The Chapel | USC Roski School of Art and Design

A modification as in-kind donation at the University of Southern California in from December 1- 17, 2014 applied the type of fence screen proximal to school colors already utilized at construction sites around campus as a temporary canopy to a roofless structure within the Roski School of Art. Inverting the indication of a construction area signaled attention to then current internal top-down bureaucratic reformatting of this art program for faculty, staff and students. The screen produced a shaded interior with a defused red cast during a time leading up to and during semester exams.

My proposal consisted in installing a privacy screen as a temporary canopy for the roofless concrete structure known colloquially as "The Chapel" among the communities utilizing Watt Hall, the Roski School of Art and Design and the School of Architecture. Commonly stretched along the perimeter of construction sites, the University of Southern California then had some eighty building projects underway on campus grounds where such screens were installed in a reddish hue approximate to the university's official cardinal color.

The border material of these screens was black with golden grommets lining this perimeter, the standardized latter, perhaps fortuitously, representative of the university's second official color and the former correlating to an unofficial default third color used in campus logos and advertisements. Partially obstructing pedestrian and street views, these visual barriers seemed to function as a monochromatic abstraction which foregrounds school identity under the auspices of redesign.

A red screen, equivalent to those of adjacent on-campus construction sites, sized to the dimensions of The Chapel's interior width and length, was installed from the last week of academic classes to the last day of semester exams. Not visible to passing pedestrians passing the non-descript, concrete structure at the intersection of Watt Way and Bloom Walk and the northern corner of Watt Hall's footprint, views were skyward from within the now enclosed interior space, accessible via passage through Watt Hall, and downward from the higher stories of Watt Hall and adjacent buildings. Daylight cast a defused cardinal shade inward proximal to school business hours.

Google maps aerial view of Watt Hall and Sculpture Yard at the corner of Watt Way and Bloom Walk. Drawn overlay of construction fence screen / sunshade

Through installing a screen perpendicular to its orientation at nearby building projects, I was interested how this axial turn cited construction while raising questions of the symbolic, quasi-transparency such facades imply in relation to a sense of bettering school facilities. Such instances can be more a mark of bureaucratic and administrative accomplishment in beautification than of any common betterment of and for the learning environment, often to the detriment of the immediate community losing ground in the interim. The turn repositions the implication of construction as coming from above while rendering the space within these limits as internal to the Roski School of Art and Design then under acts of soon contested revision on the part of students, faculty, and staff.

Upward view of Watt Hall

During a preliminary site visit to the "Chapel" and greater campus, I tracked down the university registrar's office to be temporarily relocated within a student dormitory hall due to the eventual demolition of its prior facilities, a 1963 "international style" structure designed by USC alumni Thornton Ladd and John Kelsey, colloquially known as "The Red Square", the perimeter of which was by this visit already sqaured off by red fence screen. This additional campus colloquialism was in reference to the structure's initial use as the preeminent west coast think tank on communist intelligence and data gathering during the Cold War era. First put on the market for potential bidders that would relocate the two-story structure off-site, lack of interest in this process spelled its demolision.

View of post-demolition site where the "The Red Square" once stood

I learned from the registrar that the university had just that school year ceased to distribute a physical academic calendar of any kind to the on-campus community as an at-hand reference. As a supplement to the on-site modification of the inverted screen, I incorporated the 2014-2015 academic calendar into a takeaway document made available within the installation as well as in various public areas within Watt Hall and its neighboring corridors. Printed recto/verso on 17x11" paper, one side bared a full-page version for ostensible installation in student dorm rooms whereas the other side provided a half-size version, 5.5x11" when folded width-wise, for use in binder sleeves or within notebooks. The document utilized the official university font set and Roski School logo while being designed and printed independently of any organizing body.

Photos: Adam Feldmeth