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History of

USC Architecture

The USC School of Architecture, founded in 1919, possesses a rich legacy of collaborative innovation and eclectic individual invention. The Case Study House Program, which ran from 1945-1964, was closely associated with the School and many of its faculty and graduates. The Program supported collaborative experimentation on issues of housing and urbanism, domestic life and technological adaptability. Many of the School’s prominent faculty in the post-War period participated in the Case Study Program and contributed greatly to the discourse of modernism during the period, including: Summer Spaulding, Richard Neutra, Gregory Ain, William Pereira, Ralph Knowles, Raymond Loewy, Craig Ellwood, Conrad Buff, Donald Hensman and Pierre Koenig. Many of these architects would become prolific and came to symbolize Los Angeles’ ascension as a place of avant-garde thinking on architecture and city-making.

The School has also been a place for individual invention and has graduated architects whose eclectic way of thinking and groundbreaking personal narratives symbolize the School’s rigorous yet pluralistic pedagogies. Paul R. Williams, a graduate of the School, became the first black licensed architect west of the Mississippi River and the first black architect to become a member of the American Institute of Architects and to receive the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, its highest honor. Robert A. Kennard, also graduate of the School, was a trailblazing black architect and a prominent practitioner in Southern California. Frank Gehry of Gehry Partners, LLP and Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects—both recipients of The Pritzker Architecture Prize, the highest international honor for architects—are graduates of the School and are emblematic of the broad influence that the School’s graduates, professors and leaders have had on the profession and on the academy. 

Paul Williams (USC B.Arch, Class of 1919) in front of the theme building at LAX
Paul Williams (USC B.Arch, Class of 1919) in front of the theme building at LAX