SCI-Arc Impact Report 2020-21
A Time for Optimism—Impact Report 2020-21
Throughout an unprecedented—mostly remote—school year, SCI-Arc remained committed to not only sustaining the level of excellence in education that has been its hallmark throughout its history, but to pursuing new ambitions, which have the potential for profound impact, not only within the institution, but for the Los Angeles community and the field of architecture worldwide.
As Director Hernán Díaz Alonso has said, “These are difficult times, but such times are opportunities for us to have creativity and imagination—and optimism.” As always, the SCI-Arc community rose to the challenge. Whether in socially distanced pods on campus or joining from another continent many time zones away over Zoom, SCI-Arc faculty strove to empower students to achieve their visions, inspired by their tenacity and determination to excel amidst the challenges of daily life in a pandemic.
Now, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the school’s founding, SCI-Arc remains devoted to finding radically new responses to the real needs and aspirations of tomorrow.
1. Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Change Begins with Us
In the wake of summer 2020’s global uprising for racial justice, students, faculty, staff, and leadership banded together to enact change in every aspect of the school’s administration, culture, and curriculum. This wide-reaching initiative acknowledges that the discipline and profession of architecture is one built upon Western, white ideals, which perpetuate engrained systems of exclusion and oppression, such as gender inequality and institutional racism. As such, we have begun to work toward eliminating barriers for people from historically marginalized communities (Black, Indigenous, Latinx; Asian/Asian American and Pacific Islander; multiracial and LGBTQ+ individuals; women; veterans; and people with disabilities) and creating an organizational and disciplinary culture where everyone is valued and can thrive.
Highlights of the initiative in its first year include the launch of a new Equity and Inclusion scholarship program that awards full- and partial-tuition scholarships to students from underrepresented communities, the expansion of Kappe Library resources, and curriculum assessment.
2020-21 DEI Hightlights:
|1 Faculty member to teach “Race in America”
|5 Black faculty
|1 Community Engagement Coordinator
|1 Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
|$600,000 investment for Equity and Inclusion scholarships, awarded to 14 students
|$9,000 NOMA/Making+Meaning scholarships awarded to four international students
|$408,000 emergency funds for remote learning received by 120 summer program students
|$25,000 grant to support Black/African American students
|$30,000 National Endowment of the Arts grant for films on “Queer Perspectives in Architecture”
|$50,000+ raised for the Equity and Inclusion Scholarship Fund
|$60,000 US Forest Service grant for new engineered wood technology for low-cost SoCal shelters
|85%+ BIPOC student participants for Design Immersion Days
|250% increase in Black/ African American students
|12 Pop-Arc workshops delivered to 324 students across Los Angeles
|13 community organizations served
|12 “Expanding the Archives” summer lectures on cultural + visual exchange
Meet SCI-Arc's New Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
In February 2021, SCI-Arc appointed Zahida Sherman as the inaugural Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Sherman is responsible for identifying and evaluating all opportunities for improvement regarding ethical and equitable practices at SCI-Arc. She works closely with SCI-Arc's new Community Engagement Coordinator to facilitate and manage valuable institutional partnerships across Los Angeles for increased representation and belonging for people from historically marginalized backgrounds in architecture (Black, Indigenous, Latinx; Asian/Asian American and Pacific Islander; multiracial and LGBTQIA+ individuals; women; veterans; and people with disabilities).
Diversifying Architecture Discourses at the Kappe Library
Kappe Library staff found a number of ways to contribute to SCI-Arc’s DEI initiative. Their first project was an analysis of the Kappe Library’s own collection. Despite special DEI endeavors going back to the “Canon Wars” of the 1980s and 1990s—including the World Design Cultures research guides—it became clear that the library’s resources reflect a vision of architecture and design that is predominately Eurocentric, white, and male. Following that, library staff analyzed architectural publishing: out of 265 new architecture, art and design books announced in five fall 2019 catalogs, 27 (10%) were about people, places, or work outside of North America and Europe, and zero (0%) were about African American or African architecture or architects. (Since the uprising for racial justice of summer 2020, publishers seem to be actively rectifying this imbalance, but it will take years for new works to become available.) In the meantime, Kappe Library has compiled a database of possible purchases. Library staff also developed a five-year acquisitions project, “Diversifying Architecture Discourses at the Kappe.”
Another response was reviewing and updating the library’s online collection of research guides with regard to diversity and inclusion, focusing on two dozen guides that cover non-Western design cultures, and architecture and design issues relating to woman and LGBTQIA+ communities. Addressing how the library represents diversity to the community, during the summer library staff contributed to the Association of Architecture School Librarian’s GoogleDoc “Resources on Racial Justice and the Built Environment,” and published their own, entitled “Race and Architecture Resources.”
2. Supporting Our Students: Representation at SCI-Arc
3. Responding to the Pandemic
4. Advancing Research
Beginning Construction on New Robot Annex
With support from the Ahmanson and Ralph M. Parsons Foundations, SCI-Arc continued a capital project that updates and dramatically expands the school’s robotics and machine learning capacity. Construction began in the parking lot of a tented facility, Robot Annex, soon-to-be home to a new ABB Robot and track, which along with two new high-power AI servers enable experimentation with robotic fabrication at full scale and automated design using machine learning. The Robot Annex will ultimately be capable of automatically assembling structures like ADUs in a single pass.Robot arrival
Core Research Projects Address Urgent Issues Related to the Built EnvironmentViews of Planet City
This three-year research project, supported by the Getty Foundation as part of its Pacific Standard Time initiative, investigates a speculative city accommodating 10 billion people, the projected global population of 2050. The project imagines a radical reversal of planetary urban sprawl, in which humanity reduces the footprint of urbanization by retreating into one hyper-dense metropolis, allowing for the rest of the planet to be ecologically restored at a vast scale. It is a vision of an urban future that runs counter to the current patterns of urbanization which result from centuries of colonization and extraction within the capitalist world-economy—a paradigm that has profoundly remade the world, from the molecular to the planetary scale.
