Guild President’s New Year Message

3 January 2018

By Stephen C. Luchetta, LEED AP BD+C
Guild Board President

Happy New Year and all the best to you and your families in 2018! It’s hard to believe that we are half way through the school year. The fall semester has flown by and the USC School of Architecture and the Architectural Guild have been very busy and productive.

First of all, in July, Milton S. F. Curry was installed as the 14th Dean of the School of Architecture by USC President Max Nikias at Town and Gown. Milton was born in Fresno, California and studied architecture at Cornell and Harvard Universities.  He began his teaching career at Arizona State University, moved to Harvard University and spent the last seven years at the University of Michigan, where he served as an Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Strategic initiatives. He has been very productive in his first 6 months as our Dean and I am confident that he will take the School of Architecture to new heights. He attended our Annual Board Retreat in August at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey and provided us with a preview of his vision and strategic initiatives. He also acknowledged the good works and support of the Guild over the past 60 years and encouraged us to continue with our mission. It has been a pleasure working with Dean Curry and I look forward to working with him for the balance of my term and beyond.

The Guild year began with our first board meeting in September at the University Club on campus and then our 37th Annual Golf Tournament at the Santa Ana Country Club in October. The Guild made a bold move south this year and held our annual golf tournament at the prestigious Santa Ana County Club in the heart of Orange County. Under the leadership of our Golf Chair, Gary Brennen of Syska Hennessy, the tournament was sold out one month in advance and raised more than $70,000 to support scholarships, career fairs, traveling fellowships, ice cream socials and other activities and events for our architectural students. This year’s tournament was won by the Snyder Langston Foursome.

Our Emerging Professionals lead by Jessica Tien kicked off the new year with three Engage events. First, we visited Genslers’ Orange County office, followed by an event at Haworth’s downtown Los Angeles office and then a visit to the Cunningham Group in Culver City where we were honored by the presence of Ronald Altoon. Ron was the recipient of our past Distinguished Alumni in 1999. The Cunningham event was well attended with over 60 people in attendance including students, other professionals and Guild Members.

Cunningham Engage event on November 9, 2017. Ron Altoon, Distinguished Alumni 1999 sitting in the front row.


Jessica Tien, USC Architectural Guild Board Student Representative, Rebecca Martinez – Cunningham Group and Steve Luchetta – USC Architectural Guild Board President

Our Mentorship Program kicked off on Tuesday, October 24, 2017 with a breakfast on campus. Under the leadership of David Swartz of HLW Architects, we have achieved record numbers with over 150 mentees and over 120 mentors. This important program offers an opportunity for students to connect with an outside professional that can provide career guidance, advice, and support from a real-world point of view.

Our Communication Committee under the leadership of Vanja Deretic of KPFF Engineers is working on developing a “launch kit” that can be used by all committees to be more efficient with their time and reach the broadest audience. The committee will be meeting in the first quarter of 2018 with Elizabeth Held, the new Assistant Dean for Communications & Marketing for the School of Architecture, to coordinate all of their efforts.

Finally, our Membership Committee chaired by Leslie Gentile continues to look for ways to increase membership by reviewing sponsorship levels, enhancing current value, enhancing participation of non-board members on committees and by “creating stability” for pricing for firms to budget. The Membership committee will also be attending the meeting with the new Assistant Dean for Communications in the first quarter of 2018.

I would like to extend a sincere thanks to our corporate sponsors who throughout the years have consistently supported the Guild. Their support is greatly appreciated and is critical for the development of our talented architectural students.

Please look for future blogs and postings and plan to join us at one of our upcoming events. If you are not a currently a member of the Guild, please consider joining us. You can find more information about the Guild here.

Happy New Year!  Fight On!




Mentorship Program 2018 – Site Visit

15 November 2017

By: Chuck Whitaker
Vice President, USC Architectural Guild

The purpose of the USC Architectural Guild Mentor Program is to provide an effective professional mentorship program for USC School of Architecture students to supplement their formal education, to expose students to the “real world” of architecture and other associated design and construction professions, and to assist students in preparing for their professional career after graduation.

Mentors are encouraged to keep in contact with mentees by either inviting mentees to visit a mentor’s office and participate in presentations or to visit construction sites close to the USC campus or to meet for coffee to share mentor experiences in the “real world” and answering questions from mentees or to attend USC Architectural Guild Engage Events.  Assistance to mentees can also be provided by helping students find summer intern jobs that might continue during the school year.

On November 11, a tour for more than 30 USC Architectural students of the new $274 million Banc of California 22,000 seat soccer stadium under construction was provided and narrated by Shelby Jordan of Legends, the construction manager, and Mark Josten of PCL Construction, the general contractor. The soccer stadium will be the home of the new Major League Soccer franchise, the Los Angeles Football Club. See the following photos taken during the construction site tour.






