Editor’s Note: This listing was updated on October 19, 2022
“SCI-Arc is where architects become mad scientists,” says CEO and Director Hernán Díaz Alonso. Conceived as a “college without walls,” and one of the few independent architecture schools in the country, SCI-Arc ‘s experimental pedagogy offers an alternative to traditional institutions. This goal was the impetus behind the school’s founding, spearheaded by former faculty and students of California State Polytechnic University in 1972, as well as its aspiration to be a voice for the design community – it hosts a lecture series and YouTube channel dedicated to sharing ideas. Its faculty is primarily comprised of practicing architects, offering students insight into the profession and industry connections through internships and employment opportunities. Alumni are in high demand and recruited to work at top firms including Morphosis, Gehry Partners, SOM, and Zaha Hadid Architects.
SCI-Arc’s five-year undergraduate program integrates a robust studio-based education with a well-rounded liberal arts program that helps students contextualize their architectural work. Offerings include Race in America, a mandatory first-year course, among courses in film, history and anime. Students can also undertake a concentration in Visual Studies, or architectural representation.
Alongside M.Arch students, upper-year undergrads participate in Vertical Studios in which small groups, in collaboration with leading architects, tackle special topics that range from weaving to architectural activism. The school’s reputation for excellence is reflected in its high academic standards: Students must submit a portfolio for faculty review after second and fourth year to advance in the program. In addition to its core curriculum, SCI-Arc offers summer workshops, a study abroad program in Tokyo and an internship credit after third year.
Located in downtown LA’s Arts District in the former Santa Fe Freight Depot (the city’s first reinforced concrete building), SCI-Arc offers opportunities for community engagement including public design-build initiatives to develop solutions for homelessness and other social issues. The 0.4-kilometre-long campus is home to the largest architecture-focused library in Southern California and hosts more than 1,115 square metres of fabrication facilities, including the SCI-Arc Shop, Robot House and Magic Box. The equipment includes both additive and reductive manufacturing machinery and programs, and six state-of-the-art Stäubli robots.
Thom Mayne, Elena Manferdini, Mimi Zeiger
Shigeru Ban, Jon Drezner, Mimi Zeiger