Architect Roger Sherman founded cityLAB, a research and design center at UCLA, with his colleague Dana Cuff after realizing a need for an outlet for UCLA architecture students and faculty to solve contemporary urban problems.
Sherman, an architecture and urban design adjunct professor and co-director of cityLAB, and his colleagues use the think tank to commission studies and develop pilot projects. Faculty and students use sustainability ideals and new technologies to propose ways to make cities more livable and sustainable, said Cuff, an architecture and urban design professor and cityLAB director.
Sherman will discuss the impact of the advent of the smartphone on urban design during his talk at the TEDxUCLA conference. He said he will suggest a project that brings people into the Westwood community and off their cell phones.
Sherman said he noticed people today prefer to communicate through their smartphones rather than interact face to face. To counter the problem, Sherman will propose “Westwood Village Blows Up,” a program that encourages Westwood businesses to create teams and interact with other community members, during his presentation Saturday.
Participants would use their smartphones to find pieces of monuments designed by Sherman and his colleagues and bring them back to a meeting location on Broxton Avenue. Teams would work to collectively build three different monuments over the course of six weeks. Sherman said he is currently working to fund the project.
“If the smartphone makes it infinitely more convenient to do things electronically, what’s left for the city? What reason do people have to appear in public and do anything together in person?” Sherman said.
Sherman added he knew he wanted to be an architect since he was a kid.
“Architecture is the kind of thing that finds you more than you find it,” Sherman said. “I love to draw, and I love to travel and I wanted to be a part of the way cities and buildings were made.”
Sherman said growing up in Chicago exposed him to famous architects at a young age. He added his interest in architecture accelerated when he traveled during college and experienced classical architecture in Turkey, Greece and Rome.
Sherman earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1980, and a doctoral degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1985. After working for an architect in New York City for several years, he won an international design competition for the West Hollywood Civic Center and moved to Los Angeles.
Cuff said she thinks Sherman is a unique architect because his ideas are unconventional.
“When you look at any of his design projects for cityLAB, they don’t (just) color outside the lines,” Cuff said. “They completely shatter the box that anybody would have put the project in to start with.”
Legg Yeung, a UCLA alumna and one of Sherman’s former students, said Sherman influenced her own views on architecture. Yeung teaches an undergraduate building design class at UC Berkeley.
“He believes that architecture and urban design can make a difference in the real world,” Yeung said. “That’s why he’s very interested in urban strategies (and) working with communities.”
Sherman said he thinks architecture is both work and a hobby.
“It’s one of those fields that you never escape – it’s kind of your vocation and your avocation at once,” Sherman said. “It lives so much inside of you, and that’s the fun (of it).”