18 May 2017
By: Anran Li
2017 USC Graduate, Bachelors of Architecture
My five-year journey at USC School of Architecture has been an amazing experience. I was fortunate enough to meet tons of intelligent and helpful faculty and peers. Also, as an international student who came to US alone for education, I found my second home in Alpha Rho Chi, a national professional architecture fraternity. One thing I regret however, is that I did not discover Architectural Guild earlier.
As I entered my third year, I discovered my interests in large scale projects, and I realized that I had a hard time reaching out to the professional world as I did not have much personal connection. Then I came across the Architectural Guild, an organization that aims to provide a bridge between USC architecture students and the professionals. One of the events that had a huge impact on me was career week. The week starts with series of professional preparation workshops and ends with a grand firm fair. The Architectural Guild also organizes firm visits all year long to create a chance for students to engage with well established professionals.
In addition to the connections I have made through these events, Architectural Guild professionals also helped me with resume/portfolio revisions and interview techniques. With all the help and preparation from Architectural Guild, I successfully landed an amazing internship at Corgan, a firm that specializes in aviation.
My undergraduate study at USC is coming to an end and I am happy to say that I am ready for the whole new adventurous world thanks to the support of the Architectural Guild. I also cannot wait to join the organization as a new professional so we can keep this bridge going for as long as it can be.
10 April 2017 By: Walt Cousineau USC Architectural Guild Member
Congratulations to the 2017 USC Architectural Guild Haworth Charette Teams
The 2017 USC Architectural Guild Haworth Charette was held on April 1st this year, and was our most successful charette yet! With talented teams and an outstanding group of judges, our topic examined the growing issue of homelessness in Los Angeles drawing interest from a large cross section of the industry.
How Did the Haworth Charette Begin?
About six years ago I had a conversation with Dean Ma that focused on our students and how they are being prepared for the real world. Beyond Professional Practice courses and studio critiques, what mechanisms were in place at the school to help students prepare for client meetings and articulating a concept to others? Because the School of Architecture has worked diligently to diversify the student body, we thought additional presentation practice would especially benefit our foreign students.
The idea was simple: create a presentation competition wherein students would present their ideas to a client that would pass a “napkin sketch” test. Frequently, clients will explain a need, and you, as an architect, should be able to devise a solution, or a sketch on a napkin, that illustrates an understanding of the problem and a possible solution that addresses the problem.
The idea on the napkin must then be articulated to the client to prove the architect is listening and willing to collaborate with the client.
The Nuts & Bolts Of The Day
A generous donation and a continued partnership, Haworth is proud to sponsor this annual charette for the past 6 years. Teams of 2 or 3 students receive the problem at breakfast and they have 6 hours to think through the challenges, create a solution and produce drawings on a board by end of the day. The topics in the past have covered the future of educational delivery, with a traveling campus on a train, underwater and floating cities. Over the last few years the drawings were more computer based, however, this year we returned to hand drawing and with the renderings came an incredibly personal experience.
The judging panel reviews the drawing boards anonymously. The top 6 teams are chosen, and the afternoon is devoted to presentations of the finalists. The ideas the students invent are highly innovative and creative, but the ability to communicate the idea to the client is equally as important as the ability to draw and design it. After the jury deliberates on the presentations, the top three prize winners are announced followed by a reception to end the day.
I am always impressed by how creative the students are. Though these ideas will not be built, we expand the students’ visual and presentational vocabulary. They will be able to push a client’s creative boundaries in turn to something just outside their comfort zones, while remaining constructable.
Highlights From 2017
This years topic addressed homeless housing in downtown Los Angeles, a problem which has become an epidemic. Encampments are popping up in more and more areas from the Historic Core to tent cities along highway overpasses. Part of the solution to finding shelter for homeless people may exist in high rise parking structures that sit empty at night. If we re-purpose unused space during the evening, there are many possibilities to add utility to these structures. Our top three teams included:
1st Place- Untitled, by Blake Weber, Matthew Bianco-Splann and Chase Ashley
2nd Place- ArchDog by Kaiyu Xi, Tianlei Guo, Ye Yuan
3rd Place- The Three Stooges by Charlotte Garret, Sandra Gehring, Laura Gehring
Our jury panels are unsurpassed, and this year was no exception: Annie Chu, Michael Lehrer and Joey Shimoda and Michael Arnold joined us for the day. Our jury was expanded this year because the topic sparked quite a bit of interest in the industry. Our many thanks to Amy Pokawatana of Gensler, who did an exceptional job leading the committee this year.
