A show now up at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery gathers the work of over 40 architects who have considered what architecture could look like in a future world where the built environment is no longer centered around humanity. In a statement, the show's organizers referred to this new era as the Anthropocene, when "humans have been fundamentally displaced from a place of privilege, philosophically as well as experientially, and Western civilization’s traditional distinctions between nature and culture have eroded." The show asks, "What new worlds, and what new concepts of nature and culture can art and design reveal that other modes of inquiry and knowledge cannot?" Ambiguous Territory: Architecture, Landscape, and the Postnatural, which opened last December and will be on view through February 7 was curated by Cathryn Dwyre, adjunct associate professor at Pratt Institute and principal of pneumastudio, Chris Perry, associate professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and principal of pneumastudio, David Salomon, assistant professor at Ithaca College, and Kathy Velikov, associate professor at the University of Michigan and principal of RVTR. The show was organized by the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan. Exhibitors include Ellie Abrons, Paula Gaetano Adi & Gustavo Crembil, amid.cero9, Amy Balkin, Philip Beesley, Ursula Biemann, The Bittertang Farm, Edward Burtynsky, Bradley Cantrell, Brian Davis, Design Earth, Mark Dion, Lindsey french, Formlessfinder, Adam Fure, Future Cities Lab, Michael Geffel, Geoarchitecture @ Westminster, Geofutures @ Rensselaer Architecture, Harrison Atelier, Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, Lisa Hirmer, Lydia Kallipoliti & Andreas Theodoridis, Perry Kulper, Sean Lally, Landing Studio, Lateral Office & LCLA, LiquidFactory, Meredith Miller & Thom Moran, NaJa & deOstos, NEMESTUDIO, Mark Nystrom, Office for Political Innovation, OMG, The Open Workshop, pneumastudio, Rachele Riley, Alexander Robinson, RVTR, Smout Allen, smudge studio, Neil Spiller, Terreform ONE, Unknown Fields, and Marina Zurkow.
Posts tagged with "University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning":
This article is the fourth in a series that originally appeared in AN's July/August 2018 issue which focuses exclusively on Texas and was guest edited by AGENCY. The rest of the essays will be released in the coming days and examine architecture and practice across the southern border of the United States. In the border metropolis of El Paso-Ciudad Juárez, the power relations of international negotiation are not only performed through the apparatus of control over the movement of bodies, but are also embodied in a concrete architecture that exposes the calculus of separation and asymmetrical infrastructural development between the two countries. In the borderland, the control of water—as territory, commodity, and reproductive agent—produces its physical spaces. While the shared waters of the river and the underground aquifers contribute to the reproductive capacity of land within the desert climate, the infrastructures of water supply and sanitation are material evidence of the socio-spatial injustices and imbalances that structure and reproduce social relations within the border cities. Negotiation The geopolitical history of the river as a border and of the partitioning of its waters is inscribed within the built environment as a thick constructed zone. The international border between the United States and Mexico was defined by the 1848 and 1884 Treaties, which delineated that the border follow the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo del Norte) from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico. This rendered the border an unstable condition, as its line needed to be redefined by the International Boundary Commission each time floods caused the river to relocate. A treaty in 1933 attempted to “fix” the river by engineering it into a constructed channel. However, this location left several hundred acres of disputed Mexican territory to the north of the river—the result of a violent change in course in 1864. The 1963 Chamizal Agreement relocated the river and the international boundary once again, moving the Rio Grande back to its 1852 survey location. In this highly publicized moment of international diplomacy, the disputed land was “returned” to Mexico, and a new channel was constructed to reroute the Rio Grande north so that both river and international border aligned. The division between the two countries was now emphasized, further asserted by the open lands of the former riverbed on the Juárez side and a new elevated border highway on the U.S. side of the channel. Management The colonization of the U.S. would not have been possible without the massive campaign of dam projects in the early 20th century that commodified the waters of the