Client: University of Southern California, office of the Provost

partners: Vice provost Marty Levine, michael Price, SLIM EVANS, AND THE WILSON CETINA GROUP

Run dates: APRIL 2019–NOW

Project brief:
• Work with a historic infrastructure and aesthetic
• Create a multifunctional room: student study room, Academic Senate meeting and presentation space, and gallery to Faculty Hall
• Enliven a narrative of scholarship, research and achievement with object selections and presentations
• Maximize flexibility for long-term use and provide opportunities to include additional faculty members at a later date

With not much more than a spark of an idea, Crisp was invited to flip a historic library study room in USC's Doheny Memorial Library. Given the grandeur and historic nature of the multipurpose meeting room, we were tasked to create a rich installation that maintained the room's current function and establish a gallery space to showcase and honor the faculty of USC.

Bah da boom! A flexible, yet refined installation that can be easily updated for generations to come.

USC was founded in 1880. How might we create an installation worthy of celebrating and highlighting the esteemed faculty of the last140 years–and incorporate the future?

The University of Southern California is the oldest private research university in California. To say it has a prolific history of high-achieving faculty is an understatement. Nobel laureates, MacArthur Fellows and numerous prestigious award winners are part of the rich fabric of USC's teaching history, both past and present. Challenge accepted. Create a single gallery room, which must continue to serve the greater USC community as a functional meeting and study space, to celebrate and recognize the achievements of these esteemed individuals.

Historic installations can sometimes feel as if a time capsule has been set to commemorate the past. Crisp's goal is to help visitors actively, and playfully, discover the rich history of USC's faculty. Our intent is to provide inspiration for future generations to come.

A ROOM OF PURPOSE: With a historic build, a need for study and flexible meeting space; the team set about making use of the existing historic alcoves for faculty panels, object display, media and rare book display.

Change it, but don't change it. With a historic build and infrastructure, our gallery needed to be transformed under a watchful eye. Make it different, but don't change the existing historic nature of the room. Crisp created an assessment and inventory of what USC brand elements and existing build elements we were working with. The team then set about the process of creating a world within the world of Doheny Memorial Library.

Warning: Historic elements must be preserved!

Working with the internal team of Vice Provost Marty Levine and Michael Price, Crisp began the process of content development and interpretive planning. How do we get more than140 years of history to work as a narrative installation? How do we create a celebration of individuals as part of a larger community? How do we make this material relevant and engaging to prospective and current students, staff, faculty, alumni and others?

Once these questions were answered, we developed a series of thematic domains. Each domain was selected from the type of work achieved within the different schools at USC. Domains include: an overview and introduction, In the Public Service, Arts at USC, Science and Engineering, and Health and Medicine. Color blocking became our visual guide to delineate each section of the installation.

To keep the existing built environment systems unmarred, Crisp developed a system of panel installations responding to the architectural detailing of the room. Each panel highlighted a different faculty member, a specific achievement at USC obtained by a faculty member, or outlined the various disciplines and schools of the university. Flexibility built in for future adaptations!

“For our project, Davina was presented with the challenge of a historic room that couldn’t be structurally altered. Working within those limits, she enhanced the existing aesthetic, infused the room with color, and curated the space to maximize the number of faculty and objects we were able to celebrate. She created a welcoming, personal experience for all visitors.”  
– Michael Price, Manager of Academic Initiatives, USC