UCLA Architecture and Urban Design has always been interested in efforts at cross-disciplinary research. But now it’s taking such disciplines to the next level, announcing advanced graduate courses to be taught early next year by Thom Mayne, Greg Lynn, and Frank Gehry, at a new campus in Playa Vista.
Gehry’s studio, which will rely heavily on the input and guidance of his company, Gehry Technologies, will investigate the possibilities for technologies that go off the grid, a longtime passion of the architect.
Lynn’s class will explore the potential for “transformable structures,” equipped with robotics and sensing technologies that can adapt and move in response to environmental changes. Mayne’s NOW Institute will focus on the application of urban strategies to problems in cities around the world.
The three courses, which begin in August, will all be part of Suprastudio, a year-long, single-topic graduate studio that in past years has been led by Lynn, Mayne, and Neil Denari. Now, instead of one studio, there will be three, all intermingling and sharing resources.
The studios will partner closely with industry, with possible collaborators to include Toyota, Boeing, Disney, and even NASA.
“There’s a space between the defined role of architects and immersion by outside entities that we need to explore,” said UCLA Architecture Dean Hitoshi Abe. “The architecture practice needs to be redefined and expanded to push the boundaries of the profession much further.”
In service to that goal comes another major change: Instead of working out of UCLA’s campus in Westwood, students will have access to the new 6,000-square-foot advanced technologies lab. Located at the Hercules Campus in Playa Vista, the lab is the former headquarters for Howard Hughes in the 1940s (including his Spruce Goose aircraft). The present owner of the campus, Wayne Ratkovich, is on the board at UCLA. The campus is also home to YouTube and Earthbound Media Group, and the location will allow close work with new industries.
“This would not have happened if we had stayed at UCLA,” said Abe. “It only happens if we’re outside in an industrial setting, more open to industrial collaboration.”
The new two-story industrial-scale space will be equipped with giant high-capacity robots (which can be moved around on rails), computer fabrication machinery, and a composites facility.
“The university sees this as a model for education, working with industry to do real research,” Lynn noted.
Even Gehry, who is normally hard to excite, seems enthusiastic about the project, Abe pointed out. “Frank grabbed my hand and said ‘Hitoshi, I’m excited.’ You don’t normally hear that from Frank.” As for Thom Mayne, he reportedly told Abe, “This is the future.”