West and irrigated the farms and settlements of homesteaders. Four dams manage and distribute the Rio Grande waters in the El Paso-Juárez region: Elephant Butte, Caballo, American Diversion, and the International Diversion Dam. Water is distributed according to the 1944 Water Treaty, drawn up when the population of Juárez was less than one-tenth its current size. In 1965, the binational Border Industrialization Program enabled maquiladoras, foreign-owned manufacturing plants, to be located within Mexico’s border zones, and to move materials and products with reduced tariffs and trade barriers. This propelled an influx of new residents who arrived to work in the Juárez border zone maquilas. The treaty, which retains the majority of the river water in the U.S., has not been revised since and contains no provisions for sharing the rapidly depleting Mesilla and Hueco Bolson aquifer waters, which traverse the binational region underground. The division of the river water produces politically charged urban spaces. The U.S. Franklin Canal materializes as a physical barrier within the U.S. border zone, flowing deeply and rapidly in a concrete channel alongside the Rio Grande. In Juárez, the diverted water flows along the Acequia Madre, which takes a diagonal course, traversing some of the city’s main public spaces. This once green irrigation channel and common space is now largely neglected and has deteriorated into a toxic line of sewage and trash. Biopolitics Water is not only scarce in the desert city of Juárez—it is also dangerous. The paper worlds of politics materialize as realities on the ground and in the tissues of bodies. Due to the explosive population growth of Juárez, large portions of the city have been rapidly and often informally constructed, typically without proper municipal sewage or drinking water services. The residents of these informal settlements, known as colonias, rely primarily on truck-supplied water, which has a much higher likelihood of being contaminated and results in high rates of water-borne diseases. Only about a third of the city’s sewage is actually treated. Some colonias have additionally encroached on the city’s drainage gullies and arroyos, putting residents at further risk during flash flood events. In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly “explicitly recognized the right to clean drinking water and sanitation as essential to the realization of all human rights.” If this mandate is taken seriously by the binational region of El Paso-Ciudad Juárez, new treaties and agreements will need to be negotiated that address not only the scarcity and distribution of its shared waters, but also the shared responsibility of water rights to citizens on both sides of the border. What remains to be seen is not only what shape these take in terms of political agreements, but also how they will reshape the physical urban spaces of the paired cities.
ACADIA, or the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, established the ACADIA Awards of Excellence to recognize outstanding individuals and practices that think critically about the impact and possibilities of computer-aided design. This year, the ACADIA Awards recipients, including Mónica Ponce de León and Oyler Wu Collaborative, will present their work at the conference titled Recalibration: On Imprecision and Infidelity at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City from October 18–20. Dean of Princeton University School of Architecture Mónica Ponce de León won the Teaching Award of Excellence. Ponce de León is a Venezuelan-American architect who is also a renowned educator. She is the founding principal of MPdL Studio, which has officesin New York, Boston, and Ann Arbor. Prior to her deanship at Princeton, she was dean of University of Michigan’s Taubman College and a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). The awards committee commended her for the “integration of digital technologies into architectural education.” Jenny Wu and Dwayne Oyler, partners at Oyler Wu Collaborative, were awarded with the Digital Practice Award of Excellence. The L.A.-based, award-winning firm is widely recognized for its expertise in material research and digital fabrication. The firm is known for projects such as The Exchange in Columbus, IN, the 2013 Beijing Biennale installation named The Cube, and their installations and pavilions with SCI-Arc. The partners are both currently teaching at SCI-Arc and Harvard GSD. Other awards included the Innovative Academic Program Award of Excellence, given to the Institute of Advanced Architecture Catalonia; the Innovative Research Award of Excellence bestowed upon NVIDIA robotics researcher Dr. Madeline Gannon; and the Society Award of Excellence won by Association for Robots in Architecture co-founders Sigrid Brell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann. Check out the complete list of winners here.
