Los Angeles is known for its sub-urbanity and long history of innovative housing driven by the latest technological developments and social movements.  In stark contrast to old world urban development formed over millennia, Los Angeles and its American sister cities like Atlanta and Houston, present a vastly different argument for how people live within a distributed network of streets and highways defined by the automobile.  In the mid 1900’s with the advent of inexpensive mass-produced motorcars coupled with vast amounts of unencumbered land available, favorable FHA and VA government programs, and the interstate highway program fostered what we now understand as the physical manifestation of sprawl.  Although ubiquitous throughout the United States it is not new or uniquely American, having occurred historically most notably in London as the affluent classes expanded the periphery in the late 19th century.  However, it is in the United States where it becomes the dominant typology.  Defining Los Angeles, its basin and the San Fernando Valley creating one of the 20th century’s greatest cities, sprawl in its American expression is the result of all the above conditions and a post-WWII population boom, limited planning and unrestricted investment with minimal capital and the very specific American social structure of homesteading.  Aided by the General Motors street car conspiracy, which precipitated the wholesale dismantling of electric public transportation, and a local oil boom, Los Angles was engulfed in a perfect storm allowing for it to play a key role in establishing many of the de facto sub-urban typologies now found globally.

Within the canon of residential architecture, the substantive change in lifestyle resulting from sprawl’s reliance on the automobile and a transformation of industrial production called for a re-mastering of how peopled lived.  Sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine under editors John Entenza and David Travers, the thirty-six Case Study Houses conceived and mostly built between the years 1945-66 challenged conventions by seeking to answer serious questions of scale and livability brought to bear in the post-war years in Los Angeles.  As uniquely American Modernism, established by Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe and a retinue of European émigrés following them, the Case Study Houses and their architects employed the promise of architecture’s ability to transform working dynamically within the embedded hope found in James Truslow Adams’ concept of the American Dream.

The result of the project is a level of structural and material transparency and thinness never before seen in such variation.  In direct response to Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion, the Case Study project called for a commercialization of Modernism’s tenants as can be found in the problem statement by the Art & Architecture editors for the 1945 Case Study House #1 designed, but unbuilt, by J. R. Davidson.

In stating the problem of this, the first of the eight CASE STUDY HOUSES, which the magazine, Arts and Architecture, will build as soon as praticable after restrictions are lifted, it is only necessary to invent a fairly typical American family of a type that has, in large numbers, indicated its wish to enter the postwar building market. Let us presuppose a Mr. and Mrs. X, both of whom are professional people with mutual business interests, the family consisting of one teen-aged daughter away at school and a mother-in-law, who is an occasional welcome guest in the house. In this case, we must suppose that the joint income is sufficient to provide ample but not elaborate living standards.

This visiting school will feature two parallel mediums of exploration through which to engage the topics: Design and Writing


Led by Alvin Huang and Kevin Patrick McClellan, the design aim of the
program is to interrogate, challenge, and speculate on new modes of living
that are enabled by advances in technology, and guided by changes within contemporary society. Participants  will be asked to design  experimental “adaptive” single family homes that utilize associative geometries to enable dynamic attributes such as re-parameterization (mass-customization), re-configuration (variability), or interactivity (responsiveness).


Led by Danielle Rago, the writing component of the AAVSLA program will focus on the deep historical narrative of innovative housing driven by the latest technological developments and social movements from the early twentieth century to current-day architectural practice. Participants of the program will select a single housing project in Los Angeles, either an iconic work of architecture – one that has been overly saturated in the discourse of modern architecture in Los Angeles – or one that is part of the vernacular landscape, to use as a case study for critical inquiry into L.A.’s residential architecture – past, present, and future.

Reconfigurable Ergonomic Objects as Architectural Interventions

The current revitalization of downtown Los Angeles has served as a catalyst sparking a boom in Loft Living.  First appearing in what is now known as the Arts District in the mid 70’s by a renegade community of artists looking for inexpensive creative living and working spaces, and now more recently enabled by the contemporary emergence of creative industries and city ordinances privileging live/work zoning, the loft is now ubiquitous throughout urban Los Angeles.  Characterized by high ceilings, open plans, and zero partitions the loft is the antithesis of the typical single family home and the partitioning of living quarters.  The typical attitude is to utilize furnishings such as bookshelves, sofas, and tables to replace the absence of internal architectural enclosures to define ”soft boundaries” within a larger space.  The lack of permanent enclosures within the space produces a new opportunity for the user to rapidly alter and reconfigure their space by simply moving their furnishings.

This cluster will explore the application of associative modeling techniques and digital fabrication protocols to design, develop, and fabricate a series of 1:1 scale, reconfigurable, and customizable Ergonomic Objects.  The intent is to simultaneously explore the object as a reconfigurable device for enclosure, interface, storage, and furnishing.  Through its adaptability it is able to completely alter the space in which it sits.

