When professors of architecture Alvin Huang and Doris Sung accepted their full-time faculty positions, they never imagined that they would be leading the entire architecture graduate and undergraduate student body respectively. Now, with more than two decades of combined teaching experience under their belt, they will join the senior faculty of the USC School of Architecture as directors of undergraduate and graduate programming, respectively.
Sung and Huang will assume their new positions in May and will oversee the academic aspects of existing and developing programs in the school, including curriculum design and extracurriculars.
The application process was conducted by School of Architecture Dean Milton Curry and a panel of faculty members who assessed candidates on their goals for the school and past educational experiences with students.
“They’re outstanding faculty who are proven strong teachers, advocates for students and researchers that are well known and influential throughout the architectural field,” Curry said. “They’re really thought leaders in thinking about how to further integrate technology into thinking about how we train architects for the future.”
Huang, a class of 1998 graduate, joined the School of Architecture faculty in 2011 as a founder of design firm Synthesis Design + Architecture and winner of the Presidential Emerging Practice of the Year by the American Institute of Architects. His work has been published and exhibited by the American Institute of Architects and he was selected as one of Time’s 2013 Best Inventors.
Sung joined the architecture faculty in 2006 and has taught courses such as “Materials and Methods of Building Construction” and “Taming Smart Materials,” classes that focused on educating students on materials commonly used by architects. In the past, she held a teaching position at the University of Colorado and founded the firm dO|Su Studio of Architecture in 1999.
“Being an educator for 28 years … and a part of different programs across the U.S. I think I have pretty good insight [on teaching architecture],” Sung said. “Also, because my kids are also college age, I have also insight on how millennials and Gen Z think.”
Huang pursued architecture because he believed the subject had greater academic depth than other liberal arts programs.
“I would consider [architecture] one of the last remaining true liberal arts,” Huang said. “You learn about culture, you learn about philosophy, about society, about history, technology. You learn how … [to] convince people about your ideas, and that kind of stuff is applicable in every field.”
Sung said continuing the architecture school’s accreditation process will prove arduous with trying to balance the curriculum required by the National Architectural Accrediting Board with supplementary opportunities, such as electives and architecture design competitions for students.
“I also think that just philosophically, undergraduate and then graduate education should be more broadening then specialized,” Sung said. “Whether or not they even go into that field, they can actually look more deeply into areas of their interest and even outside of them.”
Huang said the graduate program initiative would include expanding the range of electives to include topics such as architecture in Los Angeles.
“One of the things we are probably leading on would be the fact that we are in Los Angeles, one of the design meccas of the world. We’ve got more landmark projects by Pritzker-winning architects than any other city in the world.” Huang said. “So there’s a significant kind of architectural pedigree that the city has that we’d like to leverage as something that architecture [students] would also be interested in.”
Carlos Auces, a graduate student in the architecture program, is currently being mentored by Huang for his thesis project and believes that Huang would be a perfect fit for the job because of his approach to dealing with students.
”One of the things that I do appreciate about [Huang] is that he … tries to understand where you’re coming from and tries to correct you upon your thought process, not upon his thought process,” Auces said.
For the undergraduate program, Sung plans to implement classes about sustainability in architecture and the use of smart materials that respond to technology. She also plans to increase the number of design projects available to present students with an opportunity to build structures on campus.
“We have to really rethink how millennials and Gen Z students operate and think so that we can prepare them the best for the field,” Sung said. “Instead of overvaluing the path to licensure, it’s a matter of really thinking carefully where and how we prepare our students to actually do all kinds of things.”
For Huang, the main goal for the graduate program is to create citizen architects — students with the expertise and capability to execute complex design projects and engage diverse groups of people on societal issues.
“We are going to be looking at all of our design studios to think about social and cultural problems that affect contemporary society — things like identity politics, gentrification, resource scarcity, changes in culture,” Huang said. “On the flip side … training architects to think about the built environments and the practice of architecture as an opportunity to think about alternatives for the future.”
Huang also aims to increase student diversity by reaching out to marginalized communities and international students and encourage them to apply to the school.
“This country is historically dominated by white men and we’re now at a shift in our society where the value of diversity is being celebrated,” Huang said. “The value of representation is something that I think can’t be understated as someone who grew up as a child of immigrants.”
With only a few months before the two settle into their new jobs, both Sung and Huang said they are excited about the upcoming opportunities and their ideas for the field of architecture.
“It truly is a new chapter for not only the School of Architecture, but for USC, so to be part of that is so hopeful and so future-oriented,” Sung said.