Wrangling with the issues of pollution and industrial waste, Ann Arbor, Michigan–based collective T+E+A+M is pushing forward with innovative approaches to appropriating and reinterpreting the industrial relics of America’s Rust Belt. T+E+A+M draws upon the postindustrial landscape—often Detroit—as a source of inspiration, places where disused materials are salvaged, recast, and used as architectural tools and standalone structures. Based out of the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, T+E+A+M is a collaboration between architects Thom Moran, Ellie Abrons, Adam Fure, and Meredith Miller. Miller and Moran are developing an innovative construction material they call “Post Rock.” Post Rock is a lab-made re-creation of the naturally occurring plastiglomerate—a relatively new geological substance composed of discarded plastic, sedimentary granules, and other debris. The team simulates this process and speculates how to build architectural forms from the agglomerated matter. The inherent durability of petrochemical polymers and sedimentary products strengthens the case for their use in construction. Post Rock consists of a mix of polymer and inorganic sources. The recycled product is formed either "in situ" where the materials are stacked and thermocast, or as “clastic,” which derives its cylindrical shape from rotational thermoforming conducted in the lab. Through three speculative design projects envisioned with digital rendering, Miller and Moran have upscaled their Post Rock prototypes into architectural works. Three categories—Urban Beach, Agribusiness, and Suburban Domestic—are composed of three distinct mixes of polymers and inorganic sources. Unveiled at the 2017 Designing Material Innovation Exhibition at California College of the Arts, the Clastic Order is a “new architectural order” fabricated from stacked and thermocast Post Rock. By casting the recycled material to create monolithic columns, T+E+A+M utilizes a process similar to a slipforming technique that entails the constant pouring of materials, creating new layers of structure. T+E+A+M described this casting process as one “based on material behavior under heat and gravity,” allowing for each monolith to possess multiple physical characteristics reflecting the ratios of components, colors, and textures found in each cast. The utility of the Clastic Order as a construction technology is yet to be fully tested. However, Moran hopes that it could be strengthened to fully merge the compositional with the decorative and structural in the spirit of the Roman arch. He views their approach as a radical solution that envisions remanufactured waste products as a tappable and nearly unlimited resource of “building material similar to iron and concrete.” T+E+A+M has ongoing projects, such as Clastic Order, that demonstrate promising decorative and structural uses of these refashioned industrial leftovers. They are currently researching the potential scaling-up of their techniques, and the development of a patent covering the use of their plastic-based materials as a form of facade and interior cladding. Moran acknowledged that while these approaches are wholly plausible, they will require testing and research.
Professor June Manning Thomas will give a lecture, Critical Needs In Planning the 'Good City,' in honor of her recognition as the Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University Professor of Urban Planning. A reception will follow in the Rackham Building Assembly Hall. Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University Professor of Urban Planning Centennial Professor of Urban and Regional Planning June Manning Thomas will give the Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University of Michigan Professor of Urban Planning Lecture at Taubman College. As one of nine faculty members university-wide to receive this top faculty honor this year, Thomas is also the first faculty member at Taubman College to receive this prestigious designation. Thomas is a pre-eminent scholar on how racial inequality and disunity have affected the planning, evolution, and redevelopment of cities and their neighborhoods. Her work focuses on economically distressed central cities, addressing issues of planning theory and socialjustice. Her co-edited book Urban Planning and the African American Community: In the Shadows is a path-breaking exploration of key connections between racial injustice and urban planning. Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit won the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning’s Paul Davidoff Award for urban planning books published in in the area of social justice. She has written or co-edited three additional books related to race and poverty in Detroit and in other depopulated cities in the Midwest as well as dozens of book chapters and articles in scholarly journals. She also has written policy reports for the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan. Her recent research explores community development in Detroit and the 1960s civil rights movement in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where she helped integrate the local high school. Her research has been widely recognized by numerous academic awards including her election as a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. She is a prominent and highly effective national advocate for diversity and inclusion of under-represented faculty and students in urban planning academic programs. In 2013 she was named president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, where she encouraged greater racial diversity in the nation’s urban planning schools.
