As USC embarks on a half-billion dollar construction and renovation program, come rediscover a university altered yet essentially the same.
Popovich Hall exemplifies how new USC buildings retain, in President Sample’s words, “the architectural grace, elegance and integrity of a distinguished past while meeting the needs of the 21st century.” This courtyard’s umbrella tables and fountain seating sport high-speed Internet hook-ups and electrical outlets.
hether they come from near or far, whether they’ve been away five or 50 years, Trojans often feel bewildered upon revisiting their old stomping grounds to find them revamped, reconfigured and really different.
New buildings greet nostalgia-seeking alumni with vague unfamiliarity. Where once there were barracks, there now stands a research center. Whole city streets have been swallowed up in landscaping, courtyards, fountains and walkways.
Change is positive, most Trojans understand. It usually means better facilities, which fosters better academics, better recreation, a better campus life. The university’s steady physical growth is a reflection of its progress as a top national university, says USC President Steven B. Sample.
All true. Still, it’s disconcerting, while tripping down memory lane, to feel the dust of time’s passage sting the eyes.

Stone-banded brickwork, red-tiled roof and cloistered courtyard – all signature elements in University Park Campus’s architectural vocabulary – are evident in renderings (above amd below left) for the new Internationally Themed Residential College.

As USC gears up for one of its busiest periods in building terms, USC Trojan Family Magazine takes this opportunity to minimize the construction shock that alumni may experience upon returning for homecoming, a class reunion, a concert or a campus tour with a hopeful SCion.
The university is currently in the midst of planning a massive physical transformation. In February, vice president for business affairs Thomas H. Moran unveiled a $445 million building plan affecting both campuses. Over the next five to seven years, USC’s two campuses will gain a half-dozen new academic and research buildings, two major arts and athletic venues, a new residential college and a new campus center complex. A battery of major expansions and renovations are also in the works. Not since the Topping era, which saw 50 buildings shoot up in 10 years, has USC experienced such sweeping physical change.
Luckily for purists, the modern era of construction is informed by the current president’s reverence for Trojan tradition. Buildings planned and erected under Sample’s watch have been artfully contrived to blend with existing USC architectural treasures. A good example of this is Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Library. Since it opened in 1994, the 86,000-square-foot structure – which receives 1.5 million visitors a year – has woven itself into the fabric of campus life, not just functionally but aesthetically. Interior spaces may be wired for high-speed Internet access, set for satellite hook-ups, ergonomically and environmentally engineered for comfort and efficiency; but the exterior of stone-banded brickwork, red-tiled roof and cloistered courtyard is designed for harmonious familiarity.
The same gestalt applies to the university’s latest additions – Ralph and Goldy Lewis Hall, home of the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, and Jane Hoffman and J. Kristoffer Popovich Hall, graduate headquarters of the USC Marshall School of Business. Both buildings were completed in 1999.
Old Trojans who bump up against these contemporary edifices will – after an initial disorientation – find themselves subtly comforted by evocations of the architectural vocabulary of dear old Bovard Administration Build-ing and Mudd Hall of Philosophy.
“With these new buildings and projects, USC maintains the architectural grace, elegance and integrity of a distinguished past while meeting the needs of the 21st century,” says Sample, summing up the guiding philosophy of future university construction. Avant-garde architects can make their personal aesthetic statements elsewhere. “At USC, we’re not looking for signature buildings,” Moran elaborates. “We’re looking for the sense of an integrated campus.”

ntegration is the watchword not just for USC’s current growth spurt but for the next 25 years and beyond. The present half-billion dollar building boom comes on the heels of an in-depth study – Moran refers to it as the “opportunity plan” – which is itself part of a long-term masterplanning process. For several years now, facilities planners have been taking a hard look at the big picture, which at USC comes ready-made in a small frame. The University Park Campus consists of a meager 154 acres. Compare that to Yale’s 900 acres, or Stanford’s 8,000 acres.

Students loiter in the courtyard of Leavey Library. Such intimate outdoor spaces – reminiscent of Mudd Hall’s graceful cloister and “more human in their scale” than traditional grassy quads – will be a recurrent feature of new construction.

