06/10/21 DEI Awards Recognize Student & Faculty Excellence


The USC School of Architecture has announced the winners of its second annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Awards. These awards recognize faculty and students within the School who lead by example, transforming and expanding pedagogical and research practices to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Submissions illustrated the principles of citizen architects and took on social and environmental justice issues to increase our field’s diversity, equity, and inclusion in our classrooms, research, and fields of practice. 


This year, the School presented awards to two faculty members and four student projects. 


Lecturer Marcos Sanchez was recognized for studio design research and teaching focused on urban politics and refugees, border zones, and sanctuaries. Sanchez’s courses explore colonial history and its inherent inequities. In his most recent studio, “Circulation/City: Migrant and Refugee Spaces in the Mexican Capital,” he guided graduate students examining refugee population migrations across Mexico and specifically in the periphery of Mexico City. In the undergraduate studio “Proving Ground: Unesco’s Laboratories,” students examined the relationship between ‘natural’ World Heritage Sites and the post-colonial territories that surround them. 


Assistant Professor Sascha Delz was recognized for his contributions in undergraduate teaching and focus on housing as both a fundamental typology and an essential component of “inclusion equity, diversity, adequacy, affordability, and sustainability.” His third-year studio, entitled “Housing for the Collective Good,” examined opportunities in one of Los Angeles’ most vibrant Black American neighborhoods, Leimert Park. The area is experiencing dramatic pressures from gentrification and in danger of losing its unique cultural identity. Working with students, Professor Delz established an inclusionary pedagogic structure to develop community-based frameworks and cooperative models to provide long-term solutions to adequate and affordable housing.

Undergraduate students and recent graduates Abriannah Aiken, Erin Light, Darwin Hu, Justin Wan, and Katie Hayes were recognized for their USC Arts in Action project, “Architecture and Advocacy.” This grant-funded project demonstrated exemplary work with the local community and introduced underserved high school youth to the field of architecture and design via a series of charrettes during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Recent MLA+U graduate Jared Edgar McKnight received an award for his project, “Criminalized for Their Very Existence: The Spatial Politics of Homelessness + LGBTQ Unhoused Lived Experiences.” This project offered a deep and thorough study of the issues related to policies and practices that criminalize houseless residents of Skid Row with a focus on the LGBTQ+ population. As part of a year-long research sequence, this project will be continued via outside grants and funding in order to continue focusing on one of the most urgent urban problems of the moment. 


Recent M.Arch graduate Kennedy Wells received an honorable mention for her project “Urban Trails.” Her project hopes to create equitable space for occupants of Boyle Heights by reintroducing Californian Chaparral landscapes back into the abandoned interstitial spaces created by the interstate freeways that surround this neighborhood. The trail includes a three-mile greenway and four small parklets. By focusing on small-scale and relatively simple design changes to make these spaces desirable, occupiable, and better managed, Boyle Heights will have a public amenity that is safe for all its residents providing access to recreation and nature that does not exist today. 

Finally, recent M.Arch graduate Celina Brownotter was recognized for her project “Thipi Tectonics: An Analysis on How Culture, Beliefs, and Traditions can Positively Affect Lakhota Tribal Housing.” The ultimate goal of her research is to make a positive contribution to tribal communities across the nation by designing sustainable, culturally relevant buildings. Brownotter recognizes that architecture has the ability to directly engage with the culture and the environment of a community to allow cultural values and traditions to be integrated with sustainable design methods translated from indigenous design strategies that pertain to the geographical region of their sites.

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