2018 is shaping up to be a solid year for striking and thought-provoking architecture exhibits. From Yugoslavian architecture to California design, here are ten shows not to miss: The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion: New York Edition Center for Architecture 536 LaGuardia Place Through March 31 Curated and designed by Interboro Partners, The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion: New York Edition presents 156 “weapons” used by political groups, developers, and community organizations to restrict or increase access to urban space. Inside the Walls: Architects Design Friedman Benda 515 West 26th Street Through February 17 This January, Friedman Benda gallery presents its annual guest-curated exhibition Inside the Walls: Architects Design, a survey spanning over a century that will encompass a broad range of architects from across the globe. The exhibit will feature the works of such architects as Philip Johnson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Luis Barragán, through the mediums of archival photographs and historical ephemera. Mark McDonald, a pre-eminent dealer of 20th-century modernist design, curated the sweeping exhibition. Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation 1172 Amsterdam Avenue March 30, 1:00 p.m. The opening of Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient includes a half-day conference with speakers such as Adrienne Hart, Steven Holl, Momoyo Homma, Lucy Ives, Andrés Jaque, Thomas Kelley, Leopold Lambert, Carrie Norman, Spyros Papetros, Irene Sunwoo, and Miwako Tezuka. The exhibit features the work of the former artistic and architectural partnership between Madeline Arakawa Gins and Shusaku Arakawa. Copy + Paste: Hall of Architecture Carnegie Museum of Art 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh Through May 6 The Carnegie Museum of Art's Hall of Architecture possesses almost 150 facades, monuments, and architectural details sourced from across the world, which are predominantly cast and assembled in plaster. Copy + Paste explores this tradition of recreation through the investigation of augmented reality, 3-D printing, and potential robotic applications in the art of replication. The Open Workshop: New Investigations in Collective Form Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 701 Mission Street, San Francisco March 9–July 15 Based in the Bay Area, The Open Workshop is an interdisciplinary design workshop focusing on urbanism, politics, and infrastructure. Featured as part of the Center’s The City Initiative, the group looks to create provocative and daring works within the urban environment. The Open Workshop founder Neeraj Bhatia is an architect and urban designer from Toronto and an assistant professor of architecture at the California College of the Arts. Designed in California San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 151 3rd Street, San Francisco Through May 27 Over the 20th century, California emerged as leader in design in both the United States and the world. Designed in California focuses on the output of design addressing socioeconomic and environmental awareness. The exhibit also examines the role of the digital revolution and the transformation of the consumer to digital user, one connected by the Internet of Things. Drawing Codes: Experimental Protocols of Architectural Representation University of Michigan Taubman College 2000 Bonisteel Boulevard, Ann Arbor, Michigan March 7–March 28 The use of innovative technologies in the realms of design and production has opened new avenues for architectural drawing and rendering. Through the use of 24 experimental drawings, Drawing Codes: Experimental Protocols of Architectural Representation examines the engagement between architectural drawing and design within the constraints of coding, be it zoning ordinances or technological scripts. The intended goal of the exhibit is to display the many approaches available for designers when confronted with a diversity of rules and restraints. Then, Now, Next: Evolution of an Architectural Icon Denver Art Museum 100 W 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver Through February 25 Architect Gio Ponti designed the Denver Art Museum and this exhibit traces the history of Ponti’s work featuring his historical photos, original architectural sketches, building models, and project renderings to tell the story of the North Building’s evolution. Not to Scale: Highlights from the Fly’s Eye Dome Archive Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas Through March 28 This exhibit features drawings, models, and concept sketches from the architect Buckminister Fuller during his work on the project Fly’s Eye Dome. Not to Scale: Highlights from the Fly’s Eye Dome Archive illuminates the work of Fuller and his collaborators, engineer John Warren and architect Norman Foster. Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980 The Museum of Modern Art 11 W 53rd Street October 10, 2018–January 13, 2019 This exhibit will feature more than 400 drawings, photographs, models, and film reels from across the former Yugoslavia, depicting the unique Brutalist style that developed in that sprawling Balkan state. Toward a Concrete Utopia will be the first exhibit of its kind to focus on Brutalism across the Balkan peninsula.
