USC professor earns international architecture prize

A professor at the USC School of Architecture won an international architecture award for his innovative design of a residential house located in West Los Angeles.

Gold star · Professor Andrew Liang designed the MüSh residence, which won him the international Grand Prix du Jury award this summer. - Photo courtesy of Andrew Liang

The Grand Prix du Jury, or Jury’s Grand Prize, was awarded to Andrew Liang during the summer and recognized MüSh Residence. The project took three years to complete, Liang said.

“The honor here is simply this: You are recognized internationally,” he said. “[It’s] the recognition, the sort of affirmation, if you will, that a piece of work that you’ve done has sort of reached … a kind of considerable status … not just as a building but also as a statement.”

The prestigious international architectural competition, ARCHIZINC Trophèe, recognizes 12 finalists for their completed projects. There are four categories for submissions, and for each category a jury of 12 architecture experts selects a winner and runner-up.

Of the 12 awards, there are four special prizes that recognize projects that are exceptional in the categories of innovation, technical performance, tradition and environment. The Grand Prix du Jury is the most significant of them all.

Liang began his teaching career at Otis College of Art and Design before coming to USC less than nine years ago. Liang said he had originally planned to follow his undergraduate major and become an electrical engineer, but after a trip to Europe, he discovered his passion for architecture.

“Always be on the lookout for your passion,” Liang said, advice he often tells his students. “You can nurture a passion or you can discover it. For me, I think I discovered it.”

In addition to teaching, Liang also serves as a principal architect for the Los Angeles-based architecture firm Studio 0.10 Architects. His winning design, the MüSh Residence, was commissioned by the firm and incorporates the artistic values of the property owners, an artist and his wife.  The two have an eye for art and own a private art collection that they wanted to display in a gallery, Liang said.

To accommodate the owners’ wishes, Liang and his crew had to redefine the traditional house and gallery.

“It’s not your typical house as you would imagine it,” he said. “We’re challenging the preconception of what a house is.”

The house consists of two separate monolithic structures divided by a courtyard. The first building houses the garage and an art studio for the husband. The second holds all the rooms of a traditional house in addition to an innovative art gallery that snakes along the walls between rooms, Liang said. Both structures showcase a cubic design with artistically protruding staircases and stylistic recessions.

The unique design appealed to both the owners and the architectural jury of the ARCHIZINC Trophèe, Liang said.

Producing exceptional pieces is the main focus of Studio 0.10 Architects, he said.

“We don’t aspire to get big. The size of our firm is not relevant to me but the quality of the work we do is absolutely relevant. I want to basically do more quality over quantity,” Liang said.

Awards such as the Grand Prix du Jury create an exchange of innovation between learning about architecture and applying knowledge to projects, said Qingyun Ma, dean of the USC School of Architecture.

“Winning this prize is really bringing a lot of values to the program,” Ma said.

One particular focus of the School of Architecture is design innovation. Awards won by faculty and students not only increase the credibility of the school but also encourage the spread of ideas, he said.

“They bring the name of USC to the outside world and … they bring in [a] new standard or new energy back to the school,” Ma said.

Creativity, shown through competitions like the ARCHIZINC Trophèe, is key in times of poor consumer confidence, he said.

“At the difficult financial time, it is particularly important to invest in innovation, both in peoples’ minds and in the social structure. [It is] only through innovation that we can step out of the difficult time,” he said. “I do believe that architecture as a discipline and [as well as the school itself] can play … leading role[s] in the effort of breaking through the hard time in the financial crisis.”