“We’re a very small, very compact campus, but we have enormous potential,” Moran sums up.
Planners have tallied up the surface available for construction – counting parking lots, unused areas and existing buildings slated to be demolished. The latter range from temporary buildings to ones that have outlived their usefulness and are poor candidates for major renovation. The wrecking ball has already struck down two such structures: buildings A and B of the Parkside Apartment Complex were leveled last year. The Registration Build-ing, Stonier Hall, the old YWCA Building, the Financial Services Building and several others await the same fate, in due time.
Removing these buildings will result in a net loss of 685,000 square feet – representing about 13 percent of the total 5.1 million square-foot campus building area, calculates Moran. How best to use these precious patches of land – in ways that enhance campus life while preserving traditions of the past – is the big question.
At stake is the very character of the campus. With the exception of a few buildings, the University Park Campus is of a relatively consistent style and height. USC officials hope to uphold this character by establishing planning standards for future growth.
“Ultimately, we’ll have a set of standards that will show the [construction perimeters] for all the sites and the amount of square footage available on the site,” says Moran, “And we will have defined the architectural vocabulary, so buildings have consistency that allows them to be integrated.”
One example of such standards is a proposed building height requirement. The planners have put a lot of thought into defining the ideal vertical contour for the University Park Campus, from both aesthetic and economic land-use perspectives. After analyzing the impact of three-story, four-story, five-story and eight-story buildings, Moran says the administration is leaning toward a five-level approach (four stories plus basement). This will yield a 50 percent gain in usable campus space

A new Campus Center complex will rise over several dated, inefficient buildings and link to the exquisite Student Union and the functional Pertusati Bookstore. Architects must strike a delicate balance to wed old and new in this unified, state-of-the-art facility.

– in other words, new facilities spanning 2.5 million square feet.
When Moran gazes into USC’s architectural future, here’s what he sees: “A primarily urban campus, built to the street or the sidewalk lines. If you wanted a model,” he says, “it would ultimately look something like the University of Paris.”
Imagine, if you will, buildings of integrated character, scale, circulation and open space knitting together the campus like a town, says architect Jon Soffa, USC’s executive director of planning, design and construction management.
This transformation won’t happen over-night, of course. Masterplanners are studying the pros and cons of different building set-backs, the need for natural light, the best opportunities for landscaping. For example, they’re exploring ways to create “intimate” outdoor spaces reminiscent of Mudd Hall’s graceful cloister. Large, open patios and grassy landscaping will remain in limited areas, Moran expects, but we will see a growing number of small courtyards “more human in their scale.”

New buildings will harmonize with familiar and beloved details, such as those embellishing the Student Union (1927). The Parkinson brothers’ artistry (above, the main entrance) and whimsy (left, a sage peering from the building’s north side) have delighted generations of Trojans.

Planners are likewise looking forward to a time when the University Park Campus becomes completely closed to automobile traffic – a process that began in 1994, when automated gates sealed off McClintock Avenue, and landscaping around then-new Leavey Library turned Hoover Boulevard into a cul-de-sac. When the last cars are gone, the campus’s four major thoroughfares will remain – for pedestrians only. Childs Way and 34th Street will continue to serve east-west foot traffic; Trousdale Parkway and McClintock Avenue will serve north-south. How service vehicles will continue to circulate on this pedestrian-friendly campus, and how off-campus parking will compensate for eliminated lots, is now under discussion.
To offset the parking squeeze, a parking design firm has been hired to propose alternatives. Moran believes the solution will require constructing new multi-level parking structures adjacent to campus. A single underground garage is planned to serve the center of campus; more below-ground parking, he says, would be prohibitively expensive in earthquake-prone Los Angeles.
Being confined in a small space doesn’t have to be a curse, Moran notes encouragingly. Careful planning and implementation can offset many disadvantages associated with USC’s compact size.
“You’ll find very large campuses that feel very constrained – as constrained as we do,” says Moran. He points to Ohio State, a school that boasts two 18-hole golf courses yet struggles to relate one campus building to another.
Big or small, the key is planning ahead.
“That’s why we feel this is such an important exercise we’re going through,” Moran says.


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USC’s building boom brings with it a new front entrance for the University Park Campus. Pardee Way is flanked by twin “loggias” – echoing the campus’s Northern Italian design motif while inviting visitors to linger by a bubbling fountain.
The center medallion at the entrance to Bridge Hall (1928). This carving – another piquant tableau from architects John and Donald Parkinson – depicts nature’s yin-yang: a hare trying to escape a snake that’s clutched by an eagle that’s eyeing a lynx.
Leavey photograph by John Livzey / Banner photograph By Larry A. Falke Photography

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