USC Architectural Guild, as a unique supporting group for the school of architecture sponsors a one-day design charrette competition every year for the students to participate and prepare for the real world.
The main goal of the design charrette is to provide a mechanism for the students to come up with a program and design for an immediate client request. The students must be able to present and provide enough supporting data for their strategies in a limited amount of time, which is not unusual in today’s market. Coming up with innovative solutions and looking at the big picture, more than diving into details and beautification of presentations is one of the major goals of this competition.
The design charrette topics every year has been focused on the project types that are more common in today’s LA market. The purpose is to get the students exposed to professional world challenges and encourage them to transition the use of their skillsets and imagination power to problem solve a design challenge with limited time constraints from what they have experienced in studios.
This year’s topic focused on the drastic increase in online shopping, and how it fundamentally changes trends and reshapes not just how people shop but how they live. This, of course, impacts the architecture of the cities. Big box stores have had the most noticeable change, resulting in repurposing their buildings one after another. It brings the interesting idea of rethinking the program and the architecture of these existing buildings to serve today’s needs.
The students used a real project this year as a case study, the conversion of Macy’s anchor store in Westside Pavilion mall, to an entirely new program. HLW, the architect on the Macy’s project, which is going under construction soon, provided necessary documents of the existing building and the attached parking garage for the design charrette. The students were given some real constraints of the project as part of their program; including keeping some historic and structural elements of the building. HLW also was one of the major sponsors of the event this year.
The results were interesting in that the solutions were similar to what clients would have ideally asked for if budget was no object. Open green spaces, technology-driven concepts, flexible spaces for emerging needs and programs, craftsmanship and startup business facilities, and communal spaces engaged with urban fabric; ideas that were evidently not found in current big box stores.
The jury’s attempt was to select the winners based on the overall approach to this problem. Though all teams came up with creative design solutions, the panel selected teams that addressed the bigger picture and were able to see the program and the building as a unified concept, and were able to communicate ideas best by diagrams, drawings, hand sketches, and verbal presentations.
After the teams presented their projects, the top three prize winners were announced followed by a reception including Guild members, parents, students, professors, and donors of the event. All the work, and sponsorship put in this by Guild members is for the students’ benefit, and events as such expand their horizons into what they will be experiencing in the professional world. It also provides a great opportunity for them to network with the professionals of this industry.