2017 Architectural Guild Annual Golf Tournament

11 October 2017

By: Steve Pellegren & Gary Brennen
USC Architectural Guild Golf Committee Chairs

The USC Architectural Guild made a bold move south this year and held our  annual golf tournament at the prestigious Santa Ana Country Club in the heart of Orange County. Now in its 37th year, the Golf Tournament is one of the premier industry events bringing together leaders in the design, architecture, engineering, construction and real estate industries. Long considered a tournament for the movers and shakers, the list of sponsors and attendees is a virtual Who’s Who in the industry.

This tournament has a proud and storied history but it was time to re-imagine the tournament.  New ideas included the idea of a rotation between OC and LA to broaden our reach to USC alumni and industry champions…yes, we will be back to LA in 2018 and are already looking at new exciting golf venues to host.  We also went to a FUN FUNDRAISER concept…speed up play and shorten the overall day by converting to scramble and having a mixer and buffet dinner after.

Once again, this year Syska Hennessy Group graciously stepped up as our presenting sponsor. We appreciate their continued support of this longstanding industry event. We had a full field of 36 foursomes who were able to enjoy the newly renovated Santa Ana golf course with the link style and undulating greens presenting some very challenging putts.  The golfers enjoyed a beautiful day of fellowship on the golf course which included lunch, golf, a networking mixer after golf, awards dinner and a dessert reception. Unfortunately some of our golfers had to race home due to the Anaheim Hills fire and we hope all are safe.

The annual event is a major part of the fundraising efforts of the Architectural Guild and raised more than $70,000 dollars to support scholarships, career fairs, traveling fellowships, ice cream socials and other activities and events for deserving architecture students. This year’s tournament was won by the team from Snyder Langston.

We look forward to returning to LA County next year at a venue to be announced early next year.   We extend our appreciation and thanks to the golf committee, the participants and our dedicated sponsors who have been loyal supporters of this tournament for many years. Fight On!


Annual Guild Board Retreat 2017

12 August 2017
By Stephen C. Luchetta, LEED AP BD+C
Guild Board President

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, the USC School of Architecture Guild Board Members met at the Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey, for our annual summer retreat.  Each year, the new board has an opportunity to step away from our busy lives and reflect on the past years accomplishments and evaluate ways on how we can better enhance the upcoming year.  It is an honor to serve as president of this collection of dedicated and extremely talented professionals and support staff. I am looking forward to an outstanding year.

I also had the honor to introduce our new Dean of the School of Architecture, Milton S. F. Curry to the board. He provided us with a brief overview of his vision and discussed his three pillars that will lead our school to new heights in the upcoming years.

1) Pedagogy Frameshifting
2) Urbanism and Theory
3) Multiplicity in Students and Faculty

He also fielded several questions from our talented board regarding the faculty connection to the guild, industry partnership and working with other departments within USC organizations to improve the overall program.

The amazing location provided us an opportunity for stimulating conversation.  We considered a variety of ideas on how to improve communications, increase our membership and how we can stay connected to the talented architectural students of USC. It is my hope that the excitement and energy experienced during the retreat will transition into another successful school year.

The day concluded with a private reception for guild board members, past guild presidents, faculty members and various other supporters.  The reception also provided an opportunity for the Dean to meet various supporters of the guild, past and present.  We are very fortunate to have him as our new Dean and I look forward to working with him in the upcoming year!




Guild Impact- A Student Perspective

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.

2017 Haworth Charette

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

First Place- Team “Untitled”
Second Place Team “ArchDog”
Third Place Team “The Three Stooges”

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.














USC School of Architecture- Career Week 2017

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.

Monday 3/6/17

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?
  • What motivates them to keep doing what they do?

If you would like to view the event, click here.

Tuesday 3/7/17

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 3/8/17

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.

Thursday 3/9/17

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.

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Friday 3/10/17

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.

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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.

Until next year – same time, same place!






Kiana Dolat- My Version of Becoming An Architect

Kiana Dolat
USC Graduate of M.Arch II

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.

Lobby Before
Lobby After


Exterior Before
Exterior After


Exploded Isometric View | Showing New Construction vs. Existing Elements

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.

2017 LA Conservancy Preservation Awards

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

Structural Engineer: Nabih Youssef Associates
Lighting Consultant: KGM Architectural Lighting

Royce Neuschatz Award for Historic Landscapes-
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden

Architect: Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture

2017 Preservation Award Recipient-
Grand Central Air Terminal

Architect, Preservation Architect: Frederick Fisher and Partners, Architects

2017 Preservation Award Recipient-
Preservation Resource Center at the Shotgun House

Preservation Consultant: USC Heritage Conservation Programs

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.