Design Builder
Marnell photo courtesy of Marnell Companies

Master builders — skilled creators who both design and construct structures—built the great cathedrals and bridges of centuries past.

With time, the ancient master builder eventually gave way to specialist architects, engineers and contractors. In 1972, when Anthony Marnell II graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the USC School of Architecture, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) barred any professional from registering as both an architect and builder.

But today, the AIA and USC’s architecture program embrace the design-and-build philosophy. Marnell, who is recognized for designing and constructing renowned resort, hotel and gaming properties, believes that architecture students should get more experience practicing architecture and building their designs. His recent $1 million gift to the USC School of Architecture will launch a multidisciplinary design studio to foster future design-builders.

“The M Studio,” as it will be known, will focus on the critical thinking necessary to complete a large-scale construction project. Directed by a faculty member who is also an accomplished master builder, the semester-long studio will include teaching in business, real estate development and engineering. The idea for the studio grew out of conversations between Marnell and School of Architecture Dean Qingyun Ma.

Marnell understands firsthand how important it is for aspiring builders to immerse themselves in different aspects of their discipline and craft. He worked for several architectural and construction firms after college, including Corrao Construction, which became Marnell Corrao Associates after its founder retired in 1982. As CEO and chairman of the firm, Marnell oversaw the building of well-known Las Vegas casinos including The Mirage, Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas, and several Caesars Palace expansion projects.

A registered architect in 31 states and the District of Columbia, Marnell is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and is an honorary member of the AIA. He’s also a member of the USC School of Architecture’s Board of Councilors.

His gift is part of the Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multiyear effort to secure $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand the university’s positive impact on the community and world. The School of Architecture has a goal of $75 million as part of the campaign.

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