SCI-Arc Fall '19 : Vertical Studio Syllabi

VS f19 : Leaping Across Disciplinary Silos

Vertical Studio Syllabi

By Professor Michael Rotondi, FAIA

Professor : Michael Rotondi

TA : Anna Kudashkina


_The Future of Learning

_The Future of Work


Learning how to surf disruption in a time of radical change as you invent a life.


What if game worlds and real worlds merged?


Play is a pretext to learning.

Learning is primarily informal and life-long

We must learn in ways that prepare us for jobs that don’t yet exist,

If technology can put men out of work, then we can invent how to put them back to work

The 21st century is an age of de-centralization, interconnectedness, and invention


curiosity a relentless attraction to anything unfamiliar

imagination combines observation and fantasy

intellect learning agility and growth mindset, intentional action

creativity ability to apply imagination to intellect


project 1

Escape Room a time travel portal for Leonardo da Vinci, and a live action puzzle game for informal active learning about invention and to gain insight into his process.

project 2

Leo’s Labs research and development workshops (abstract and applied) for cross-sector collaborators to work on selected, seminal, 15th C inventions, reinvented with 21st C science and technology.


The twenty-first century is a world in constant change.

The twenty-first century is one of constant and inevitable change, radical, disruptive, and de-centralizing.

It is driven by discoveries in science, advances in technology, and a hyper-connected global population.

New technologies are transforming the ways we think, work, play and relate. Relative stability has given way to continuous change, sometimes unexpected, at a scale that disrupts and displaces existing social order, cultural infrastructures, and economic systems. History tells us these shifts will be present for at least a generation.

These shifts will be a perpetual resident state for several generations. So, we must learn to surf the disruption to survive. We will pursue an understanding of how the forces of change, and emerging waves of interest associated with these forces, inspire and invite us to imagine a future of learning and work.


We will have a guide and a role model for our journey this semester, Leonardo da Vinci.

He is coming to Los Angeles where he will work to advance his inventions with new science, technology, and media. On a parallel track, he wants to address the grand challenges of humanity, with collaborating scientists and artists who have moved beyond their own disciplines, fields of inquiry, and domains of knowledge and practice, to satisfy curiosities of 3 existential subjects, origins, purpose, and meaning.

project 1 _ESCAPE ROOM _ (5 weeks)

3 indoor spaces and 3 outdoor spaces

Leonardo will time travel, using one of his inventions, a time machine, to Los Angeles, today. The Escape Room will be the portal to the present day and the gateway into the complex of labs and workshops (Project 2-see below) employing both atoms (matter) and bits (light) that will play his inventions and principles forward, with the help of collaborators.

To escape the room the team of 6 players will need to learn about Leonardo and his works.

Choosing one, aligned with your personal interests, then after studying its purpose, principles, performance criteria, speculate on how to update it with current science and technology to give it relevance in the 21st C.

Escape games are cooperative live-action games, with players working together as a team, to explore a narrative-driven challenge. With two objectives, to discover clues, solve puzzles, and to accomplish a specific goal, escaping from the room in a limited amount of time.


Urban Los Angeles, Merced Theater c1890

architectural parameters

informed and inspired by Leonardo’s process and works.

7 spaces, varied in shape, dimension and proportion, with 7 multi-modal presentations of L.daV.s’ inventions, with a workshop for experimentation and discovery.

Conceived as a portal for time travel, a place to play and learn, and an enriched environment to stimulate the mind.

project 2 _LEOS’ LABS (10 weeks)

a complex of 7 workshop-labs, with support facilities on an urban industrial site in DTLA

7 Labs,

7 New inventions informed and inspired by Leo’s prior works.

7 Collaborators (scholars, artists, scientists, technologists, fabricators)

7 Disciplines conceived as new disciplinary hybrids (i.e. music-botany-games)

1 Great Hall for gatherings and 7 breakout rooms for dialogue among 21st C Humanists.


Urban Los Angeles _vacant land

architectural parameters

informed and inspired by Leonardo’s process and works.

a fixed amount of building mass 1million cubic feet (100ft x 100ft x 100ft) and its corresponding volume will be divided, proportioned, and displaced into 10 nested, contiguous, or scattered masses, sized, shaped, and positioned on the site, by context, function and fantasy, linear perspective, proportions, and interpretation of renaissance geometric principles.

Their character and qualities will be informed by your awareness of performative and compositional principles in L.daV. inventions and artworks filtered through your own curiosities and imagination.


For centuries, experts keep predicting that machines will make workers obsolete. If men have the talent to invent new machines that put other men out of work, they have the talent to put those men back to work.

We must learn in ways that prepares us for jobs that don’t yet exist,

having to use technologies that have not been invented yet,

solving problems, we can’t anticipate, at this moment.

Leonardo da Vinci

We need an exemplary role model to learn how to sustain, a long-term vision in a short cycle world.

We have one.

Perhaps, no single individual defines the idea of universal intelligence better than Leonardo da Vinci. His natural genius crossed so many disciplines and domains of knowledge, motivated by relentless curiosity and expansive imagination. Leonardo worked equally as an artist and a scientist. They served each other.

He was driven by intense curiosity and connectivity, connecting dots in every direction and shifting scales along the way, pursuing a broad range of interests across many disciplines and domains of practice, including, art, architecture, science, music, mathematics, aeronautics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. His unparalleled quest for direct experiential knowledge, through research and experimentation, will be the subject.

cultural parallels

New technologies are transforming the ways we think, learn, work, and relate.

15th, 20th, 21st Century : Three radically disruptive periods in Human history

Each of these disruptive periods in human history created the perfect social and cultural ecosystem for inventors in the arts, sciences, humanities, and media, to imagine and invent their lives and in turn new worlds.

The Grand Challenges of the Human Enterprise, currently.

This is a time of radical foundational shifts in the Human Enterprise.

The challenges we face are large scale and profound. Reverse migrations from the rural into cities, population growth, technological advancements that make previously invisible worlds visible, economic shifts that are creating disproportionate concentrated advantages and disadvantages. Our natural resilience and capacity for invention allows us to constantly face these challenges with optimism and invention. Knowing what these challenges are, what skillsets and literacies do we need to learn to address them with precision, and creativity.

• Population

• Food

• Urbanization

• Education

• Wealth

• Economics

• Resources (natural and synthetic)

• Energy (climate, ecology, resilience)

• Consilience (unity of knowledge)

• Mobility

• Scientific Discovery

• Automation and AI

• Data analytics (big data visualization and mining)

• Bio-science

• Neuro-science (Merging of physical, digital, and biological)

• Cooperative Technology (simultaneous non-local collaboration)

• Governance (poly-centric, multi-leveled, or distributed networks)

Recent Posts

See All