Ambiguous Territory: Architecture, Landscape, and the Postnatural posits that ambiguity, rather than certainty, is what drives intellectual and aesthetic inquiry. The exhibition, which was first shown at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, takes on the question of complex contemporary environmental and humanitarian issues, and the role that architects, landscape architects, and artists play in addressing them. Organized and curated by Kathy Velikov, Chris Perry, Cathryn Dwyre, and David Salomon, the show originally ran in September and October, but will also be on display in New York in the coming year. Divided into three categories, Ambiguous Territory brings together an exhaustive list of over 40 young practices working along the blurry edges of the architecture field. The categories include “I. Above: The Atmospheric,” “II. On: The Biologic,” and “III. Below: The Geologic.” In each case, contributors were asked to show work that specifically engaged with the "post-natural era." This includes addressing climate change, concepts of the Anthropocene, and artificial and altered ecologies. As the show’s title hints, these categories are understood in decidedly ambiguous terms. The work in each engages with much more than the physical or scientific connotations implied by the category titles and many projects span multiple, if not all the groupings. This intermixing of ideas is at the core of the show, which hopes to engage with the contemporary sensibility of bringing together "unlike things into singular forms or images." As such, visitors to the show will find everything from remote sensors, robots, and satellite imagery, to plant languages, rock piles and point clouds. Considering the wide range of often invisible, and sometimes ephemeral, forces and concepts, contributions to the show dabble in an equally wide range of representational and annotative techniques. In many cases, drawings and image-making techniques are borrowed from a number of fields and pushed beyond their conventions to visualize concepts that are often hardly visible. The three-dimensional objects in the show take a similar approach to fabrication, producing a number of uncanny, if not unsettling forms which defy typical descriptions. In the “Above” category the work of contributors such as Sean Lally, Mark Nystrom, and Lateral Office & LCLA, looks at the movement and capturing of atmospheric conditions, such as wind and heat, are address. Other offices, such as NaJa & deOstos and Kallipoliti & Theodoridis, look more directly at the impact and possibilities of architecture and its relationship with the atmosphere. Offices working in the “On” category explore biological conditions that are either affected by or which affect humans. Works by firms such as The Bittertang Farm, Future Cities Lab, and pneumastudio each provide spatial constructs for species, living or extinct, other than humans. On the other hand, Terreform ONE’s In Vitro Meat Habitat and Office for Political Innovation’s Landscape Condenser mediate the relationship of humans to constructed biological systems. The “Below” category is filled with practices exploring the more substantial aspects of the show through material and geology. Firms Smout Allen, The Open Workshop, and Design Earth each look to the future of the subterranean, while Formlessfinder, Lisa Hirmer, and Alexander Robinson examine physical material properties through crushing, piling, and vibrating. The first showing of Ambiguous Territory was accompanied by a symposium, which included discussions by many of the show's participants as well as keynote addresses by Liam Young and David Gissen. While the show closed in Michigan in October, it will be remounted at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York, from December 2018 through January 2019.
