09/10/19 USC Architecture Celebrates 100 Years of Innovation & Impact


From Gehry, to Mayne, to Williams, to Wong - USC Architecture has educated some of the 20th century’s most prolific architects and is cultivating the next generation of trailblazing architects   

This fall marks the centennial anniversary of an independent Department of Architecture at the University of Southern California. Founded in 1919, USC Architecture possesses a rich, progressive legacy of design excellence and collaborative innovation. As the first accredited architecture school in Southern California, USC Architecture has long focused on the social utility of modern architecture and has helped educate and mold some of the world’s most prolific architects over the last century.

“For 100 years, USC Architecture faculty and graduates have pushed beyond the traditional boundaries of the field to pioneer many paradigm-shifting new practices of architecture. From innovative post-war housing programs and the advent of California Modernism to some of the 20th and 21st century’s most influential works, this vibrant tradition of ambitious and creative thinking is the driving force that propels USC Architecture, encouraging students and faculty to defy constraints and reimagine the possibilities of the field,” stated Milton S. F. Curry, dean of USC School of Architecture. “We also celebrate the accomplishments of our alumni, many of whom have produced globally recognized solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues, including affordable housing and sustainable infrastructure.”

Trailblazing alumni include:

  • Frank Gehry ’54: Known for fantastical buildings like L.A.’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the world-renowned, Pritzker Prize-winning designer has been called the most important architect of modern times.

  • Thom Mayne ’68: Mayne received the Pritzker Prize in 2005 for designs that boldly push the boundaries of form with genre-defying buildings like New York’s Cooper Union Building, the San Francisco Federal Building and L.A.’s Caltrans District 7 headquarters.

  • Paul R. Williams ’19: As the first licensed African-American architect west of the Mississippi, Williams helped design thousands of homes and buildings over his five-decade career, including the L.A. County Courthouse, Westwood Medical Center and Beverly Hills Hotel.

  • Pierre Koenig ’52: The California Modernist visionary focused on industrial and prefabricated materials to reimagine suburban living, creating some of the most iconic—and widely photographed—mid-century homes in L.A. He was also a lecturer at USC for 40 years.

  • Gin D. Wong ’50: The recipient of the USC Architectural Guild’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, Wong is known for designing many Southern California landmarks, including the 33-story skyscraper at 1055 W. 7th St. (formerly known as the ARCO Tower), CBS Television City and the former Occidental Life/Transamerica building in downtown Los Angeles. He also was one of the designers of the Los Angeles International Airport in the 1950s.

  • Mark Lee ’91: Lee is a founding partner of Johnston Marklee, an award-winning Los Angeles-based architecture firm recognized nationally and internationally with over 30 major awards. Recent projects include the Menil Drawing Institute and the 2017 renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Lee was also one of the artistic directors for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial.

  • Zelma Wilson ’47: Wilson’s work ranged from houses to institutional buildings over a decades-long career. Principal of her own firm and a lecturer at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, she designed Ojai City Hall and the Simi Valley Community Center, among many other buildings.

“Looking toward the next 100 years, the School’s legacy is defined by the value its faculty and graduates contribute to the future of the profession—and to our world. The School’s community of students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners are unified in their dedication to a rigorous, thoughtful and multi-disciplinary training that, in turn, becomes meaningful practice. We synthesize learnings from research, the classroom, and the field to create a holistic and informed view of the discipline. We believe that great architecture, landscapes and cities find their most powerful expression through their impact on the persons who inhabit them and experience them, now and into the future,” continued Curry.

Key historical facts include:

  • First architecture school in the west to teach a curriculum focusing on modernism
  • Southern California’s first and only professional collegiate degree in architecture from 1925 to the 1960s
  • Only private school of architecture in the western United States associated with a major research university
  • A network of more than 6,000 alumni who are advancing modernism, prefabrication, sustainability and urban design around the world
  • Renowned professionals have taught at USC Architecture throughout the years, including: Gregory Ain, William Pereira, A. Quincy Jones, Ralph Knowles, Frank Dimster, Cal Straub, Conrad Buff, Don Hensman, and Pierre Koenig, among others


Notable projects include:

  • The Case Study House Program, which ran from 1945 to 1964, is closely associated with USC Architecture and many of its faculty and graduates, including Pierre Koenig (Case Study House #21 and #22)
  • Homes for Hope, Martin Architecture and Design Workshop (MADWORKSHOP) sponsored The Homeless Studio at the USC School of Architecture for the Fall 2016 semester. Homes for Hope, tiny shelters designed for the homeless population in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Fast Company World Changing Ideas Award in the Student Category
  • Solar Studio, pioneered by Ralph Knowles in the 1980s, the studio explored the impact of a solar access zoning strategy he called the “solar envelope,” a 3D construct designed to maintain access to sunlight for neighboring properties
  • USC’s fluxHome™, an innovative and affordable model for sustainable living, incorporating off-the-shelf elements with digital fabrication technology to produce an energy-efficient dwelling prototype for the 21st century. Featuring a transformable wall and roof system that modulates sunlight, air, and privacy, the fluxHome™ was awarded third place in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon’s architecture category

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

 Related Links: Event: 100 Year Celebration,  School of Architecture 100-Year Anniversary Spotlight: Ralph Knowles


Latest News

The USC Architectural Guild and the USC School of Architecture have selected 2021 recipients of four awards to be presented at the 62nd annual USC ...
MLA+U students Ana Mangino and Andrea Binz and geodesign student Zoe Lee will present their project as finalists at the Biodesign Challenge Summit 2021, June ...
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 ...
USC President Dr. Carol L. Folt has awarded emeritus status to Professors Goetz Schierle and Graeme Morland, effective May 15, 2021. This designation indicates honorable ...
Each year, DesignIntelligence conducts its annual schools ratings survey, asking hiring professionals and recent graduates to provide their perspective on the strengths of ...
Each year, the USC School of Architecture acknowledges its graduating students who have received honors at the highest levels. Below is a comprehensive list of the Class of 2021 ...