Clifford Pearson, deputy editor at Architectural Record, will direct USC’s American Academy in China

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Clifford Pearson (Courtesy World Building Institute)

Clifford Pearson (Courtesy World Building Institute)

Clifford Pearson, deputy editor at Architectural Record, is leaving his post to join the University of Southern California‘s (USC) School of Architecture as Director of the American Academy in China (AAC).

The AAC was founded in 2007 by USC School of Architecture Dean Qingyun Ma. The program uses the humanities, art, and architecture to understand contemporary China. In addition to directing the AAC, Pearson will teach a class on architectural journalism at the academy. He will assume his new role in January 2016, though he will continue at Architectural Record as a contributing editor.

Why China now? Pearson explains that, because China’s building boom is slowing down, this is an ideal time to “catch our breath and examine what’s happened over the past 25 years.”

Currently, the AAC is a six-week summer program open to U.S. and Chinese students. Its programs are geographically far-reaching and immersive: this past summer, students from 12 universities traveled to Shenzhen, Beijing, Xi’an, and Lushan to study how the mass migration from the countryside to the city has influenced the rural-urban dynamics across China.

Pearson would like to enhance AAC’s profile among university students in these two countries by expanding the academy into a year-round series of seminars, lectures, and events in Los Angeles and cities throughout China. Pearson envisions the AAC as China’s answer to the American Academy in Rome. Similar to the AAR, there will be fellows living on site and working on China-focused research projects.

Pearson was tapped for the role because of his expertise in the culture and development of China. From 2005 to 2013, he was editor-in-charge of Architectural Record China, and he is currently co-director of the Asia Design Forum, a think tank that fosters debate around the built environment. He intends to use his “journalist’s eye” to create programming that contextualizes and critically examines China today.

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