Our first place winning team will join us at the USC Architectural Guild Annual dinner honoring Paul Williams. Additionally, the boards for first, second and third place will be on display that night at one of the largest industry networking events in Los Angeles.
16 March 2017 By: Pearl McLin USC Career Week Committee Member
Every spring the USC Architectural Guild hosts Career Week, a week-long series of workshops and discussions to guide and prepare the future architects of the world for what’s to come after graduation.
We kicked off the week on Monday with a discussion with 5 panelists – Vanja Deretic ’04, Michael Van Parys ’06, Jessica Tien ’12, Michael Hamner ’84, and Krystal Hamner ’92. The panelists discussed a variety of topics including:
Do you need a master’s degree?
Should you start your own practice and if so when?
How do you use your Trojan network?
What was the biggest concern after graduation and how did they go about resolving it?
On an event-packed Tuesday, many of our alumni volunteered their time to advise our students on what should be included in their resumes & portfolios, provided practice interviews and feedback on what employers are looking for, and the Guild arranged a photoshoot for professional LinkedIn headshots.
Wednesday featured presentations by a curated selection of USC alumni who have gone on to individual success in the world of design and the built environment. The Pecha Kucha style presentations featured 20 alumni displaying 20 slides for 20 seconds #USCArchitectureGenerationNext. To view the event please click here.
Matt Construction hosted the Engage! event Thursday evening – a series created by the Emerging Professionals Committee (EPC) of the USC Architectural Guild to provide an opportunity for students, interns, architects, engineers and other allied professionals in the Los Angeles region to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, to exchange and generate ideas, and to learn about the host firm, their expertise, and their work. Matt Construction presented about their work on the Broad as well as a current project with Stevens Hall.
All the events this week culminated at Friday’ Firm Fair at the Radisson Hotel. Before the students arrived, hugs, handshakes and “How are you?”s flew around the room. Everyone seemed to know everyone, because the Firm Fair is like a mini homecoming for the representatives who attend. Most representatives are alumni and got their first internship or full time offer from a previous firm fair.
Right around noon, the students showed up. Over 35 local architecture and construction firms sprung into action. The volume in the room doubled as the firms introduced themselves and began a dialogue with their potential interns/employees. Four hours later, tired, hoarse, but excited for the pool of qualified students the tables begin to clear, thus ending Career Week.
We started this week with stating one of the greatest benefits of attending USC is the willingness of one Trojan going out of their way to help a fellow Trojan.
This week, in my opinion, is the best example of that.
Most architecture students enter the professional world with an idealistic vision, and commonly a strong desire to design. It is very important to understand the dynamics of this profession, define your path and position yourself well into it to be able to implement your skills and ideas in a rational way. It is also advantageous to let your plans be flexible enough to evolve throughout the journey, yet it surely is challenging to accept, and in fact, embrace changes in this path. In other words, resistance to adaptation in various circumstances within this profession may inhibit further achievements and growth.
After stepping into the profession, almost like everyone else, as a member of the project teams, I passionately tried to bring to the table, new ideas, techniques, knowledge, and skills that I had gained through six years of school. It was definitely a challenge, in a lot of cases, to realize how restricted I had become in real world projects; how code implications could impact my concepts; and how client demands were so dramatically different from my visions that I had been taught at school. I certainly did not have to deal with any of that for school projects, and those whom I had to sell my ideas to, included my professors, perhaps a few critiques at final presentations, and sometimes my classmates whose thought process was not so different from mine. I had to be realistically responsible for every dollar spent for the construction of my designs, and be able to reasonably analyze why I was making every single design move, and what the implications could be.
