06/01/20 USC Architecture Announces 2020 Faculty & Student Research Grant Recipients


USC Architecture is proud to announce the recipients of its 2020 Research in Architecture, Faculty Research Grant and Student Research Grant programs. A total of nearly $155,000 was awarded to 14 faculty members and five students. Grant recipients—who are researching topics including smart buildings, smog filtration, affordable housing and more—will present their projects at the annual USC Architecture Research Symposium/Exhibition in spring 2021.

“These grants are a reflection of our mission to develop a robust, supportive research community,” stated Milton S. F. Curry, USC School of Architecture dean. “It’s exciting to see the diversity of research and exploration our faculty and students are undertaking. We congratulate this year’s recipients and extend our gratitude to all applicants. We plan to award funding through these programs on an annual basis and encourage faculty and students to apply next year.”

Research in Architecture proposals were evaluated by an esteemed panel of external reviewers in a double-blind process. Faculty Research Grant and Student Research Grant proposals were evaluated by internal faculty members.

The 2020 recipients are as follows:

Research in Architecture

This program supports impactful individual and group-based faculty research and creative work in all of the disciplines represented by the School’s academic programs. The Research in Architecture program also assists faculty by providing seed funding for new ideas and in research fields with limited external funding opportunities.

For 2020, full-time faculty were eligible to apply for up to $20,000 per project in the following targeted funding areas: Urban Design and Mobility Infrastructure: Los Angeles, Fresno, California-Mexico Border; Urban Workforce Housing: Asia and the Americas; and Technology, Environment and Social Justice. The program also solicited proposals under the topic of Reimagining the American Inner City: Imperial Courts Housing in Watts, Calif.


Intelligent Building Environmental Performance Assessment – Computer-Vision as a Frontier Smart City Technology

This project focuses on developing a data-driven building performance model as a function of architectural physical frames and their dynamic, ambient environmental conditions. The research outcome will contribute to environmental sustainability and people's quality of life by providing a safe and stable energy source based on the use of the existing energy supply infrastructure.

de Facto (by custom) / de Jure (by law): Housing Segregation in Los Angeles

This project explores the interconnected relationships of four scales (house/housing, community/neighborhood, transportation/technology, environment/resources) within a shifting "black city" that oscillates between centers and peripheries in the city of Los Angeles.

Near Extinction Rituals

Situated within the nexus of technology, environment and justice, this book and three associated design prototypes speculate on our Anthropogenic crises in order to imagine new ways of living more cooperatively with the more-than-human world.

Landscape and the ‘Working Country’: Histories, practices and design futures for Fresno and San Joaquin Valley

This research is comprised of an exhibit, book and future-forward planning recommendations for Regional Landscape and Urban Design in Fresno County and the greater San Joaquin Valley. 

Housing the Workforce: Policies and Strategies for Housing Workers in Los Angeles

Using Los Angeles as an urban laboratory, this project investigates challenges and opportunities for urban workforce housing. It aims to facilitate a better understanding of the current complexities of affordable housing production and drive the development of more comprehensive and integrative approaches for affordable housing provision in the future.

A New Function for Architecture’s Liminal Surface: PUBLIC HEALTH (Part 1: Smog-Eating Façade Panels)

This project aims to develop a building façade panel that can passively increase surface air flow by using Bernoulli's Principle or solar chimney/stack effect for the purpose of smog filtration and reduction of lung disease in urban-poor populations.

Faculty Research Grant

This program is designed to support individual faculty research and creative work in all disciplines represented by the School’s academic programs. Projects are competitively funded based on overall quality of approach, innovative nature of the project idea, and intended impacts. Full-time and part-time faculty were eligible to receive up to $7,500 for this grant.


Black Architectures: Race and Erasure in Architectural Pedagogy and Practice, 1950-1970

This book manuscript examines the relationship between architecture and race in postwar America, asking how architecture in the academy responded to the Civil Rights Movement, the race riots in the 1960s, and the rise of black power in cities across the U.S.