This semester, architecture and urban planning students at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan are in for a rare treat, a new school wing. The school has added 36,000 square feet with the completion of the A. Alfred Taubman Wing. In addition, the older building was renovated and reconfigured as part of a $28.5-million project. The new wing was designed by Cambridge-based Preston Scott Cohen, with Troy, Michigan-based Integrated Design Solutions (IDS) as architect of record. Rather than just adding more space, the expansive wing is designed to transform the relationship between students and faculty in the school. With a focus on communal and collaborative spaces, the design is meant to account for changes in architecture pedagogy. While studio spaces still account for much of the active space in the building, large gathering spaces have become the heart of the school. The most notable of such spaces is a 5,700-square-foot double-height commons. Wrapped in ramps which service new faculty offices, the commons is designed to be a place where all of the school’s community can meet. Large enough for major events and installations, the space will be where end-of-year final reviews will take place, and faculty and students can display large-scale works. “More than anything, we were looking for new models of collaboration,” Preston Scott Cohen explained to AN. “The donor, Alfred Taubman, had envisioned that we should completely change the relationship between students and faculty in the building. We have demolished the old faculty wing, and the new configuration of offices is that they are strung along the perimeter of the studios. Now the faculty doors open directly into the studios.” This change, along with the movement of staff offices to look out directly into studio spaces, is designed to facilitate more connection between students and faculty. Classroom and studio space has also been expanded. Over 5,000 square feet of new studio means an additional 20 percent space per student, and a new 2,400-square-foot state-of-the-art classroom can handle large classes that may require unconventional workspace organization. Eight smaller “capstone” and group study rooms also increase flexibility, and provide dedicated space for the school’s journals, Dimensions and Agora. A new student lounge and a reading room also provides space for students to step away from their desks, to work in a less formal setting or to take a moment to relax. The exterior of the building is defined by its large saw-tooth roof line, which hearkens back to the region's industrial past, while bringing soft reflected light into the studio spaces. At the ground floor, the building is held off the ground, creating yet another space to make and gather. A bike parking lot underneath the building also helps connect students to the rest of the sprawling campus. The school’s new dean Jonathan Massey discussed his hopes for the future of the school and architectural education as a whole with AN. “I think that architecture education is ripe for re-imagination. With a college of this scale, with this robust of a community, I hope that Taubman can become a convener of ideas in things like gender equity and inequities in practice and conversations about the way we work. We can prototype and test new approaches to architectural education that can be more equitably accessible to people, regardless of gender or cultural background. There are all kinds of ways this space we are sharing together will help open up architecture learning and practice to more people.”
Jonathan Massey, dean of architecture and professor at California College of the Arts, has been named the next dean of the University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. He will follow Dean Monica Ponce de Leon, who is now the architecture dean at Princeton, and Robert Fishman, professor of architecture and urban planning, who has been serving as interim dean. "Taubman College has excelled by taking Detroit, the Great Lakes region and other sites around the globe as frameworks for research on the challenges and opportunities posed by processes of modernization," Massey said. "I am excited to work with U-M students, faculty and staff to generate architecture and planning strategies that expand economic opportunity, increase equitable access to resources, design better health and create the operating system for smart cities." Massey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, from Princeton University. He earned a Master of Architecture degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a doctoral degree in history and theory of architecture from Princeton. Massey has worked for architecture firms including Frank O. Gehry and Associates and has taught at Barnard College, Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute, and Syracuse University, where he served as chair of the Bachelor of Architecture program from 2011-2014. He is the author of the book, "Crystal and Arabesque: Claude Bragdon, Ornament, and Modern Architecture," and in 2006, Massey co-founded the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative, "a team of scholars focused on how buildings shape processes of political, economic and social transformation." He also edits The Aggregate Website.
Milton S. F. Curry, associate dean at Taubman College, on race, class, public education, and the future of architecture
