USC Expands Architecture Program with Focus on Facades

The University of Southern California (USC) is doing its part to educate architecture students about facades. The school recently added a building facade art, science and technology certificate program to its curriculum. The program is designed to offer students an avenue to develop the knowledge and skills for careers in facade system design, fabrication, delivery and operation.

The certificate program will allow students in the Master of Architecture and other graduate degree programs to declare a special area of interest in the study of facades. Photo courtesy of Douglas Noble.

The certificate program will allow students in the Master of Architecture and other graduate degree programs to declare a special area of interest in the study of facades, says Douglas Noble, associate dean for academic affairs at USC. Noble is also co-founder of the Facade Tectonics Institute and the CLIPPER Lab at USC.

Additionally, the program is available to people not seeking a degree at USC but want to take classes to increase their understanding of facades.

Focusing on building facades at USC is not new, says Noble. USC’s graduate program in building science at the School of Architecture has emphasized building enclosures for decades.

“The program builds upon the work of Prof. Ralph Knowles in the 1960s with his work on solar access through his solar envelope concept,” says Noble. “In that same era, Prof. Konrad Wachsmann was at USC working on the building skin with his general panel systems. Throughout the years, we remained focused on the building skin as a major element of building performance. This evolved over time with the Master of Building Science and eventually, a Ph.D. program focused on the building envelope.”

Over the years, the facade has been the part of architecture that attracted many students, says Noble. This is because it includes all the performance aspects expected in architecture and allows students to design what the building looks like.

“We know that architects and students understand that architecture goes well beyond what a building looks like, but the aesthetics of buildings remains important,” says Noble. “Students seem to thrive while combining the aesthetics aspects of design with all of the performance issues. It makes design less arbitrary or frivolous.”

The program courses include content about assembly, analysis, design process, materiality, parametrics and more. It will also focus on design, fabrication and construction processes, an expanding materials palette, energy and carbon performance, resilience and sustainability considerations, health, comfort and wellness attributes, computational analytics and digital workflows and the aesthetics of the building skin.

According to Noble, Mic Patterson, ambassador of innovation and collaboration at the Facade Tectonics Institute, and Sanjeev Tankha, principle in STARQ Design Inc, which specializes in facades and building technology, led the efforts to include the building facade art, science and technology certificate program. The process took years of preparation, meetings and approvals.

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