Reconfigurable Enclosure Protocols as Architectural Interventions

The legacy of the bespoke single family home in Los Angeles is rapidly being replaced by cookie cutter suburban tract homes.  The expansion of the tract home to the McMansion is symbolic of a post-Fordist American society that favors mass production as a means for mass consumption.  The notion of personal identity is subsumed by the demand for personal possession.  As the drive to re-densify the urban core pushes outward into the sub-urban, sprawl, of Los Angles, how can the immediately available land, between and around as front-yards, side-yards and backyards, be reconstituted into a new and adaptive living environment.

This cluster will explore the application of associative modeling techniques and digital fabrication protocols to design, develop, and fabricate a series of scaled, reconfigurable, and customizable Enclosure Prototols.  The intent is to simultaneously explore the object as a reconfigurable device for enclosure, spatial delineation and multi-unit living system. Through its adaptability it is able to completely alter the space in which it sits.

Schedule of Activities

The Los Angeles AA Visiting School runs from June 16-27th with an assortment of activities and goals. Registration ends on June 1st. It will be an intense and rewarding experience, beginning on Monday June 16th, with an introduction and overview of the course and concluding the programme with an exhibition of student’s work at the Bradbury Building in Downtown Los Angeles as part of the Los Angeles Design Festival.

Throughout the two weeks, students will visit and tour Charles and Ray Eames’ Eames House, 1949; Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #22/Stahl House, 1960; Richard Neutra’s VDL Research House, 1932; and John Lautner’s Sheats Goldstein Residence, 1961-63.

Inclusive of the Design and Writing component, there will be a public programme of guest lectures and events:

Monday June 16, 7pm-11pm
AAVSLA Pecha Kucha Night
Far Bar, 347 E. 1st Street, LA 90012

Tuesday June 17, 7pm
AAVSLA Public Lecture Series: Tom Wiscombe, Tom Wiscombe Design
Harris Hall 101, USC School of Architecture

Sunday June 22, 1:30pm
AAVSLA Panel Discussion:
Dwell on Design, LA Convention Center

Monday June 23, 7pm
AAVSLA Public Lecture Series: Heather Roberge, Murmur
Harris Hall 101, USC School of Architecture

Wednesday June 25, 7pm
AAVSLA Public Lecture Series: Neil Denari, NMDA
Harris Hall 101, USC School of Architecture

Friday June 27, 4pm
AAVSLA Final Reviews, Public Exhibition & Reception
Gallery All, 304 S. Broadway, Suite 1-A5, Los Angeles, 90013

Adam Marcus

Adam Marcus is an architect, artist, and educator based in Oakland, California. He directs Variable Projects, an award-winning design and research studio that operates at the intersection of architecture, computation, and fabrication, and he is also a partner in Futures North, a public art collaborative dedicated to exploring the aesthetics of data. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Adam is currently an Assistant Professor of Architecture at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he teaches design studios and courses in computational design and digital fabrication. He has also taught at the University of Minnesota, Barnard College, and Columbia University.

Alvin Huang

Alvin Huang, AIA  is an award-winning architect, designer, and educator specializing in the integrated application of material performance, emergent design technologies and digital fabrication in contemporary architectural practice. A graduate of the AA DRL (2004) and USC School of Architecture (1998), his wide ranging professional experience includes a spectrum of significant international projects of all scales ranging from hi-rise towers and mixed-use developments to bespoke furnishings and objects.  He is the Founder and Principal of the Los Angeles based design studio Synthesis Design + Architecture, and is also a tenure-track Assistant Professor at the USC School of Architecture.

Danielle Rago

Danielle Rago is an independent curator living and working in New York City and Los Angeles. She is also a freelance contributor to a number of international publications on art, architecture, and design. She has worked with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the A+D Museum and MAK Center in Los Angeles. She is the Co-founder and Curator of On the Road Project LA, a yearlong series of architecture, art, and design programs intended to frame a moment in time within the contemporary context of the city of Los Angeles. Her writing has been published in Abitare, The Architect’s Newspaper, Architectural Record, CLOG, Domus, LOG: Observations on Contemporary Architecture and the City, PIN-UP, TANK, and WIRED Magazine, among others. Danielle holds a Master’s degree in Architecture History and Critical Thinking from the Architectural Association, London. Her focus is on the shifting role of the institution and media, and how contemporary architecture and its public is being produced and mediated through the institution and curator.

David Freeland

David Freeland is a principal at FreelandBuck in Los Angeles and faculty at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-ARC). From 2006-2012 he was on the faculty at Woodbury University where his courses focused on digital fabrication and computation. With over 12 years of experience in architecture, he has worked on award winning projects with offices in New York and Los Angeles including Michael Maltzan Architecture, Roger Sherman Architecture and Urban Design, RES4, AGPS, and Eisenman Architects. He is a graduate of University of Virginia and the UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design. David is licensed to practice architecture in the State of California.

