SCI-Arc teaches architects to engage, speculate, and innovate; to take the lead in reimagining the limits of architecture. Recognizing the complex realities of the contemporary world, this annual report reflects SCI-Arc’s academic and cultural contributions, which extend far beyond traditional architecture. Our hope is that SCI-Arc's achievements during this unprecedented time make tangible Hernán Díaz Alonso's assertion, more critical than ever, that "architecture is an act of optimism.”
1. Responding to the Pandemic
SCI-Arc quickly responded to the urgencies of the global pandemic.
Fraught with challenges, SCI-Arc’s 2019-20 academic year was unlike any other in the school’s history. In response to the outbreak of COVID-19, SCI-Arc closed our campus in mid-March, and quickly transitioned to remote learning. The school shifted resources to accommodate the immediate needs of our student body, and pivoted programs to take advantage of the possibilities afforded by virtual interactions. “Architecture is always an act of optimism.” – Hernán Díaz Alonso, Director/CEO
A new Emergency Fund helps students with the costs of remote learning.
With institutional support and a matching grant challenge from trustees Tim Disney and Tom Strickler, SCI-Arc launched its Emergency Fund, which awarded $408,000 in grant funding to 120 students enrolled in the summer term.
SCI-Arc community produces PPE for frontline workers.
Spurred by the nation’s shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for underserved hospitals and medical workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, SCI-Arc staff, students, and faculty produced thousands of urgently needed face shields. Utilizing our state-of-the-art equipment on campus, 3D printing from home, and innovating with robotics, the SCI-Arc community harnessed their creativity to help essential workers throughout Los Angeles save lives. Partners across multiple initiatives include Keck/USC Medical Center, the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, Operation Protect the Heroes, 3D Collaborative Network, Voltage Pictures, and Shield-19.
Spring Show was reinvented as a radically experiential live broadcast.
Spring Show 2020 was SCI-Arc’s first completely online end-of-year show, streamed live on Twitch, a cutting-edge web platform conceived initially for gaming. A live tour of the exhibition was hosted by History + Theory faculty John Cooper, curator of the show, following an entertaining and immersive animated procession of animals and student work through a virtual model of the SCI-Arc building. More than 40 separate Twitch streams representing studios, visual studies classes, design labs, and seminars were simultaneously broadcast live. The opening culminated in an interactive, multi-player architecture video game created by faculty M. Casey Rehm and Damjan Jovanovic. Spring Show was accompanied by SCI-Arc’s annual fundraiser on YouTube Live, Main E-vent. “They proved that despite the added pressures of organizing the annual event online from scratch, SCI-Arc was able to show, perhaps once and for all, that the school is a cutting-edge hub for producing students that know how to put on a show." – Katherine Guimapang, Archinect
2. Promoting Equity and Inclusion
“This change begins with us.” – Hernán Díaz Alonso
On July 30, two months after the images of the brutal murder of George Floyd became indelibly etched upon the world’s consciousness, Director Hernán Díaz Alonso announced SCI-Arc’s Equity and Inclusion initiative—actions designed to confront a pervasive and persistent lack of access, inclusion, and equity in the architecture community. Key measures include:
- Need-based scholarships for students from underrepresented communities including Black/African Americans, Indigenous or Native Americans, Latin Americans/Latinx, Asian Americans, first- or second-generation immigrants and DACA; LGBTQIA+; and people who are disabled.
- Two new staff positions, an Advocacy Director and Community Engagement Coordinator, who will be responsible for identifying and evaluating all opportunities for improvement regarding ethical and equitable practices.
- The launch of a five-year program partnership with SoCal NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects), and support for SCI-Arc NOMAS (NOMA Students).
3. Increasing Scholarships for SCI-Arc Students
SCI-Arc scholarship support reached an all-time high.
|110 Female||24 Hispanic of any race||4 Black/African American||4 Multi-racial|
In 2019-20, SCI-Arc awarded over $4.9 million to 258 students (52% of the student body).
4. Expanding Opportunities for High School Students
Design Immersion Days celebrated its 10th anniversary “In the Clouds.”
SCI-Arc’s intensive summer program for high school students rose to the challenges brought on by the global pandemic. Faculty adapted DID’s curriculum and activities to take place entirely online (via Zoom). A record number of students (57) took part in the program—more than double the enrollment just three years ago. SCI-Arc capitalized on the opportunity to bring students from across California together with students from seven other states and two other countries—Canada and New Zealand—to collaborate and learn together. With the help of a growing pool of government, corporate, and foundation funders, SCI-Arc awarded need-based scholarships to 40% of incoming DID students. To remove all financial barriers to participation, SCI-Arc also purchased and shipped essential hardware and software to students with need. DID enabled students to develop fundamental skills with design software, explore their creativity, and develop critical thinking skills, all while gaining an understanding and appreciation for architecture and design.
