University of Southern California (Daniel)

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    Dean Candidate Lectures 1 and 2

    By Daniel
    Apr 25, '06 10:35 PM EST

    I apologize for not updating as I promised on Peter Pran's decanal candidacy lecture. Yesterday we heard from Dana Cuff, the second out of four. The two are a fascinating contrast. My handwriting is too loopy and illegible to actually scan my notes as I'd planned, so here are the basic summaries:

    Peter Pran's lecture in Harris 101 was packed, with more than a few late students standing in the back and in the cold-floored antechamber. His presentation focused on the history and future of the school--it's too easy to forget that USC has had so many famous alumni and faculty. He proposed expanding the school's context to be more global, perhaps becoming the center of architectural education for the Pacific Rim. He mentioned strengthening our graduate program, building a higher profile for the school, and emphasizing student publications à la SCI-Arc and Columbia (and I suppose Yale and Cooper Union). He showed quite a bit of his own work, which is remarkable. He also showed us secret images that I can't mention here. I think everyone was quite impressed.

    Dana Cuff's lecture was worryingly unattended, but I supposed the other four years are still in the throes of charrette, and Ms Cuff of course realized this. Interestingly, she never addressed her vision for our school directly, instead giving a short intellectual biography of herself in which she traced her interest in architecture to being a child on an orange farm when the sprawl of suburban Southern California invaded. Later she discussed her current work, including a project on the history of Chavez Ravine and Westchester, California, and a deep interest in the "lessons of the suburb." What's interesting is that while she isn't a practicing architect, Prof Ghirardo told us this morning that she's written the most important book on practice in the last twenty-five years. What's clear is that Ms. Cuff has the intellectual clout and contacts to be a very good dean in a very different way than Mr. Pran. She certainly has a very real interest in all aspects of Los Angeles (especially housing), which is certainly an important and relevant point.

    I look forward to the lectures by Qingyun Ma and Margaret Crawford. I'll post my notes on those lectures as they come. Eventually I'll post pictures and scans of my final project, which was reviewed yesterday (it went well!).


    • I could not BE more curious about the special secret images. Could you email an alumnus with some inside info? If not, I'll have to wheedle it out of my brothers, who will make me try and bribe them.

      Thanks for the wrap-up! It sounds like Pran is really excited about the possibilities, which makes me excited, too. Could you expand a bit on what you mean by Cuff being "a very good dean in a very different way than Pran"? It kind of sounds like Pran is all expansion and possibilities, so what would that make Cuff? Status-quo, just really intellectual status-quo? Or am I totally misinterpreting?

      Apr 26, 06 12:18 am

      Well, I think she has a very different set of contacts than Pran. She seemed very administrative and more than competent, as well as very focused on Los Angeles as a place to study. I have 214 with Ghirardo, who definitely seemed to prefer Ms. Cuff (she's worked with both Ms. Cuff and Ms. Crawford). It's hard to say if Dana Cuff would maintain the status quo or really push forward, as it wasn't something she addressed in her lecture.

      I'm especially eager to hear Qingyun Ma's reasons for leaving his apparently flourishing practice.

      The secret images have to do with an unannounced high-rise project in the Middle-East...

      Apr 26, 06 12:28 am

      i'm tempted to pass irresponsible judgments as a way to boil down what daniel wrote about these two candidates. but he's actually been very even-handed and described the differences in these candidates well.

      [^^steven fights to keep his opinion to himself.]

      thanks, daniel. i'm looking forward to your summaries of the next two as well, though i'm at least as interested in crawford as ma.

      Apr 26, 06 6:53 am

      oh come on, steven! I can't be the only one passing irresponsible judgements in print, here. Although I guess you don't have the anonymity I do (not that anyone at USC couldn't figure out who I am very easily).

      So did you guys get a Q&A Session at the end of the lectures? Is there any mechanism to let the students air their opinions on the candidates?

      Apr 26, 06 12:16 pm

      There is a Q and A session at the end of each lecture. The day after the lecture there are separate meetings with staff, faculty, and students, but I haven't gone to any of these yet as the timing's been kind of awkward. And while we don't technically get a say, we've been told we can send letters to the Provost if we have very strong feelings.

      Apr 26, 06 3:50 pm

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