The bright side of it which became revolutionary to my thinking process, was that the professional work is undoubtedly less subjective than school work. Economic factors makes the boundaries and limitations more palpable. Part of what gradually made the real world projects exciting to me, and yet different from school, was the fact that everyone contributed uniquely to its perception, and success; and the judgement was not the ultimate decision of your instructor.
After working on a number projects during a short amount of time, I came to this understanding that I should certainly focus my attention on the areas I had lack of knowledge in. My passion for design and creation of new spatial concepts had my major dedication during the school years; and I had spent a great amount of time and love on that field. Evaluating my own performance at work proved to myself, that I was doing a better job at design, and I need to improve myself on other areas. I did not have any practical experience on how a simple building could really come together in two different stages; a much earlier stage including project execution, management, budgeting, and client relations; and a farther stage which is constructability, technical details, building jurisdiction codes, and zoning ordinances.
Working at HLW, I had the privilege to openly discuss my goals, and ask for mentorship on what I needed to learn. This I believe is one of the most important aspects of my job satisfaction. As I mentioned earlier, it is critical to be able to redefine your goals as you gain more experience. With my background in architecture schools, I certainly do see a value in finding solutions that would challenge the status quo but I firmly believe that this can only be achieved through understanding the established rules and methods in the first place. I realized what I had to focus on was leaning the established rules and techniques, which was my major weakness, those that I had no interest to pursue while I was at school, but I knew I had to learn them prior to taking bigger passionate steps, hence I decided to ask my supervisors at HLW to expose me to the technical side of the projects, and let me work on projects that were at Design Development, Construction Documentation, and Construction Administration stages.
It was interesting enough that one of the projects I had worked on during the preliminary design stages, in my first few months after school, came back to us for further development and construction down the road. The project was an existing six story building that was intended to be re-positioned to creative office spaces to attract tech company tenants. The idea was to renovate the bulky symmetrical, 80’s looking building to a contemporary design on the exterior and interior of the building.
As far as a learning experience, working on a renovation project was an incredibly comprehensive experience in that it involved far more complexities than a new construction project. The meticulous investigations on how the building was constructed thirty years ago, and figuring out how we could trigger the structure with minimal intervention and taking into account all cost implications was absolutely a valuable lesson learned.
As soon as we started on putting together a complete concept design package, I experienced a whole new level of thinking about design. In fact, we had to materialize the design perspectives we had, estimate the costs, present feasible options to the client, and be flexible enough to incorporate client requests and implement engineers’ directions in our design. Our scope of work on that project included façade renovation, lobby and core design, entry podium, and conversion of the 2nd floor parking to an office space. This conversation alone, exposed me to zoning regulations, and I actually had to attend a couple of public hearings in which I presented our design to the committee, and explained how this project could be beneficial to the neighborhood. Aside from that, putting together Design development, and construction documents packages influenced how I visualized design thereafter. Having said that, it is very important to work at a place where you can achieve what you’re looking for, and I luckily had that.
After pulling the building permits, and going through a few plan check revisions, and dealing with building department jurisdiction, it was the time for construction. This was certainly a unique experience, absolutely different from what I had done before. I got the chance to fully undertake project coordination during construction. Coordinating architecture with structural, MEP, landscape, lighting; and being responsive to the contractor questions and requests, had to be simultaneously overseen. In addition, we went through two value engineering processes during which we reevaluated our design and details to lower the construction cost. At this point, all the steps we had taken previously, in regards to pulling the permits and coordination with the engineers had to be redone multiple times to account for the changes. Below is the before and after images of the project I briefly explained here because, we as architects, always prefer graphics over text.
Through my own experience, and in no particular order, here is what I uncovered about construction administration. First it’s crucial to recognize how every single correspondence with the contractor had to be carefully analyzed and strategized, in technical and financial terms, because any remaining unresolved issues would show up eventually in other formats, and it is always the responsibility of the architect to find a solution for, or coordinate with the engineers to find the best answer. The second important lesson I learned was that how a smart design detail could simultaneously affect the schedule, budget, and the end result. And the last but not least is to emphasize on how important it is to get licensed in this profession. It is impossible to learn the bulk of information you gain by studying for ARE exams in a relatively short amount of time by work experience alone, and you might actually never get the depth of knowledge without going through the licensure path.