Design Diplomacy: Public Engagement in the Architecture of Mega-Events

This interdisciplinary course offered through the School of Architecture and Annenberg’s Center for Public Diplomacy will allow students to investigate design excellence solutions using design diplomacy at architecture mega-events.

Bunker Hill Refrain

The project brings the social complexities of Los Angeles's early 20th century Bunker Hill neighborhood to light. The work contributes to ongoing debates about the legacy of urban renewal and contemporary debates about community and economic redevelopment practices.

Universal Basic Urbanism: Automation, Unemployment, and the Future of U.S. Cities

Focusing on L.A.’s garment industry and casual day laborers, this research responds to policy proposals for Universal Basic Income, examining how imminent conditions of automation and unemployment can be regarded as urban phenomena, requiring new urban interventions.


Demo Detroit

This research examines selected buildings in Detroit that have been demolished since 1970 in order to create a visual catalog (printed and online) that documents and tracks the City's progression as it enters an energized phase of new development.

Prefab Sprout: New Strategies in Prefabricating Educational Spaces

This proposal begins a five-year study to improve the design and learning environments of prefabricated classrooms. This will ultimately be used as a resource/guide for LAUSD as well as other charter schools and school districts in and around Southern California.

DePneumatic Facades: Metal Vacuum Panel

In an effort to reduce energy loss due to buildings and building envelopes, this research seeks to develop a DePneumatic Metal Panel prototype, a façade typology that is energy efficient, lightweight, a good candidate for retrofit, and potentially a major insulator.

Composite Communities: Design Innovation Toward Resilient Composite Housing in L.A.

This project will study the possibilities for Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) composite housing structures with a particular emphasis on the systematic rethinking of housing in Los Angeles. This research will outline the regulatory/entitlement requirements necessary to create new systems for multi-unit housing in global urban centers, utilizing Los Angeles as a primary case study.


Student Research Grant

This program supports impactful individual and group-based student research and creative work, and fosters a community of researchers/scholars/designers across all disciplines. Full-time students were eligible to apply for up to $2,000.


  • Andrew Blumm

The Game of Infrastructure: Illustrating the Inequality of Planning Practice

This project aims to create a virtual board game as an interactive, entertaining way to illustrate the issues that arise in our current methods of infrastructure planning. This tool can encourage examination of the status quo and may provide insights into possible changes in our practices.

  • Celina Brownotter

Tipi Tectonics: An Analysis on How Culture, Beliefs, and Traditions can Positively Affect Lakhota Tribal Housing

This project will discuss and document the culture, beliefs, and traditions of the Lakhota people and their current HUD-related issues. A community design plan will be developed for future tribal housing on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.

  • Jong Joo Kim

Development of AI-Driven Architectural Guidelines

This research project aims to construct an architectural design database for potential users by integration of an AI algorithm and conducting a user study survey to understand and evaluate an individual's architectural design preferences.

  • Liudmila Sergeeva

The Social Moiré

This project designs an affordable co-working space, community educational center, and farmer's market where each community member can implement their perspectives to build a strong individual and communal prosperity. This will show how local projects can help educate and train Angelenos to participate in a new green economy necessary to move thousands of L.A. households into a thriving middle class built on green jobs.

  • Yushi Wang

Smart-Connected Community

This project will develop a community member-centered framework for intelligent environmental control by effectively utilizing existing technical infrastructures. A cost-effective technology for individuals will be developed with multiple supplementary sensing and data processing setups and will be installed at an LAUSD high school as a testbed. This community-based research can lead to powerful and tailored context-aware building intelligence, increasing sustainability and leveraging informatics technology to improve quality of life in the community.

  • Xingbai Zhang

Development of the AI-Driven Architectural Design Guideline as a Function User's Feedback

This project aims to develop user-centric architectural design guidelines using advanced machine learning algorithms and a database utilizing physical data (e.g. heart rate, breath rate, brain waves) collected from subjects experiencing 3D architectural models in VR.

This digital publication is made possible with the generous support of the Blurock Family Endowment for Publication.

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