USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program


The real place of the improbable is in the city.” – Manfredo Tafuri.


“By Architecture of the city we mean two different things: first, the city seen as a gigantic man-made object, a work of engineering and architecture that is large and complex and growing over time; second, certain more limited but still crucial aspects of the city, namely urban artifacts, which like the city itself are characterized by their own history and thus by their own form.  In both cases architecture clearly represents only one aspect of the more complex reality, of a larger structure….” – Aldo Rossi


Welcome to the University of Southern California School of Architecture’s Asia Architecture and Urbanism Study Abroad Program. This site will serve as a travel diary of the program – a diary not in the sense of a repository of mementos or musings of the students’ travels but instead an academic platform for the students to leverage their exposures and experiences as forms of critique and constructed narratives of and about the city. The program director, participating students, faculty and advisors will maintain the site.

The cities of any culture in time is an obvious manifestation of its social and cultural mores, however, it is not only the repository of its culture but also a provocateur, a catalytic agent to the generative narrative of place as object interacting with its subject.  To fully synthesize cities experientially as place and culture, one must be able to critically engage in its manifestations not only in the skein of its histories but also in its mental and social complexities as urban narratives, as the allure of the spectacle, as theatre of human events.

The modern cities, across geographical boundaries in a global spatial atlas are vibrant and complex ecologies.  Their often-contradictory configurations and manifestations must be understood as active and provocative participants in the experiments of modernism and the metropolis life.  This program will accentuate the city as a protagonist of the metropolis life and the facilitator of its cultural productions.  The cities traveled for the program and their urban artifacts will serve as subjects for study not only in the traditional approach of constructing specificities of historical and/or physical manifestations for analysis but also as framework for critical dialogue and engagement about the idea of the city.  To achieve this investigation into the complex underpinnings of the city as spectacle and cultural production, we will engage with the social, political, economic, art, film, architecture and the urban topics as vehicles for creative and critical discourse.  The goal is to provide the students with a penetrating look at the generating forces of culture as forms of urban artifacts traceable through the development and evolution of cities.

Aldo Rossi, a 20th century architect, theorist and educator asserted that works of architecture are creations inseparable from civilized life and the society in which it is manifested.  While architecture references singular creations, architectures, as a collective, are the constituents of the urban – the city.  Urban morphology speaks of the existence of cities as overlays of urban syntax of which architecture is a layer.  As such, morphological studies of the urban constitute the exploration, analysis and synthesis of all the possible facets and solutions to a multi-dimensional, non-quantified (constantly evolving) complex equation.  Arguably, to fully comprehend urban form, we must not stop at learning its physical qualities, we must also actively engage in comprehending the mental and social complexities as experiential narratives of the everyday.

While the traditional notion of city historically had its roots in Western civilizations, the current trajectory of evolution and formation of the city is in Asian countries, particularly that of China.  As the new frontier of city making and proliferation, China offers a student of architecture and urbanism great opportunity for a cross sectional understanding of city genealogies and mutations from their Western counterparts.  Though the momentum of new city formations rests with China, many Asian cities have been in developed existence and are constantly undergoing incremental regeneration and therefore serve the academic purpose for comparative study and analysis.

Recognizing the above, the Asia Architecture and Urbanism [AAU] program will provide an opportunity to explore this new urban paradigm in China with a 15-week study abroad program. Though the program will be anchored in Shanghai, academic enrichment excursions and urban/design workshops will take the students to many other cities in China as well as in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.  Students will engage in the transformative forces of urbanism and built environments to mediate the spectrum between universal civilization and the indigenous particularities of place and culture.  Students will be taught to observe and synthesize the similarities and differences that exist between their own social/cultural norms and the critical means for thinking about architecture and the city.  This challenges their assumptions and expands their horizons, which is the very essence of an exceptional education.  It is with the above outlined understanding and academic mission that the AAU program is formed.

Please visit often or subscribe to the site and follow our physical, mental, creative and intellectual journey.

– Andrew Liang, Director of AAU, Adjunct Associate Professor

AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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