What I’m proud of during my years of work experience is that not only my passion for architecture has not faded away, but I’ve also been able to reform my goals, and to some extent redefine them for myself. The influences of what I learned at USC, and my experience at HLW were both of great values; and I always believe that as architects being able to keep our passions alive is the key because that’s what makes us different; and we should acknowledge and appreciate this intrinsic passion.
Every year the Los Angeles Conservancy honors firms who exhibit excellence in the field of historic preservation. This year there are a number for USC Architectural Guild and USC Board of Councilor members whose firms received honors. The USC School of Architecture and the Architectural Guild would like to acknowledge these great achievements!
2017 Preservation Award Recipient- Columbia Square
Congratulations on such an amazing achievement and for your hard work to keep historic architecture prevalent in Los Angeles! For more information about the LA Conservancy Preservation Awards click here.
19 January 2017
By: Gary Brennen
USC Architectural Guild Mentor Board Member
As part of the Mentorship Program with the USC School of Architecture, M.Arch +3 students, Yi-Ting Hsieh and Khalil Gobir, visited Syska Hennessy Group in Culver City to tour our office and meet with their mentors, Yiyu Chen and myself. Having mentors on the MEP engineering side gives the students a unique opportunity to explore the other side of the architecture industry and acquire building engineering knowledge which they can apply to their class and studio projects.
Yiyu, a USC alumnus with a Master’s Degree in Building Science, talked with the students about High Performance Building Design, highlighting Energy Modeling case studies done on the Long Beach Civic Center and the County of San Diego Housing & Community Development Office. He also touched on California’s Energy Code requirements (Title 24) and how it affects the design process.
Yi-Ting and Khalil were also introduced to our youngest generation of engineers, our EDTs (Engineering Development Trainees), who gave their perspective on the AEC industry, what they enjoy, and the dynamics of their working relationship with our architectural clients. Tim Tyrrell, an EDT, led a presentation with an example of the mechanical design work we do and the coordination between various teams on a project.
We hope Yi-Ting and Khalil enjoyed their visit to our office and learned a little more about the collaboration involved in the various facets of building design. We plan on bringing them onsite to one of our projects currently under construction, so stay tuned for our next blog post when that happens!
16 January 2017
By Michael J. Marquez, AIA
Guild Board President
This past Saturday morning, I along with fellow Board member Leslie Young of Stir Architecture, hosted a small party of mentees from the School of Architecture for a tour of the recently completed Robertson Residence in Trousdale Estates in Beverly Hills.
My office had been working on this recently completed project for just over two years and it is currently on the market. The walls (and ceilings) of this house stand tall with the assistance of Risha Engineering (an advid supporter of the Guild) and KGM Architectural Lighting, which of course is headed by past Guild President and classmate, Michael Gehring, FAIA.
The 6,000 SF house is located on a magnificent view lot and was built for sale by the talented Clive Robertson. This was the first collaboration between Michael Marquez Architects and Clive, and on this project, Clive showed every ounce of his insight and knowledge of Architecture.
The students had the opportunity to witness first hand the result of some creative thinking and the response to some extremely challenging conditions. The project was tested by restrictive height limits, a challenging building pad and by constant demands for access to the view. The result of those solutions became a pleasing collection of integrated spaces, each of which respected each other and provided breath taking views in almost every direction imaginable.
The project was also a wonderful opportunity for the students to see what can happen when a client and an architect work in concert. By not surrendering to the imposing limitations, the house was able to provide different internal environments, defined by light and volume and general massing that eventually feed off itself. There virtually wasn’t a single space in the house that didn’t demand your attention and evoke a sense of envy for everyone who experienced it.
Being able to share one of our most successful pieces of architecture with our mentees was also a great reward for me. When the morning came to an end, I believe all of the students walked away feeling a sense of power, knowing that it’s possible for their visions to become a reality.
02 December 2016
By Michael J. Marquez, AIA
Guild Board President
Well, the Holiday Season is upon us, which means we’ve basically reached the halfway point in the school year. This Fall semester has been an exciting and challenging adventure for the USC Architectural Guild. Since our Retreat this summer, we have actually been perfecting and implementing some of our most ambitious programs ever.
