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Bold New Construction Plan Is Launched; The Face of the USC Campus Will Change

by Melissa Payton

The courtyard behind Popovich Hall, where students can plug laptops into outlets at the tables, is an example of the smaller, more intimate open spaces of new campus construction.

USC is embarking on a new round of construction and renovation that will exceed the building boom of the last three years and invest nearly $500 million on its two campuses.

The spate of construction over the next five to seven years will add academic and research buildings, arts and athletic venues and a 400-bed residential college. Moreover, the new and renovated buildings will be designed to give the compact University Park Campus a more unified, urban appearance, said Thomas H. Moran, vice president for business affairs.

“We just don’t have the space that Stanford does, for example,” he said, comparing the UPC’s 154 acres to that university’s 6,000-acre campus. “What we want to do is use what land we have more efficiently and more attractively to achieve our strategic goals for academic excellence and cultural enrichment.”

Some existing but inadequate campus buildings will be torn down to make way for the new buildings. Others will be built over what are now surface parking lots, as parking capacity continues to be shifted to structures next to campus, Moran said. In addition, planners are considering an underground parking structure to serve the center of campus.

The elements of USC’s new Capital Project Plan are:

• The Internationally Themed Residential College. Parts of the Parkside Apartment complex, in the southwest corner of the University Park Campus, were torn down over winter break to provide the site. Construction will begin this summer on the first new residence hall to open on campus since 1982. The college will allow 400 U.S. and international students to live together, eat together, practice a language and hear visiting experts discuss global issues.

• University Events Center. A 12,000-seat arena, probably located on the southeast corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Figueroa Street, will host USC sports like basketball and volleyball as well as major university events, such as commencement, large concerts and major theatrical performances.

• Campus Center. The new structure, which will replace the Commons and Topping Student Center as a site for student meetings, programming, lounge and eating space, will link the architecturally significant Student Union – one of the campus’ older buildings that will be preserved – with the Pertusati Bookstore.

• Science and Technology Complex. The complex will consist of three buildings located east of Kaprielian Hall, on what is now a surface parking lot. Ronald Tutor Hall will house the School of Engineering’s undergraduate programs. The USC Alfred Mann Institute and Biomedical Engineering Build ing will bring together USC scientists and private industry to create advanced medical de vices. The third building, to face Childs Way, will house the program in molecular biology and computational genomics for the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

• Arts Center. USC’s five arts schools – fine arts, theater, music, cinema-television and architecture – are just beginning to plan the facility, which may be located at the north end of Trousdale Parkway.

• Neurogenetic Institute. The Health Sciences Campus research facility – the project farthest along after the Inter nationally Themed Residential College – will be built on the site of the Eastlake parking lot. Funded by part of the $110 million gift from the William F. Keck Foundation in 1999, it will bring together laboratory and clinical neuroscientists to understand and cure neurological disorders.

• Healthcare Consulation Center II. The HSC facility will provide more space for the expanding private practice of USC physicians.

• Renovations. Bovard Auditorium will be renovated in two stages: at first, to redo seating and change access to the auditorium, and then to improve acoustics and the stage and backstage areas. North Science Hall’s infrastructure – heating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems, and classrooms – will be upgraded. The Troy Hall project was completed last summer; 750 students came back in the fall to completely renovated kitchens, bathrooms and living room/bedrooms.

ONE LONG-AWAITED feature of the most recent spate of campus construction, the new entrance on Exposition Boulevard, is expected to open by the end of this month. The en trance, which will re place the current Gate 2, was designed to give the campus an elegant, formal “front door.” Eventually, a water element, which has not yet been designed, will join the plaza and tree-lined loggias leading to Widney Alumni House, Moran said.

The university’s Capital Planning Committee developed the list of projects at the request of the provost and president, he said.

“Many of the older buildings are antiquated and don’t use their sites well,” Moran said. “We wanted to look at removing some of those buildings to achieve a more urban campus design by building to the street and sidewalk lines.”

The planning committee, which will issue an interim report in three months, learned that because of setback requirements, the most efficient way to add square footage is with four- and five-story buildings. When such buildings are constructed close to the street and sidewalks, with “intimate, human” open spaces replacing the seldom-used large patios of buildings like the Von KleinSmid Center, a more consistent “urban campus” results, Moran said.

Using these guidelines, USC’s total campus square footage could increase by 50 percent, he said.

In addition, the new construction will follow the example of Popovich and Lewis halls in echoing the university’s best architecture – the classic buildings of the campus’ historic core, including Bovard Administration Building, Mudd Hall of Philosophy and Science Hall – through such features as red tile roofs and banded brick.

The new construction will add more than just bricks and mortar, said President Steven B. Sample.

“The projects we’ve prioritized in our Capital Projects Plan, and those that follow, will help us achieve our ambitious goals for defining the university of the 21st century – especially in biotechnology, the arts and internationalism,” he said.

“At the same time, USC will be maintaining the architectural grace, elegance and integrity of its distinguished past.”

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