University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

Daniel Johnson, Class of ’12, AIA SF Emerging Professional Award and Author

Friday, September 21, 2018
Portrait of USF Alumnus, Daniel Johnson.

USF Architecture alumnus, Daniel Johnson.

Architecture school is an immersive experience. Daniel Johnson knows this well. From being an architecture student at the University of South Florida to becoming an associate at a top firm in the United States and teaching architecture at Stanford University, he submerges himself in what he calls, "the fantastic quandary that is architecture."

Daniel started his journey with architecture at the USF School of Architecture & Community Design (SACD), where he earned his Master of Architecture in 2012. The curriculum challenged him to expand his skills, "The studio sequence was clear, diverse and rich with opportunity" he said. As an SACD student he designed a toy store on the New York City High Line, an innovative museum of technology, an academic office and classroom building half a million square foot in size on the USF campus, a passively ventilated tropical residence, a proposal for a new pier in St. Petersburg, an ancient manuscript library in Spain, and an urban masterplan of Ybor City. Making full use of the opportunities provided to him at USF, he also studied abroad in Spain and Paris.

Connecting architecture with psychology and anthropology, Daniel completed a deep speculation into the memory of home, life and death for his thesis. Titled "The Architecture of Death: A Study of Thanatological Space & Mnemonic Ritualization," his hard work earned him the school's Thesis Award. He graduated with the top GPA in his class and was awarded the Henry Adams Medal. The school also presented him with its highest design honor, the Eduardo Garcia Award. In addition, he received nominations for Core Portfolio and the Masonry Contractors Scholarship.

The community he discovered at SACD made what was already a fulfilling experience that much more meaningful. Thanks to the guidance provided by the practitioners among the faculty, his designs evolved from the speculative to the pragmatic. He learned from the educators to dream about the possibility of space, time and material. The friends that he made here continue to be an important and constant presence in his life.

"Outside of my education I made some of the best friends I could ever imagine while at USF SACD. The intensity of the academic experience bond is like a family and that bond has carried on well beyond graduation and we find ourselves constantly supporting each other both as friends as well as professionals," he said.

Reflecting on his leadership within the program and personal commitment to architecture, Daniel served as the Student Chapter President of the Construction Specifications Institute during his time at USF, as well as the Vice President of the American Institute of Architecture Students. He took on additional responsibilities as a research assistant and a graduate teaching assistant, earning a nomination for the Provost Award for Outstanding Teaching.

"My experience teaching at USF ignited a passion for educating and pushed me to pursue a Masters of Architectural Pedagogy at Washington University in St Louis, where I graduated in 2013 with honors," Daniel explained.

Since graduating in 2013, Daniel has been living in San Francisco working at WRNS Studio, one of the top-ranked architectural firms in the United States. Within four and a half years, he was promoted to associate at the firm, and now helps lead the office toward new cultural and professional goals.

"At WRNS I helped build internal cultural and education programs that enrich the office culture as well as help conceive of a WRNS Summer Internship Program." He has designed a multi-department mixed-use building for UC Berkeley, an Arts & Humanities Building for CSU Monterey Bay and most recently, he designed an Academic Leadership & Classroom Building for UC Merced. Furthermore, he has had the opportunity to work on small parts of many projects with the world's most well-known companies.

Expanding upon his remarkable leadership skills, Daniel became the Academic Co-Chair for the Bay Area Young Architects committee of AIA San Francisco. His efforts helped him connect with the Bay Area community and won him the 2015 AIA San Francisco Emerging Professional Award for exemplary professional and community leadership. He has moderated and spoken at many panel events, lectured at several local institutions and reviewed student work at various Bay Area schools of architecture. Integral with his work at WRNS Studio is his teaching and research work at Stanford University, where he teaches undergraduate architectural design studios as an adjunct lecturer.

"My collaborative work there led to a body of research between Stanford and Northeastern University focused around the intersection in the publication Workplace + Public Realm," Daniel said.

For Daniel, all roads come back to USF SACD. "It was there where I learned my passion, my craft and my intellectual position on the world and the things we build within it. USF formed me into the person I am today and gave me the tools I needed to succeed well beyond the school of architecture. Simply put, I would not be where I am today without my educational experience at USF, and I am forever grateful to the support they have given me during and after my time there. Go Bulls!"