifetime achievement in design, and The 25 Year Award for his Case Study House #22.
Conrad Buff, FAIA (BArch 1952), Calvin Straub, FAIA (BArch 1943), and Donald Hensman, FAIA (BArch 1952), taught at USC under Dean Gallion's leadership and have influenced generations of architects through the quality of their work. In the Case Study Houses #20 and #28, all three explored how the principles of modernism responded to a regional context, heavily shaped by the tradition of the preceding architectural philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
A notable graduate from this rich period is alumnus Frank Gehry, FAIA (BArch 1954), who epitomizes the mixture of originality tempered with pragmatism that has historically characterized a USC architecture education. Since graduating, Gehry has followed a highly individual path of self-discovery that has made him one of the most influential and creative architects in the world. As the inspiration behind "the Los Angeles School," the contemporary equivalent of the Chicago and Philadelphia initiatives which have so profoundly redefined practice in the past, Gehry continues to surprise and delight an international audience that looks to him for innovation.
Following interim administrations under Henry Burge, Samuel Hurst took over the leadership of the school in 1963. During Hurst's ten year term James Ambrose, Pierre Koenig, and Ralph Knowles joined the faculty along with advocates for change such as Charles Eames and Craig Ellwood continuing as visiting lecturers. Konrad Wachsman, an internationally recognized authority on prefabrication, was the Director of the Institute for Building Research from 1963 to his retirement in the mid 70s, and had a lasting influence on the technology curriculum, establishing the only center for research in industrialized construction at USC.
Konrad Wachsman, an internationally recognized authority on prefabrication, was the Director of the Institute for Building Research from 1963 to his death in 1981, and had a lasting influence on the technology curriculum, establishing the only center for research in industrialized construction at USC.
The work of Thom Mayne (BArch 1969), Principal of Morphosis, exemplifies the diverse viewpoints, grounded in technical and environmental principles, that typified this era. He is widely recognized as a leader in the next generation of architects dubbed "the Los Angeles School." He credits the depth and extent of his awareness, manifested in his sensitive readings of context, to Professor Ralph Knowles. Knowles pioneered techniques of solar design long before the concept of sustainability was introduced. His educational approach is now used as a model by a rapidly growing faction that advocates concern for environmental issues.
Sam Hurst recruited many of the current faculty including Graeme Morland, Dimitry Vergun, and Roger Sherwood. Hurst also invited Christopher Alexander, Reynar Banham, Alvin Boyarsky, Ray Bradbury, and Esther McCoy as visiting lecturers, among others. In 1973, Ralph Knowles became interim dean, a position he held until 1975, when A. Quincy Jones assumed the deanship. Frank Dimster from the Pereira organization, Charles Lagreco from Paul Kennon's Los Angeles office of CRS, and John Mutlow working with the CRA on Pico Union, all joined the School under A. Quincy Jones leadership. From 1979-80, Panos Koulermos served as interim dean. Robert Harris became dean in 1980 and led the School for the next 11 years.
Robert Harris guided the School through the tumultuous 1980s, reinforcing its strengths and expanding its focus to include an emphasis on diverse cultures, as well as urban concerns. These accomplishments were born of his own leadership of the effort to restructure the planning strategies intended to guide the future growth of Los Angeles. As chairman of the committee that formulated the Downtown Strategic Plan, Harris imbued the curriculum with the high level of excitement that now pervades the city, coming from a collective realization that Los Angeles represents an unprecedented urban model for the future because of its broad cultural diversity. From 1992-95 Victor Regnier, FAIA (MArch 1973) served as interim dean of the School.
The current profile of the School of Architecture faculty represents contributions to academic and professional life over the last 30 years-spanning unprecedented changes in the University, the city, and the professional community. During this 30-year period, significant urban projects include John Mutlow's Pico Union Housing, Charles Lagreco's Broadway Historic Theater District study, and Frank Dimster's Two Houston Center. Other projects and studies conducted include Stefanos Polyzoides' proposals for Playa Vista, Graeme Morland's East Los Angeles and Metro Rail Studies, Achva Stein's work with LA city parks, and Roger Sherwood's research on Courtyard Housing and Apartment Footprints. With Robert Harris, Arthur Golding and other faculty conducted significant studies on the Los Angeles River. All of these projects serve to demonstrate the continuing active involvement of the School in the shaping of our immediate urban environment.
The School of Architecture entered a new phase as a new century began under the guidance of Dean Robert H. Timme, FAIA, who took leadership in th fall of 1995. The School is poised to capitalize on its unparalleled legacy of enlightened direction, originality, and commitment to the fundamental issues of design and professional excellence in a rapidly changing world. The School has developed an architectural complex north of campus for community design activities and for the Architectural Guild. The USC School of Architecture is committed to studying and supporting the city of Los Angeles, a city recognized as the future capital of the Pacific Rim, both the gateway to and the mirror of a dynamic nation.