USC American Academy in China Names Inaugural Research Fellow

School News

USC American Academy in China Names Inaugural Research Fellow

April 18, 2016

Los Angeles, April 18, 2016 — The University of Southern California’s American Academy in China (AAC) announced today that architect and critic Michael Sorkin will be its inaugural research fellow, beginning his work this summer. Established in 2007 by Qingyun Ma, Dean of the USC School of Architecture, the AAC serves as a cultural bridge between the United States and China, promoting dialogue on design, the built environment, and the arts. The research fellowship, which will be announced on an annual basis, furthers the AAC’s mission as an institution engaging scholars, practitioners, teachers, and students across many different fields—from architecture and planning to film, music, business, and government.


“Michael Sorkin is one of the sharpest thinkers on urbanism today and we’re proud to have him as the AAC’s first research fellow,” said Dean Ma. “He will set the bar high for future fellows.” During his AAC fellowship, Sorkin will investigate the notion of “Made For China,” compiling a critical analysis of his own design projects and those by other architects in China. His research will include “a careful reflection on the interaction we’ve had with clients, users, regulators, educators, professionals, and officials in the course of trying to create buildings, places, and propositions that embody both local values and our own,” explained Sorkin. By looking at his work and others, he hopes to probe the nature of an “urbanism with Chinese characteristics.”


“As a writer and critic, Michael has often challenged established perspectives, offering a penetrating and often witty take on what is really happening in architecture and design,” said Clifford Pearson, Director of the AAC.  “And as an architect, he is fully engaged with the realities of building in China.”


Sorkin is Principal of the Michael Sorkin Studio, a global design practice working at all scales with a special interest in the city and green architecture. He is President and founder of Terreform, a nonprofit institute dedicated to research into the forms and practices of just and sustainable urbanism. He is Distinguished Professor of Architecture and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at City College of New York. His firm is currently working on building and planning projects in China and other parts of the world. Sorkin is the architecture critic for The Nation and a contributing editor at Architectural Record. He is the author or editor of 20 books, including Variations on a Theme Park, Exquisite Corpse, Local Code, Starting From Zero, and Twenty Minutes in Manhattan. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, winner of the National Design Award as “Design Mind,” and a current Guggenheim Fellow.


Since its establishment, the AAC has hosted students, professors, and thought leaders from USC and other architecture schools from around the world as they visited China to investigate the country’s rich heritage and dynamic design culture. It organizes symposia, exhibitions, and roundtables on critical issues of design, culture, and the built environment, and publishes reports and articles on these events.


This summer, the AAC will hold a major symposium in Shenzhen, China, on July 30 that will examine “Agri-Urbanism” and the changing relationship between China’s cities and countryside.


The AAC is also running an open design competition for “Napavilions”--prefabricated wood structures made for taking short naps in--that will be built at Jade Valley Winery outside of Xi’an. Winners of the competition will be announced in May and will be built at Jade Valley in July. A Napavilion Festival will celebrate the winners of the competition and present a series of commissioned pavilions on July 23. 

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