The following letter was sent to The Architect’s Newspaper in response to the current debate, at local and national levels, about public education, in and out of the field of architecture. The author, Milton S. F. Curry, is the Associate Dean at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the Director of Michigan Architecture Prep. ARCHITECTURE AND PUBLIC EDUCATION: CULTIVATING CREATIVE POTENTIAL In University of Michigan President James B. Angell’s Commencement Address on June 26, 1879, he stated “The most democratic atmosphere in the world is that of the college. There all meet on absolutely equal terms. Nowhere else do accidents of birth or condition count for so little.” Ezra Cornell stated in his address at the opening of Cornell University on October 7, 1868, “I hope that we have laid the foundation of an institution which shall combine practical with liberal education, which shall fit the youth of our country for the professions, the farms, the mines, the manufactories, for the investigations of science, and for mastering all the practical questions of life with success and honor.... I trust we have laid the foundation of [a] university—‘an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.’” These words are not merely rhetorical flourishes, they are ideological imperatives that buttress some of our superb world-class public and private universities and institutions and by extension our collective belief in an egalitarian system of public education that educates all, no matter what one’s lot in life. The Michigan Architecture Preparatory Program—an architecture enrichment program based in Detroit and supported by the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning—leverages the institution’s public ethos by engaging high school juniors in a studio-based architecture and college preparatory academic program. The program—one of the few of its kind to commit to a half-day full semester program with high school students—is an exemplar in leveraging university-level thinking towards enriching the secondary education of students in a large urban public school district. The field of architecture is expected to grow by 17 percent between now and 2022 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Yet as of 2008, only 1.5 percent of American architects were African-American, despite comprising 12 to 13 percent of the total U.S. population. This fact alone—virtually unchanged since I was a junior in high school, accounting for population growth and demographic growth among minority populations since the 1960s—should precipitate crisis-level response from our educational and professional institutions and accrediting bodies. But it hasn’t. Attracting diverse students, retaining them and supporting their academic success and professional development is challenging in architecture for several reasons: 1) unique residential segregation by class and race in the U.S. which leads to sizable gaps in academic achievement by twelfth grade—evidence shows that residential segregation and segregation in the nation’s public school system has gotten worse since the 1970s when desegregation plans were enforced by state and federal offices for civil rights; 2) lack of sufficient cultivation of “successful mindsets” among underrepresented minorities and marginalized populations and groups, 3) lack of “critical mass” of underrepresented minorities and other marginalized groups—making it more difficult to develop a sense of well-being and belonging, and 4) the focus on “identifying talent” versus “cultivating potential” in trying to articulate and sell the value of an architecture education to minorities and marginalized populations. The discipline of architecture alone cannot alter the systemic and exclusionary forces that have resulted in the current situation in which architecture students, and top-tier university students as a whole, are much wealthier and more ethnically and racially homogeneous than the population at large. Yet precisely because of our legacy of studio-based educational pedagogy and the capacious way in which architects can receive a broad liberal arts education while simultaneously becoming experts in visual and spatial aspects of conceptualizing and making physical and virtual objects at all scales, we are uniquely qualified to make substantive interventions in the public education landscape at this moment in American history. Detroit students, like so many students in large urban school districts, need more opportunities to expand their creative horizons beyond the traditional classroom. At a time when the twin forces of efficiency and technocracy translate into more mechanized test-taking and quantitative metrics of evaluation, an architectural way of thinking and making can unleash creative potential in students who have been all but written off because their way of learning and their cultural forms of expression and knowledge exchange do not comport to middle-class values and norms. Our democracy depends upon quality public educational institutions to educate the country’s diverse population. Privatization and defunding of public education strike at the heart of our social compact and our racial history as a nation. Our current political debates about the growth of charter schools and voucher schemes and the privatization of public schools as alternatives to underperforming public schools must be subjected to fact-based analysis. As U. S. Senator Elizabeth Warren stated in her January 9, 2017, letter to U. S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, “Today’s voucher schemes can be just as harmful to public school district budgets, because they often leave school districts with less funding to teach the most disadvantaged.” With just 58 percent third-grade reading proficiency in Detroit Public Schools, as reported by the Detroit Chamber of Commerce State of the Region Report 2016-17, clearly there is a necessity to improve performance in Detroit and other urban school districts. But this urgency need not result in opportunistic formulations that lead to random shuttering of neighborhood schools or a turn to online education as a panacea for the problem of effective knowledge exchange in K-12 education. The collective energy and monies spent trying to influence politicians and create a parallel system of unregulated publicly-funded private charter schools would be better spent facilitating smaller classrooms, empowering quality teachers to teach meaningful content as opposed to ‘teaching to the test,’ and paying teachers for the value that they are expected to provide. Individual and collective identities—understood in the context of historical legacies of exclusion and marginalization—are directly connected to life outcomes. Detroit students, like so many students in large urban school districts, need more opportunities to expand their creative horizons beyond the traditional classroom. Without a critical mass of representation from women, Black Americans, Latinos and Hispanics, and others who have been systematically underrepresented in the discipline of architecture, the