Four-year architecture degree builds opportunities

Doris Sung, Director of Undergraduate Architecture programs, said the architecture and innovative technologies program is unique to USC. (Daily Trojan file photo)

The USC School of Architecture will implement a new undergraduate degree program for students to learn aspects of product and set design, museum curation and app development. 

The new bachelor of science in Architecture and Inventive Technologies takes four years to complete, compared to the five-year bachelor of architecture degree, and prepares its students for careers in alternate jobs outside the standard architectural realm. 

“It’s much more of an entrepreneurial type of degree, trying to look for a hole in the market, designing a product for it and then developing a business around it,” said Doris Sung, director of undergraduate architecture programs and associate professor of architecture. 

Sung and her colleagues understand that not every student wants to complete the original five-year bachelor’s program and become a licensed architect, so instead, the BSA+IT program offers an alternative and doesn’t come with the pressure of passing the licensure exam come graduation. 

While the BSA+IT program is a four-year degree with 128 units, there is also an optional 131-unit track that prepares students for advanced placement in a top-rated master’s of architecture program at USC. 

“I think the students are looking for that kind of innovation,” Sung said. “We have a lot of students who come into the school and are looking for alternative careers.”

The program began taking applicants for Fall 2023 this past August, prompting positive reactions from students in the school like Corinne Suthard, a freshman majoring in architecture. While she was unable to apply to this specific program, she believes the creation of it will be beneficial. 

“It seems very innovative, and in our world that’s constantly advancing, I think that’s very important,” Suthard said. 

Sung said that the architecture and innovative technologies program can’t be found at any other university. 

“It’s really out there,” Sung said. “[We’re] courageously trying to build it and tap into the resources of young people and education.”

The new major is attracting many students with unique preferred learning styles, such as Eva Cazar, a freshman majoring in architecture. After taking an architecture class in high school, she knew it was the path for her. 

“I always was kind of a crafty person, and I think I’m very creative. I think it was always something I was interested in,” Cazar said. 

Along with being “curious and spatially minded,” Sung agrees that creativity is a necessity when it comes to architecture.

“We believe that because when you make things with your own hands and understand the craft behind it is when you can actually understand things like manufacturing,” Sung said. “We want to look for makers and doers.” 

The program’s curriculum involves foundation-based seminars that students will take each semester along with a workshop. In the workshops, students will learn how to use various digital design tools, and they will become comfortable working in the school’s maker lab and working in teams.

“A lot of these things can’t be done in isolation,” Sung said. “It’s not a competitive type of atmosphere that we’re trying to generate, but something that is trying to raise the level of everybody [together].”

Sung said that the School of Architecture is also geared towards the idea of creating a citizen architect —  an architect that thinks about equity and solutions as a top priority. Citizen architects may look at issues such as combating climate change, increasing affordability or improving human wellness. 

“An architectural panel can be designed to [absorb] smog, for example, and do it in a way that’s affordable in all types of places of the world,” Sung said. 

This project is one of the many types of projects a BSA+IT student will be able to venture into, and it represents the new technologies being used to create positive change in the world.  

“It’s great that USC is taking these steps and keeping up with the times,” Suthard said. “It makes me confident that I’m getting the best and very well-rounded education.”

The program administrators at the School of Architecture understand the importance of  keeping pace with the changing world, and they are hopeful this program will be the start to a future of sustainable and technological advancements in architecture. 

“There’s a need for this sort of education,” Sung said. “What we’re trying to do in the School of Architecture is fill that need.”