Architecture class could have real impact

A group of graduate architecture students are designing a building that could one day become a major landmark in the USC area.

The students have been tasked with creating a plan for a theoretical 60,000-square-foot Emeriti Center for Creative Retirement, which would house retired faculty and staff who want to remain close to the university community.

Former USC President John Hubbard dedicated the Emeriti Center in 1978, making USC among the first universities to recognize the connection with retired faculty and staff and the school itself. The center’s influence has been curbed, however, because of limited space and not enough offices.

The Emeriti Center has moved from various locations over the past 32 years.

“We’ve essentially been guests of the School of Gerontology,” Executive Director Janette Brown said in a press release. “When Victor [Regnier] started talking about what it would be like to have real senior housing and development activities on campus, the vision was just so exciting. We literally spent hours talking about it.”

Regnier is one of the world’s leading authorities on housing for the elderly and a professor of architecture and gerontology. He has worked on similar projects for the University of Virginia and George Mason University. Regnier, along with Michael Lehrer, a nationally renowned architect based in Los Feliz and part-time instructor at USC, is helping the architecture students decide how to best approach the project.

The students are currently considering two potential locations for the project — the corner of McClintock Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard or the corner of Vermont Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard.

Their plan includes 24 housing units for retired faculty, six units of housing to attract faculty from other universities who use their sabbaticals to take or teach courses at USC, meeting rooms for lectures and workshops, a mentoring center and a coffee shop to use as a link between retired faculty, students and the greater community, according to the press release.

The students’ propositions have earned much support from a panel of current and former USC faculty and staff, including former deans Guilbert Hentschke of the USC Rossier School of Education, Bob Scales of the School of Theatre and Bob Harris of the School of Architecture. Other supporters include current USC Davis School of Gerontology Dean Gerald C. Davison, Emeriti Center Executive Director Brown, USC Davis School professor Jon Pynoos and Jerry Walker, director of the Emeriti Center College, according to the release.

Whether or not any of these designs will actually come to fruition remains to be seen.

Kristina Raspe, USC’s associate senior vice president for real estate and asset management, commended the students on their efforts and designs. She noted, however, that the university’s main priority is to fit buildings with academic purposes, so it is rather unlikely that any of their designs will be erected on the core campus.

“A lot of these creative ideas have a great deal of merit and serve to benefit the community in tremendous ways,” Raspe said. “There were many unique ideas and I was most interested in the ones that work with space outside of USC’s core campus and build a connection with the surrounding area.”