Working At The Cutting Edge of Architecture


The Department of Architecture and Urban Design (A.UD) at UCLA is widely recognized for its progressive approach to design and architectural discourse.
The Department has a rich history. In 1958, UCLA President Robert Sproul appointed a committee to consider the need for an architecture program at the university. In 1964, the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning (GSAUP) was established, comprised of two departments: Urban Planning and Architecture and Urban Design. George Dudley was appointed the first dean and invited three founding faculty members—Denise Scott Brown, Henry Liu and Peter Kamnitzer—to join the school and outline the programs’ pedagogies. The school’s initial enrollment of 20 students when began classes in 1966, making 2016 the 50th anniversary.
In 1968, Harvey S. Perloff succeed Dudley as dean. Perloff had been a United States representative to a Committee of Nine established by the Alliance for Progress under President Kennedy. Considered “the dean of American urban planners,” Perloff wrote 17 books on the subject and in 1983, he was awarded the first distinguished service citation for planning education from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. Perloff developed a vision to relate physical planning and urban planning in the design of cities. To implement these ideas, he formed the Urban Innovations Group (UIG). This practice arm of the department operated for 23 years as a clinical training wherein faculty and student interns worked together with clients on commissioned designs.

During the 1970s and 1980s architect Charles Moore was a professor and, at one time, chair of the Department of Architecture and Urban Design. A founding partner of the Los Angeles firm Moore, Ruble, Yudell Architects & Planners, he received the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1991. Along with Perloff, Moore worked with students at the UIG on such notable projects as the Piazza d’Italia in New Orleans and the Beverly Hills Civic Center.
The M.Arch.I program was launched in 1970, led by Tim Vreeland, the first chair of Architecture and Urban Design. In 1974, Vreeland organized a conference called “The Whites and the Grays.” This event has come to symbolize the beginning of the post-modern movement in architecture. The Whites were five New York architects—Richard Meier, Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey and John Hejduk—who shared an interest in the work of Le Corbusier. The Grays—Charles Moore, Richard Weinstein and Jaquelin Robertson—with an interest in history, aligned themselves against the international style. The Silvers were formed by two other UCLA architecture faculty, Cesar Pelli and Craig Hodgetts, whose work focused on high technology.
William Mitchell, who became chair of the architecture program in 1980, worked to develop technological expertise within the school. Under his leadership, interest developed in a number of areas: optimization techniques, energy modeling, building descriptions and spatial synthesis procedures. Lionel March then became the chair of architecture in 1986 and continued research into computer-aided design. That same year, Baruch Givoni established the Lab for Study of Passive Solar Energy Models. Students in the lab constructed a raised platform on the roof of Perloff Hall, on which to test solar panels. Computers in an adjoining room analyzed the effectiveness of various models.
In 1985, Richard Weinstein became dean of GSAUP. As director of Mayor John Lindsay’s Office of Lower Manhattan Planning and Development in New York City, Weinstein had played a major role in the creation of incentive zoning, urban design guidelines and historic preservation. During his tenure as dean, he established several longstanding programs: the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies with a $5 million gift; the S. Charles Lee Chair; the Charles Moore Endowment for the Study of Place; and the Harvey S. Perloff Chair. Weinstein recruited Thom Mayne, Sylvia Lavin, Craig Hodgetts, Mark Mack and Dana Cuff to the faculty. Edward Soja was on a committee tasked with running the Lewis Center, in 1992, and launched the Critical Studies in Architecture and Planning program as a way to bring theory and criticism into the core curriculum, becoming one the school’s distinctive specializations.
In 1994, the UCLA Professional Schools Restructuring Initiative resulted in the administrative separation of GSAUP’s programs. Urban Planning became a Department within the new School of Public Policy and Social Research (now the School of Public Affairs). The architecture and urban design program merged with the School of the Arts, which became the School of the Arts and Architecture (UCLA Arts).