Jenny Wu

Jenny Wu is a partner at the Los Angeles based practice, Oyler Wu Collaborative, which she started in 2004 with Dwayne Oyler. The office has been published globally and is recognized for its experimentation in design and fabrication. Their work straddles between two scales, small scale design build installations and large scale building projects in Asia and US.Their recent projects include “The Cube,” the competition winning entry pavilion for the Beijing Biennale, “Stormcloud,” a temporary pavilion for the 40th anniversary of Sci-Arc, “Screenplay”, the featured architectural installation at Dwell on Design 2012 made with 45,000 feet of rope, and a 16-story residential tower in Taipei, Taiwan. She is currently a design faculty at Sci-Arc, and has lectured extensively in the US, Europe and Asia. The office received the AIA LA Presidential Awards for Emerging Practice as well as the Emerging Voices Award from the Architectural League in 2012. They published the book, Pendulum Plane, in 2009, and are working on their latest publication, Trilogy, which will be coming out in 2014. Jenny received her Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University and Masters of Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Kevin McClellan

Kevin McClellan focuses his energies on place, new technologies, emergent systems and their material effects on form. Through both art and design, he fuses contextual research, sustainable practice and agency as a mode of production in all scales and in all mediums. As a graduate of the Architectural Association’s DRL (2005) with project distinction, Texas A&M (1998) and the University of Texas (1995), his background reflects an array of interests and competencies in both the making of art and the design of environments. Since 2009 he has taught design at the University of Texas at San Antonio and completed funded research as an Assistant Professor in Research at the University of Houston. In 2009 he co-founded TEX-FAB *Digital Fabrication Alliance a not-for-profit 501c3 charged with connecting architects/designers, fabricators and academics in Texas.

Marc Fornes

MARC FORNES is a registered “Architect DPLG”. As fine connoisseur in computer science he designs through writing text files, or codes. Hiding under his long time label THEVERYMANY™ he is a recognized figure in the development of computational protocols applied to the field of design and fabrication. As THEVERYMANY™ – Marc has designed and built over the last 10 years an extensive body of experimental, highly organic, large scale and self-supported structures, between art and architectures. His prototypical work has been acquired and displayed as part of the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou (Paris), the FRAC Centre (Orleans, FR), the CNAP and some private collections. He has exhibited work at the Guggenheim (Contemplating the Void), Miami Art Basel /GGG, Art Paris and sold at auction at Phillips De Pury. Marc is a TED Fellow. He has been invited to talk within institutions across the globe, including the MoMA (NYC). In 2012 he has been the recipient of the Artist residency at the Atelier Calder (FR) and his studio has been awarded the New Practices New York 2012 by the American Institute of Architects. His architectural work for Louis Vuitton is the recipient of the A+ Jury Award in the Pop Up category.



What is the AA Visiting School Los Angeles?
The AA Visiting School Los Angeles is a satellite programme of the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London. The growing AA Visiting School programme is collaborative and global, exporting the highly international AA pedagogical approach across the world.

Who can attend?
The workshop is open to current architecture and design students, phd candidates and young professionals.

What is the format?
The programme is broken up into research clusters that will be led by individual tutors based on the theme of “Machining Adaptive Living.” Classes will take place three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Where does it take place?
The AA Visiting School Los Angeles will take place at the University of Southern California (USC) Campus University Park Campus near downtown Los Angeles.

What are my options for accommodation?
Accommodation is not included in the fee but we’ve provided some suggestions for housing that are nearby to the USC campus where classes will be held. See below.

Ace Hotel – http://www.acehotel.com/losangeles

Airbnb – http://bit.ly/NHvIR4

Radison Hotel – http://www.radisson.com/los-angeles-hotel-ca-90007/cafiguer

USC Dorms/Sublets- https://sait.usc.edu/ois/housing/temp-accommodations.aspx, http://usc.uloop.com/housing/index.php/sublets

Vagabond Inn – http://www.vagabondinn.com/Hotels/Los-Angeles-at-USC-CA/Overview/307

Will I need a car?
You won’t need a car to participate in the programme, however if you have one it will be useful for your time in Los Angeles.

How much does it cost?
The AA Visiting School requires a fee of £695 per participant, which includes a £60 Visiting. If you are already a member, the total fee will be reduced automatically by £60 by the online payment system. Fees are non refundable.

Do I need to account for other expenditures during the week related to the Visiting School?
Fees do not include flights, accommodation, or food.

How many applications are you excepting?
We are are accepting 50-60 applications for this year’s Visiting School programme.

Are you providing computers?
Students need to bring their own laptops, digital equipment and model making tools. Please ensure this equipment is covered by your own insurance as the AA takes no responsibility for items lost or stolen at the workshop.

What type of hardware and software will I need?
Software Requirements: Adobe Creative Suite, Rhino 5 w/Grasshopper.


For inquiries related to the AA Visiting School Los Angeles. Please contact us by emailing: losangeles (at) aaschool.ac.uk. Additionally you can register for updates via our email list to the right. We will begin sending out notifications in the next few weeks to give you updates on the goings on, news and developments that will define the program.

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