Don’t judge a book by its cover. In 2014, USC opened her doors to Wallis Annenberg Hall, dubbed by students and faculty as “new Annenberg,” whose insides echo sounds of a digital future, innovative classrooms, a state-of-the-art newsroom, and multimedia interactivity. But, from the outside, these walls look anything but new, architecturally mirroring Gothic and Greek-style buildings. This style is popping up all over campus, most notably with the recent addition of USC’s much anticipated Village. However, long before USC switched to this “historical-flash-forward” approach to building design, an American architect named William Pereira painted our campus with modern, futuristic buildings well ahead of their time. Next to Pereira’s buildings, which were part of the 1960s Master Plan, the newer Gothic-revival style looks cleaner, grander and perhaps more representative of the Trojan culture and esteem.
“We are in danger of losing the buildings that defined his contributions,” says Allen Hess, architect, and USC scholar, “they set the patterns for the workplaces, homes, planning ideas that affected hundreds of thousands of Californians.” Hess says Pereira was considered to be Hollywood’s idea of an architect, a bit showy and keen on “grand statements of the time, icons of capitalism, commerce, and development.”
Although Pereira is responsible for a safe campus, built to keep modern vehicles out of the pedestrian center, his buildings are being replaced by a more favorable, historical style and students are taking notice. USC Architecture Prof. Kenneth Breisch says this pedestrian-oriented series of spaces poses a good question for the future of campus buildings. “Did it work well, that he planned around good communal and public spaces,” says Breisch, “but I think you can do it in a modern way and in a way that really reflects contemporary society.” And campus appears to be doing just that.
“I feel like they try to make it look like Hogwarts a little bit,” says Naod, a sophomore Computer Science and Business major. And Naod’s opinion is a common one, though these grander buildings are more favorable than many of Periera’s older designs. Both Hess and Breisch emphasized Periera’s belief in a strong indoor-outdoor relationship, but they are still searching for the best way to architecturally represent the university.
“Do you continue with the existing original plan, or do you go in a different direction,” says Hess, who points to our imagination as a factor in community development. Looking to the future, if USC continues to use community as an integral part of design, we will flourish and thrive together.