The new USC Village sits in the heart of southern California, but it resembles an ivy-covered New England university. The five-story, Oxford-inspired project is a multiple building complex designed and built in classic collegiate Gothic architectural style to create a sense of stability and permanence in the community.
The designers took advantage of the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of architectural precast concrete to incorporate many facets and intricate details, including extensive use of thin-brick, set-in precast concrete panels and light, sandblasted precast concrete to achieve the stone-look details in the arches and tracery. More than 1.5 million bricks were hand-placed into elastomeric liners, which were made to capture the individual bricks in highly controlled random patterns.
Many pieces, one panel
The use of precast concrete helped the project team meet the extremely tight schedule and fulfill the owner’s desire to minimize the impact of construction on the project site. Along with casting the pieces off site, the precaster developed a way to pour the multiple elements ahead of time and incorporate them into a single panel to further expedite progress.
The project included 3000 case pieces; however, they were combined at the plant into 1050 wall panels with multiple smaller elements, such as separate tracery window surrounds, cornices, and medallions, inset into larger forms. This strategy enabled the team to ship finished panels to the site with all of the key design features already incorporated, rather than having to erect those features separately in the field. Rebar and other anchors extending from the previously cast pieces were tied to the panel cages to ensure accurate final placement prior to the pour. This innovative solution significantly reduced both erection time and costs. Overall, the decision to use precast concrete on this project allowed the architect to incorporate intricate and nuanced design details, while providing resilient structures that will last for decades.