This week, the University of Southern California (USC) announced the appointment of Brett Steele as incoming dean of the School of Architecture, effective February 1, 2024. Steele will be joining USC from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he has served as dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture since 2017. Previous to his deanship at UCLA, the American-born Steele made his mark in architectural academia across the pond in London, beginning his career at Zaha Hadid Architects before going on to lead his alma mater, the Architectural Association (AA), as director from 2005 to 2016.

“Brett Steele’s collaborative leadership is a perfect fit for our School of Architecture,” said USC president Carol Folt in the university’s announcement. “One of the things that impressed me most when I met him is that throughout his career, he has inspired creative and inclusive ways of thinking that bring architects closer to their communities—and that keep innovative design and research top of mind.” 

Steele replaces interim School of Architecture dean Willow Bay, a television journalist and dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Bay stepped into the role in July 2022 following the departure of former dean Milton Curry, who had served in the role since 2017.

A prolific scholar, Steele has written extensively on automation and the changing role of architectural education while emphasizing interdisciplinary collaboration through his academic initiatives. At AA, he launched a visiting scholars program that operated dozens of schools in 50 cities around the world and founded a master’s program exploring spatial performance and construction in the design process. At UCLA, Steele oversaw the expansion of the university’s footprint, including the revival of Westwood’s historic Crest Theatre as the UCLA Nimoy Theater, and completion of the UCLA Margo Leavin Graduate Arts Studios, designed by Johnston Marklee, in Culver City. He also led several strategic initiatives that saw a historic increase in student diversity. 

“One of the things I learned early on about USC is that the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration that is so important to creative fields and professions of all kinds is built into the culture of the campus,” Steele said. “I can already think of ways in which we can be a valuable creative partner to work that’s taking place all across campus.”