The school year began as always with one of our most fun events of the year, the Annual Golf Tournament at the Wilshire Country Club. It turned out to be one of the most successful in history due to the outstanding leadership of Steve Pellegren and Gary Brennen, along with the usual cast of characters. Only days later, Chuck Whitaker lead the charge of the Mentorship Committee and we jumped right into the semester with the greatest number of mentors and mentees ever!
Once the semester was in full swing, Jessica Tien and the always energetic group of Emerging Professionals organized Engage! events at Steinberg Architects and Stir Architecture downtown as well as an eye-popping tour of the almost completed University Village with past Guild President, Martha Ball of HED.
Meanwhile, the Membership Committee, led by Leslie Gentile of Farmers and Merchants Bank, has been focusing on ways to find you! And trust me, they will. More importantly, when they do, they’ll be explaining to you why you need to get involved and with a little common sense . . . you will.
Finally, with youthful exuberance and senior wisdom, the Communication Committee came out swinging as a whole as we have been reaching out to the Trojan Family with relentless dedication. Arnold Swanborn of CO Architects and Vanja Deretic of KPFF, have devised a game plan second to none. By encouraging the entire Guild Board to exercise their newly developed skills on social media, we can reach the broadest audience in our existence and better serve the goals outlined by the Guild.
The results of these massive individual and group efforts, including those by our gifted support staff, continue to strengthen the USC Architectural Guild every day. Collectively, we are continually increasing our membership and the involvement of some of the most talented individuals in the Southern California Building Industry, all to better serve our ultimate goal, the students of the School of Architecture.
Finally, I look forward to seeing all of you out at the Rose Bowl on January 2nd, as our Trojans put the final touches on what has been a proud and successful year. I also look forward to seeing all of you in the upcoming Spring semester as we reach equally great heights of our own. Look for our future blogs and posts of upcoming events and plan on being a part Guild next year. You’ll be glad you did.
All the best for a safe and happy Holiday. Fight On ! ! !
23 October 2016
By: Chuck Whitaker
USC Architectural Guild Mentor Program Chairman
The USC Architectural Guild Mentor Program initiated the 2016-2017 mentoring program this last week. The program is open to all USC architecture students and we had an overwhelming response with more than 100 students and 80 mentors registered!
The purpose of the mentorship program is to provide an impactful, professional and “real world” experience to supplement their formal education. Students will gain insight and guidance from architecture, design and construction industry professionals who will assist them in preparing for their careers after graduation.
Many of the mentors and mentees attended the “kick off” breakfast at the USC campus on October 19, 2016 to meet each other and discuss their interests. Discussions between the students and mentors included: planning mentoring events, learning about collaboration of design professionals and contractors, the roles of design professionals, and visiting architectural and associated design professional offices.
One gathering that occurred through the mentorship program was at JLA Structural Engineers. They invited several architectural students to their office and provided a luncheon presentation on the role of a structural engineer. Another mentor meeting took place at a construction site close to the USC campus.
I’m very excited for the launch of the program an hope it’s not only impactful and rewarding for the students but also a meaningful experience for the mentees as well.
07 October 2016
By: Jessica Tien
USC School of Architecture Alumni ’12
Touring the office, this time at the PacMutual Building in Downtown LA, learning about the firm and several of their projects are always a part of the Engage! program. However, the best takeaway is always what this setting is conducive for – opening up the dialogue.
Principal Kim Patten and Associate John Wirfs shared with us an amazing transformation of Whittier College Science and Learning Center during the presentation, but it was later in the Q&A when they were particularly inspiring with their personal stories on how they came to join their firm. These Trojans both saw leadership opportunities here for younger professionals with room to grow. It was encouraging to know that climbing the ladder may not be as farfetched as I had previously thought, given that I look in the right places.
The Engage! series is a chance to stay engaged (pun intended) with the AEC industry in a relaxed setting where you can make new connections, catch up with old coworkers and classmates, and be offered valuable advice you didn’t even know you needed!