Annie Chu, renowned interdisciplinary architect and designer will deliver the keynote address for USC School of Architecture’s 2024 commencement on Friday, May 10.


Annie Chu, FAIA, is a Chinese-American architect, interior designer, academic and activist. The founding principal of the award-winning firm Chu-Gooding in Los Angeles, Chu is globally recognized for her refined and interdisciplinary work that fuses art and design.

Chu has worked extensively on world-renowned museums, cultural and arts facilities, and educational institutions. Her portfolio of work includes acclaimed facilities and exhibition designs for MOCA, Hammer Museum, the Getty Center, The Huntington, Autry Museum of the American West, Studio Museum in Harlem, USC, Southern California Public Radio/LAist, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.

“Annie Chu has led an extraordinary career as an architect, interior designer, and educator who transcends barriers to redefine the profession. Her story will resonate with our students and inspire this new generation of diverse architects,” said Brett Steele, dean of USC School of Architecture. “In her four decades of practice, she has been advancing design excellence together with an unfaltering commitment to practices that embrace inclusivity, placemaking and social responsibility, which make her exemplar of what our graduates aspire to.” 

From her early roots in New York working with Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, Chu became a champion of interior architecture, a distinct and emerging discipline that leverages architectural thinking to reimagine interior environments that consider the full spectrum of the human condition and needs. “It is where we spend the majority of our days,” she emphasizes. Her architectural projects with design-rich interiors defy stereotypes in the professions.

“I’m excited to speak to the graduates at USC Architecture because this generation will evolve the role of architecture, reject outmoded binary labels of male-architecture and female-interior, and broaden interdisciplinary and cultural diversity,” said Chu. “They are the generation that must leverage spatial practices as both profession and discipline, with renewed commitment to the noble mission of architecture as art-plus-service.”

At the age of sixteen Chu was sent to the U.S. from Hong Kong to finish her last two years of high school. Like many East Asian girls of her time, she took a typical path in college as a Bio-Mathematics major Pre-Med track. Two years in, one of her elective art course instructors planted the seeds of interest in architecture. With hardly any transferrable units, Chu changed the course of her future and earned a Bachelor of Architecture at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and then a Master of Science in Advanced Building Design from Columbia University.

Chu was always aware that she was a racial and disciplinary minority. “I knew of less than five women architects, and one of them was already dead,” she recalls. “This identity of ‘the other’ would stay with me for the rest of my life.” But the many roles she took on and cultural influences she embraced helped her evolve. “My identity has become richer, more complex, more flexible, and more reliant on persistence as the propelling force.”

A multi-hyphenate trailblazer in the design profession, Chu attributes her resilience to the women mentors throughout her career - studio instructors, employers, senior practitioners in the community, colleagues, and civic and academic leaders. “I’m inspired by the legacy and momentum of artists and designers who came before us at each milestone of achievement in practice and art. They shed light on the vital contribution of diverse cultures, world views, and the triumph of the human spirit over obstacles.”

Chu is also an academic who is passionate about educating the next generation. She has taught at USC School of Architecture and many other leading architecture and design schools across the country and abroad. Among the many achievements in her illustrious career, she values most that former students, from over 30 years of teaching, continue to reach out to her for advice, mentoring, or to share their new interpretation of course work she taught them long ago.

Her teaching excellence was recognized with the distinguished Presidential Honoree Educator Award by the Los Angeles Chapter of the AIA in 2016, and her contribution to architectural design excellence was recognized by her elevation to the AIA College of Fellows that same year.

Through teaching, public speaking, and her advocacy in the civic and professional realms, including her role on the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission, the Mayor’s Design Advisory Panel, the National AIA Interior Architecture Advisory Group, Chu is a beacon of transformative leadership. Her impact is shaping the present and future trajectory of the architecture and design landscapes.

“The future in architecture and design lies in providing the critical resistance to our existential threats, and in cultivating inspiration and hope for humanity at whatever scale possible for the broadest-defined built environment,” said Chu.

USC School of Architecture 2024 commencement ceremony is on Friday, May 10 at 2:30 p.m. at the Epstein Family Plaza. This will be followed by a light-fare reception and exhibition of graduating student work.


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