Since its groundbreaking on Nov. 8, 2012, Wallis Annenberg Hall has reached 50 percent completion and will be finished in June 2014. The ground-level media facility will be used for student programs starting in July, and the building will be completely open for the start of classes in August 2014.
According to Charles Peyton, the director of operations for Annenberg Facilities and Technology and the lead project manager for the School and Chair of Annenberg’s Building Committee, this building project sets the standard for future construction at USC.
“From now on, all new buildings [at USC] are Collegiate Gothic and will be modeled after this,” Peyton said.
The architectural firm managing the project, Harley Ellis Devereaux, has also signed on to help with the redesign of the University Village.
“The UV project will also be Collegiate Gothic,” Peyton said. “So we are kind of the first and the benchmark of all future USC architecture, which is a really cool kind of blending of the past and providing something for part of the future.”
The new building will also juxtapose the old exterior architecture with the modern cutting-edge, technology-focused interior.
“It will be very Annenberg, very modern, very high tech, very different,” Peyton said.
In planning for the design, the school worked with design consultants Strategy Plus to conduct a space assessment survey given to students, faculty, alumni and the university community to discover what they did and did not like about the old Annenberg building to take into consideration for the new building.
“When we did that space assessment, we expected the Annenberg building to just get ripped on by students and faculty, but they loved it,” Peyton said. “I expected some criticism, but it really did well.”
Though Strategy Plus received positive responses from students for the current Annenberg building, many are looking forward to the new facilities.
“I think that the [current] facilities are pretty good, but, considering what I have seen in some of my internships, there are some things that could stand to be updated,” said Steven Covelman, a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. “I think we could really use some new computers, some new software just to make it so it simulates the newsroom environment a little bit better. I wish the rooms were designed to look more like a newsroom, so it’s not a huge shock when you get into that environment.”
All the feedback, both positive and negative, was distilled and taken into consideration for the building’s program.
“It was really a building built in the Annenberg tradition, which is a very collaborative and involved community,” Peyton said. “Each space was kind of designed by a different subset, whether it was the students or the faculty.”
One of the aspects of the original Annenberg building that got the most positive feedback was the East Lobby.
This feedback in particular became one of the main focuses in building the Wallis Annenberg Hall. Upon entering the building there is a continuous atrium throughout all five floors of the building — one floor below and four above — serving as a central forum.
“This space was modeled after the existing Annenberg East Lobby, the Arco Forum at the Kennedy School at Harvard and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre,” Peyton said. “It’s going to be similar to the East Lobby with tables, chairs and a place for students to come hang out, be seen, study, kind of a watering hole.”
Unlike the East Lobby, however, there will be a three-story media wall driven by LED technology that will act as a backdrop for the central space.
“The thought is that this is a place to congregate at and hang out with other students before class, but then we wanted to transform it to a huge open event space,” Peyton said.
The room will be able to convert into a community forum with the incorporation of a portable stage, the media wall and seating that can be brought in all on the entry level, as well as overflow on the second and third floors looking down onto the event space.
“It was really a guiding principle of the school to make spaces as collaborative, transparent and open as possible,” Peyton said. “Dean Wilson really wanted this ‘agora’ or this village green idea where it was the hub of where everything happened.”
Another way the building will emphasize the collaborative community feel is by showcasing as much student work as possible. Anywhere the builders could put glass instead of drywall, they did.
Additionally, glass will divide some of the classrooms and individual workspaces, as well as the newsroom. Students in classrooms will be visible, so that everyone can share a hardworking environment.
The building will feature a traditional converged multimedia newsroom, broadcasting facility and radio set and a future-oriented 360-degree assignment desk for Annenberg Television News, Annenberg Radio News and Neon Tommy.
The opportunities for collaboration come together with the incorporation of a core media storing and sharing system.
“The entire building is anchored with one huge media storage system and a really robust media asset management and distribution system, which really means all students’ projects and formal multimedia work goes into a big bucket and that bucket is available for every student and faculty member to share, use, distribute as they want,” Peyton said.
In addition to USCnet, the building will have its own media network. There will be more than 111 different access points in the building, in addition to a distributed antenna system which will provide “flawless” 4G access when the WiFi goes down.
Freshman, sophomore and junior students are looking forward to the opportunities the new building will bring.
“I am really excited for the advancements in technology,” said Caroline Deisley, a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. “They are going to be so helpful for ATVN. The current technology we use is outdated, so the new space will allow us to interact with up-to-date and current programs and devices.”
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