DID students, by race:
|35% White||28% Hispanic of any race||25% Black/African American||12% multi-racial|
|56% Female||42% Male||2% Non-binary|
“I want to personally thank you for looking out for us. By us, I mean the unlucky ones. The ones who watch enviously as others with more fortunate circumstances get the chance to attend amazing programs like DID. Normally I wouldn’t be able to attend such a program like DID because of my financial background, but it’s thanks to you that I was able to have such an incredible experience.It’s thanks to you that I was able to learn about what it takes to become an architect through the teachings of some of the most professional and wonderful people that I have ever met.” – Joel, DID scholarship recipient
“I learned that architecture is more than just design and can be a form of expression and a means to help all sorts of communities.” – Kieran, 16, DID scholarship recipient
Pop-Arc Keeps Growing
SCI-Arc’s commitment to broadening the pipeline of talent to the field of architecture is evidenced by our work with high school students in our surrounding communities and worldwide. In 2020, SCI-Arc faculty provided 12 Pop-Arc workshops to 324 students across Los Angeles and beyond in partnership with 13 community-based organizations, including Inner-City Arts and ICA LA, Young Guns Studio in Vancouver, and Bengaluru Tech Summit in Bangalore, India. The one-to-two-day workshops introduce students to architectural thinking and careers in architecture and design, challenging them to think critically and take risks, while having fun doing so.
5. Encouraging Discourse Through Public Programs
Cultural programs enriched the Southern California community and global architecture field.
As a thought leader and cultural hub, SCI-Arc fosters debate and understanding through provocative art, architecture, and design exhibitions, symposia, lectures, screenings, and SCI-Arc Channel documentaries. Though the 2020 season of public programs was truncated by the campus’s closure, SCI-Arc hosted 17 lectures (in-person and virtual) with acclaimed artists such as V. Mitch McEwen, Refik Anadol, and Eva Franch i Gilabert.
The Fear and Wonder symposium was once again a highlight of public programs. In November 2019, SCI-Arc presented Fear and Wonder 3: Futures of AI, curated by Liam Young, coordinator of the MS Fiction and Entertainment program, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The event featured an ensemble of directors, concept artists, video game designers, and storytellers behind some of the most exciting work in media arts today. Guests included George Hull, concept artist for Blade Runner 2040; Deborah Harrison, architect of the personality for Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana; Jon Carlos, Westworld Supervising Art Director; Kenric McDowell, Director of Google’s Artist and Machine Intelligence Group; and many more.
Over the past five years, SCI-Arc Channel has produced more than 100 documentary shorts—stylized films that explore LA’s contemporary culture through interviews and exhibition walk-throughs with artists, architects, and curators at such premier arts institutions, as MOCA, LACMA, and the Hammer. The Channel is also home to the historically significant SCI-Arc Media Archive. Launched in 2012 with funding from the NEA and Getty Foundation, the Media Archive houses videos of SCI-Arc’s weekly lecture series with design luminaries dating back to 1972. This year, SCI-Arc launched a dedicated SCI-Channel website and, until COVID intervened, produced 55 films featuring artists and designers such as Shirin Neshat, Jónsi, and Patti Podesta.
A new research program pursues fresh approaches to pressing urban problems.
SCI-Arc’s Research program was launched in 2019 with funding from the W.M. Keck Foundation. Extending the school’s tradition of radical experimentation, research at SCI-Arc deploys emerging technologies—advanced measurement and monitoring technologies, big data analysis, artificial intelligence and machine learning, digital design tools (e.g. game engines), and robotic fabrication—to investigate and prototype the future of the built environment. Faculty-led research initiatives bring together students, practitioners and leading scholars to survey the historical and contemporary intersections of design, technology and urbanism. Together they develop radically new responses to the rapidly changing needs and aspirations of the twenty-first century.
With support from the Ralph M. Parsons and Ahmanson Foundations, SCI-Arc began a capital project to expand the school’s robotics program, enabling research that links automated fabrication with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. SCI-Arc’s new, larger industrial robot will be installed in the campus’s Robot Annex, a tented facility being constructed by the end of 2020.
SCI-Arc is grateful to the institutional partners who supported our 2019-20 programs.
SCI-Arc is one of the most prominent and provocative independent schools of architecture in the world. SCI-Arc’s mission is to teach architects to engage, speculate, and innovate; to take the lead in reimagining the limits of architecture. SCI-Arc’s commitment to the future of architecture, the city of Los Angeles, and to society at large, is evidenced by the school’s growing investments in scholarships, education for underserved youth, and free public cultural programs. Amidst the uncertainties and complexities of the present moment, SCI-Arc remains true to the ethos of bold experimentation that inspired the school’s founding. Now, more than ever, we are determined to lead the way in finding radically new responses to the rapidly changing needs and aspirations of the twenty-first century.
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