The USC School of Architecture’s American Academy in China (AAC) has selected artist and designer Walter Hood as this year’s research fellow. During his fellowship, Hood will design an installation to be executed in two places—Shanghai and Los Angeles. By using only local artisans and materials, he will explore how the same design changes depending on the particular conditions and skills of each place. The project will highlight the process of making in two port cities and examine the relationship between water and industry in the urban realm.
The creative director and founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California, Hood operates the firm as a tripartite practice “working across art + fabrication, design + landscape and research + urbanism.” A professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a designer whose work has been featured in publications such as Dwell, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company, Architectural Digest, Places Journal and Landscape Architecture magazine, he is the recipient of the 2017 Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award. In the citation for that award, Henry N. Cobb wrote, Walter Hood is “dissolving the boundaries between landscape architecture, urban design, and public art.”
“Cultural practices are concerned with the difference between places and the idiosyncratic that arises,” said Hood. “We are too concerned with the things we have common, which at times misses those things in full view.”
Hood’s work embraces and graces large urban settings such as Greenprint in Pittsburgh and small ones like Splash Pad Park in Oakland. In the Academy of Arts and Letters award citation, Cobb said that Hood’s “remarkably diverse and deeply evocative body of work has touched the minds and hearts of communities across the United States.” Notable projects include the Arthur Ross Terrace at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, the Broad Museum Plaza in Los Angeles and the Bayview Opera House in San Francisco. His Witness Wall project opened earlier this year in Nashville, Tennessee, while the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina will open in 2019.
“The multidisciplinary nature of Walter’s work and its ability to affect people in a direct way exemplifies the mission of the AAC,” said Clifford Pearson, AAC director. “We loved the way Walter’s fellowship proposal engages both the local and global aspects of design and creation.”
In addition to executing his installation in Shanghai and Los Angeles, Hood will give lectures in both cities.
The AAC launched its research fellowship in 2016 with architect and critic Michael Sorkin exploring the challenges and pitfalls of practicing in China. Sorkin is currently preparing to publish his research as a book entitled “Made For China.”
Established under the auspices of USC’s School of Architecture, the American Academy in China strives to create cross-cultural collaboration between the United States and China by promoting dialogue around design, the built environment, and the arts. It engages teachers, students, scholars, practicing architects, artists, filmmakers, planners, designers, business people, government officials, and the public in interdisciplinary explorations of the needs and challenges facing China in an era of rapid change.