The project is led by SCI-Arc Fiction and Entertainment Postgraduate Program Coordinator Liam Young, whose Planet City hypothesis provides the impulse for this collective investigation, which also includes SCI-Arc faculty Damjan Jovanovic, M. Casey Rehm, Jennifer Chen, Angelica Lorenzi, and John Cooper, and is organized by Research Program Manager Namik Mackic. In total six students, including two undergraduates, have been involved as research assistants. Young presented the Views of Planet City project at the Getty Foundation’s virtual convening of PST contributors in December 2020. Young’s related Planet City project was presented on multiple occasions and platforms, including at the National Gallery of Victoria Triennial in Melbourne and TEDx Monterey.
Book:“After Contemporary: LA mid-apocalypse"
This lavishly-illustrated volume is intended to be a major statement on the trajectory and transformation of Los Angeles in the tradition of then SCI-Arc faculty member Mike Davis’s seminal book, City of Quartz. Edited by SCI-Arc faculty Hernán Díaz Alonso, Erik Ghenoiu, Joe Day, and Marrikka Trotter and managed by Namik Mackic, the book will feature dozens of prominent voices on the culture and form of Los Angeles.
SCI-Arc's Platforms and Automation Lab continued an ongoing research project funded by an Epic Games MegaGrant. Led by SCI-Arc faculty Damjan Jovanovic, the goal of AI Sandbox is to develop new design software using the Unreal Engine gaming platform to speed up and automate the collaborative design process while allowing for the explosion of AI-enabled creativity that maintains the validity of human design ideation.
Community Land Trusts
Led by SCI-Arc Senior Research Associate Masha Hupalo, seven student research assistants explored the potential of vacant properties when transferred to community ownership, producing a report to showcase the potential of underutilized properties. The project was supported by a grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation.
AI + ADU
In spring 2021, M. Casey Rehm, SCI-Arc Faculty Director of Platforms and Automatic Labs, alongside Mimi Zeiger, architectural critic and educator, taught a seminar that explored the possibilities of fusion of machine learning and housing policy. Rehm and Zeiger, together with a SCI-Arc student group, investigated the advantages of hybridization of machine learning and housing policy. The research, funded by a grant from the Google Artists and Machine Intelligence (AMI) group, focused on the analysis of the scale and feasibility of ADU’s introduction to residential neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and resulted in the development of an interactive app.
In summer 2021, two SCI-Arc students advised by Hupalo participated in the Soundscapes and Copenhagen workshop along with Abaarso Tech University in Somaliland; The Royal Danish Academy of Arts (KADK) School of Architecture, Design, and Conservation; and Copenhagen University. The research, supported by the W.M. Keck Foundation, was conducted primarily by students and coordinated by the faculty of each university. SCI-Arc team explored public imagination and media representation of housing typology in Los Angeles (of three specific housing typologies in Hargeisa, Los Angeles, and Copenhagen) to develop a catalog that captures the change in needs and desires of the population.
5. Promoting Discourse through Public Programs
Engaging the Public with Provocative Public Programs
While the public health crisis continued to evolve, SCI-Arc staff sought ways to safely revive our robust slate of public programs by producing a combination of live and online events. Lectures, symposia, and screenings were livestreamed. Digital exhibitions were presented online, while gallery exhibitions were open on campus to visitors by appointment. Meanwhile, SCI-Arc Channel continued producing its signature stylized films to engage more than 2 million viewers with the contemporary visual arts culture in Los Angeles. All were developed with a renewed focus on curating a diverse and inclusive roster of speakers, ensuring equitable access to all public events, and a shift toward community-based SCI-Arc Channel films with a focus on social justice. In 2020, SCI-Arc's public programs and SCI-Arc Channel received an NEA Cares Act Grant.
- LAW – A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Richard Rothstein, author
- Loudreading Post-Colonial Imaginaries, Cruz Garcia and Nathalie Frankowski. founders of WAI
- Architect Tatiana Bilbao
- Mabel O. Wilson, Columbia University
- Annie Chu and Rick Gooding, of Chu+Gooding Architects
- Raúl Cárdenas Osuna, founder and director of Torolab
- Anna Neimark, Co-founder and Principal of First Office
- New Middles, Mimi Zieger
- The Poetics of Sanctuary and Place, Dr. LeRonn P. Brooks
- New Ways of Seeing the Pattern, John Carpenter
- Crip Technoscience: Disability Culture as Design, Aimi Hamraie and Kelly Fritsch
Exhibition highlights included:
- Architectural Bestia, curated by Hernán Díaz Alonso and designed by M. Casey Rehm
- Post Persona: A Film Viewing, focused on queerness in architecture curated by David Eskenazi
- No More Room, by Kristy Balliet and Kelly Bair of BairBalliet
- A Steam Odyssey, Soomeen Hahm
Select SCI-Arc Channel productions:
- Shattered Glass walk-through with curators Jeffrey Deitch Director and Melahn Frierson
- Existing in the In-Between (artist Nancy Baker Cahill)
- Plastic Entanglements (artist Kelly Jazvac and geologist Patricia Corcoran)
- Shona Kitchen: Foraging the Everyday
- Academy Museum of Motion Pictures preview
- Noa Yekutieli, The Chaos of Order
- On Futures, Emmet Byrne, and Maite Borjabad López-Pastor, Neville Bryan (Walker Art Center)