Daniel Neuman was appointed dean in 1994 and named Sylvia Lavin as chair of A.UD in 1996. In her new capacity, Lavin viewed the restructuring as an opportunity to refocus the program on advanced design with special focus on technology and critical studies. Within this context, she created an award-winning department by attracting world-renowned faculty and initiating programs that changed the way students and faculty work on architecture through technology and cultural discourse. As part of this effort to integrate emerging digital technologies into the curriculum, Greg Lynn, a leading architect and thinker in using the computer for architectural design, and later Neil Denari, joined the faculty. Technologically sophisticated machinery were introduced including a computer controlled milling machine in 1998, an emphasis on fabrication that presaged many other programs’ use of this technology.
Promising younger faculty, including Jason Payne, Heather Roberge and David Erdman, initiated research and inventive teaching programs in technology seminars, some of which integrated advanced digital technologies and multi-dimensional media with the building construction and design process. Lavin and the faculty also created a research studio requirement, which stretches over the final year of study and trains students to find and express their own voices within the context of a project bound by constraints—a model that parallels experience in the profession. Thought Matters I and II, a series of books and a DVD documenting AUD students’ work from the 2004-2005 and 2006-07 research studios, has been published and are sold in bookstores worldwide.
Thom Mayne’s research studio earned the Department the 2005 Progressive Architecture Award from Architecture magazine for L.A. Now: Volume 3, a massive research and urban design project that critically examines the future of Los Angeles. This is the first time a university has been awarded this honor. L.A. Now was also featured as an educational seminar and exhibition at the 2006 American Institute of Architecture National Convention in Los Angeles.  
In 2003, A.UD students represented the United States in the First International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam and in the Venice International Architecture Biennale in 2000. The latter was the first time the United States Pavilion was organized as a summer academy to exhibit student work and new methodologies in teaching.
The Department continues to augment its curriculum with new programs. The Charles Moore Traveling Studio has taken students—under the leadership of faculty members Jason Payne, Thom Mayne, Ben Refuerzo, Gerogina Huljich and Heather Roberge—to Mexico City, Istanbul, Kauai, Tokyo, Madrid, Great Britain and Germany. The program was inaugurated in 2004 to exemplify Moore’s commitment to teaching and the practice of architecture during his years at UCLA.
A.UD invites architects and critics from around the world to participate in the Department’s long-standing lecture series, creating a dialogue between the students, alumni and the Los Angeles community. Frank Gehry, Anne Lacaton, Kengo Kuma, Kazuyo Sejima, Beatriz Colomina, Wolf Prix and Wang Shu have been among recent speakers. The Department’s exhibition program has featured work by Atelier Bow Wow, Bollinger+Grohmann, Jean Prouvé, Thom Mayne/Morphosis, MVRDV, Taira Nishizawa, Mutsuro Sasaki, Kivi Sotamaa, Jean-Philippe Vassal. Student works are exhibited in the quarterly Currents series.
Hitoshi Abe was appointed chair of the department in 2007. Abe reinvigorated the program’s emphasis on technological research and engaging students in professional collaborations with local industries. The SUPRASTUDIO M.Arch.II program was launched in 2008 as a post-professional research platform; its initial studio led by Neil Denari in collaboration with Toyota. That same year in June RUMBLE was established to engage students, faculty, professional architects, designers and the Los Angeles community with the production of an all-school exhibition. Critics and designers from around the world participate in RUMBLE to view the program installations and review the students’ year end projects. In 2013, IDEAS was launched with concurrent post-professional studios offered by Greg Lynn, Thom Mayne, and Frank Gehry, partnering student researchers with leaders in the transportation, entertainment, and cultural sectors. Neil Denari was appointed Interim Chair in July 2016.
It has been fifty years, since the first students attended classes at the A.UD, in this time architecture at UCLA has become a program in which experimental thought, theory, and innovative design reformulates the way in which design, theoretical discourse and technology interact to influence contemporary culture.