Inside SCI-Arc

Message from the Director

Eric Owen Moss
SCI-Arc Director

SCI-Arc opened its Santa Monica warehouse doors in 1972 to a small group of emancipated faculty and students, most of whom had rejected the prevailing institutional models of the time, in favor of a more free form intersection of teachers and learners, a patient critique of the old idioms, and an aggressive pursuit of the promise of an ever-re-newable pedagogy.

Free form, patience, and aggressive pursuit are intact today.

The aspiration to determine new pedagogy was never an aspiration to formulate doctrine. It was innocent, perhaps naive, less self-conscious at first–a shared instinct that the imaginative future of architecture is not a destination but a way of thinking critically, independently testing prospects which, in retrospect, represent a chronology of provisional paradigms — first fragile, then established, later decayed, and finally replaced.

The pursuit of the fragile — conception in process — is intact today.

SCI-Arc is the institute of the provisional paradigm. And when the provisional paradigm threatens to become a permanent allegiance – and it inevitably does – we begin again.

In that warehouse in 1972 the conventional educational hierarchies of administrators and senior and junior faculty members disappeared in favor of a more fluid management model that mandated an essential connection of pedagogical content with the administrative direction of the school. Architects who re-imagine the design discourse also re-imagine the administrative discourse, unlike the conventional institutional model where those functions are typically segregated.

Today administrators continue to teach; teachers continue to administrate.

SCI-Arc had little or no interest in academic rivalries that so often fractionalize the discourse. It is never “our guys” versus “your guys” — but simply an enduring pursuit of that changing model of the discourse, wherever it leads. Those who joined that debate, whether they belonged to Los Angeles or to other venues, came to SCI-Arc regularly to discuss the prospects for architecture’s future. So SCI-Arc, almost immediately, began to develop a constituency of colleagues and friends, not joined by particular allegiances, but simply by a shared interest in the exploration of the architecture prospect.

SCI-Arc began as a race with a moving finish line. SCI-Arc is still running, and the finish line is still in motion.

Today SCI-Arc resides in an old freight depot on the east side of downtown Los Angeles. New time, new facility, new faculty, new tools, new friends. Everything has changed, and nothing has changed.

SCI-Arc will forever believe that SCI-Arc – that coalition of individuals, faculty, students, and colleagues – will continue to re-write history, and that history will continue to become the history we write.