SCI-Arc Studio Constructs Private Facades to Craft the Public Imagination

This fall, SCI-Arc Graduate Program Chair Elena Manferdini is working with her students on the topic of facades. The concern of her design studio titled “Obvious” is to understand the political implications of an aesthetic language in shaping the visual experience of the city.

Specifically, her students’ work argues that facades, even when buildings are privately owned, are important for the city at large because they are inevitably the background of our public imagination — they negotiate how the privacy of human interactions comes to terms with a surrounding social and cultural context.

The class started with the creation of a series of collages representing mystic, domestic and peripheral architectural facades. During the semester, each student has been producing a suite of pictures of facades that are being posted weekly on an Instagram account. The online feed of studio progress features a weekly curation from architects like Tom Mayne and academics like Jimenez Lai, tasked to select their favorite projects.

Specifically, the class is looking closely at the stylistic features of various ongoing mixed-use large developments now being built in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on their facades as the place where cultural relationships get resolved within an urban context.

The site of the project is Marina del Rey in Los Angeles: a relatively low-density neighborhood that is currently being populated by high density, mixed-use private developments. Students are developing different formal strategies dealing with the facades of high density housing buildings –exploring the many ways to produce new breeds of public and private stages within this neighborhood.

The studio proposes an alternative, imaginative language for traditional facades, based on well-known tectonic assemblies, whose aim is to engage new and reactionary subjectivities. The studio challenges the outdated notion of the generic style that appeal to many subjects. These imaginative facades will become a political space for nuance and personal participation.

“Obvious” is one of eleven upper-division elective studios offered at the SCI-Arc this semester. The final review for the studio will be held on Friday, December 15th at the Los Angeles campus. Updates are shared regularly on the school’s Instagram account at And for more information about SCI-Arc Graduate Programs, please visit



This post was sponsored by the Southern California Institute of Architecture

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