The catalyst for architecture and design thinking


Wenhao Huang grew up in Chengdu and spent most of his school years trying to balance his passions for biology and literature. Eventually it hit him – he was able to study architecture and embark on an academic journey that encompassed both the arts and sciences. As a student in Baltimore, Maryland, he began to explore the possibility of making a change—particularly to an institution known for its inspirational capacity.

When browsing the student portfolios, only one option made the most sense. “The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) was home to students developing projects that were more ‘visual’ than anything I had ever seen,” he says. “You could tell that every project and every art form was consciously geared towards the development and exploration of architecture.”

Choosing the Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) major, Huang knew he could be one of them, too. The five-year professional degree, accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board, focuses on both design excellence and intellectual breadth through SCI-Arc’s distinctive approach to liberal arts-based education.

The trip was as interdisciplinary as ever. Philosophy lessons are Huang’s favorite. Without these sessions he would not be able to think as creatively and architecturally as he does today. “It reinterpreted my way of seeing leaps and bounds,” he says.

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A true “school of architectural thought,” SCI-Arc is dedicated to educating architects who will envision and shape the future. Such results are typical of a world-renowned center of innovation. Huang was even able to explore artificial intelligence (AI) as part of a comprehensive module.

SCI Arc

“We use AI to explore many aspects of architecture: materiality and form. Rather than turning away from such technologies, I was encouraged to explore them and at the same time find out what they mean for the field of architecture,” he says. “Many questions arise in the exploration process, but these lessons have certainly helped me achieve some of my best projects.”

Designing and executing the projects Huang talks about is one of the unique ways SCI-Arc ensures its students develop into accomplished industry professionals with broadened horizons. Students enrolled in the B.Arch program spend five years at SCI-Arc working on portfolios designed to make them competitive in the global architecture market.

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These collections often attract the attention of top firms such as Morphosis, Gehry Partners, Gensler, FZS, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Zaha Hadid Architects, Neil M. Denari Architects and Eric Owen Moss Architects – all SCI Arc graduates with open poor.

The other half of B.Arch graduates enroll in some of the world’s most prestigious postgraduate programs. Of course, SCI-Arc is also home to its impressive array of postgraduate offerings, which ranked in the top 10 in all focus areas of the DesignIntelligence survey, including design theory, construction methods, materials and sustainability.

SCI Arc

Each program is conducted from SCI-Arc’s campus in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles, California — a city that Elena Manferdini, Graduate Program Chair, describes as “a lavish place for architects.” The walkable cultural center is packed with museums, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques that never fail to cure the most severe cases of designer block.

Tanya Jhaveri, a B.Arch student from India, says she “couldn’t have picked a better place to study.” She had been searching for a city that would inspire her in the same way her hometown of Ahmedabad inspired her grandfather – who never had a professional architectural education, but they managed to design a beautiful “haveli” (a traditional Indian mansion set around two courtyards ) to design and build for her family.

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“Seeing his dream come true was inspiring to me,” she says. When Jhaveri learned that students at SCI-Arc were striving to break boundaries on a similar scale, she knew this community was worth joining. At the studio, she has learned to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps by immersing herself in hands-on projects designed to help her build visual literacy, learn design skills, test ideas, and receive personal attention from respected practitioners who double as… SCI Arcs Faculty.

“Each studio has been an experiential learning curve,” says Jhaveri. “Everyone had their ups and downs, but they ultimately taught me to always have faith and trust in the process.”

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