discipline will continue to underserve not only the communities from which these persons emanate, but the entire polity. The context for the production of art and architecture today is shifting—because people want to understand themselves as not only having a stake in the cities they live in—and they want to be involved in how they are designed and developed. I anticipate a new generational critique of the exclusion of our disciplines to underrepresented minorities and lower-class citizens globally; and a renewed sense of participation in thinking anew about the very institutional structures that enforce elitism and exclusion. Detroit Public Schools Community District students who participate in the Michigan Architecture Preparatory Program—unlike the caricatures of them that get publicized in the media—are motivated to learn and eager to be intellectually challenged. I have witnessed this with my own eyes. They—many of the over 130 students who have matriculated through our program—are better equipped to succeed in college and better prepared for the cultural shift from an urban high school to a top-tier public or private university. How do I know? I know this because we have students who have matriculated through the program who are now enrolled at the University of Michigan, Lawrence Technical University, Michigan State University and other institutions, and they tell us that our program helped propel them to grow their mindsets and to more quickly assess the own “knowledge landscape” for gaps and to correct for those gaps quickly and proactively. Project-based learning coupled with focused basic proficiencies can more quickly propel motivated and unmotivated students to aspire to their own academic achievement—this is what we have found in our five semesters of operating the Michigan Architecture Preparatory Program. Smaller class size, intense student-teacher interaction, and iterative-based design projects that incorporate applied geometry and visual arts are the core of our program. Their design projects are infused with lesson plans on social movements and the relationships between the visual histories of social movements and the space of the city—the integration of humanistic thought, social issues of concern to them and their families, and the study of architecture. Our relative success suggests that these pedagogical innovations can and do work, and that those of us in higher education can learn from them as well as apply many of these design-centered pedagogical approaches into the university context —in architecture and design-related fields but also in the humanities, social sciences, and engineering. Students in our program are not acutely aware of the history of race and class that pervades the city of Detroit. They are not consumed by the massive loss of jobs, the rampant corruption at the hands of countless emergency managers for their school district and for the City of Detroit. They are interested in seeing—that is, believing in—a vision of the future for themselves that is possible and achievable. They are less interested in platitudes like ‘individual responsibility’ or ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstaps’ than in personal narratives of persons like them who have started their own business or charted a nonlinear path from high school to a seat in an architecture firm doing what they love and what they are passionate about. As Marshall Brown stated in our Fall 2016 Graduation Ceremony, “Architecture can take you places—geographically, mentally, and intellectually.” When I was the age of our students—a high school student growing up in Central California to upper middle class parents, yet living among working class Black Californians, and being bused to predominantly white public schools during the heyday of school desegregation—I valued diversity even though it meant enduring psychological trauma at the hands of racist teachers. The wager that was available for me, my parents, and so many of my contemporaries was to seize the high level of intellectual content accompanied by abject racism or settle for low-quality educational options with a homogeneous Black community (largely poor and working class). With Black wealth at fractional percentages of white wealth, the Black middle-class today, 2017, is relegated to the many of the same schools and school districts as their working class and poor counterparts. Because of my background of inhabiting several worlds simultaneously, I celebrate cross-class and interracial learning environments as some of the most stimulating forums of cross-cultural knowledge exchange and one in which the research has shown are best at producing a leveling of the playing field in terms of matching Black and Latino academic achievement with their white counterparts. The methodology of public education—one that used to be focused on high-performance and outcomes that provide a pathway to college—has shifted to become more focused on accepting society’s conception of poor and working class and minority students as irreparably damaged by their station in life and their own bad luck. What flows from these conceptions are a tamping down of expectations and a “settler” mentality that these students should be educated, but the threshold of education that they deserve is related to the individual choices that their parents made and on the available resources that society is willing to part with to help them along. This is not helped by an accelerated white flight currently taking place whereby white families are fleeing schools with the largest minority student populations. To counter these efforts, universities must become more engaged in leveraging their resources and intellectual capital to create expanded opportunities for the nation’s most vulnerable children—those in high-poverty and monolithically minority-populated urban metro areas and those in rural areas. Based on our experience at the University of Michigan, this is the best way to extend our values and assist in what has to be a massive crisis-level response to the failure of our public educational system to live up to our aspirations as well as the historical success that was achieved in other periods of our history—when public schools were very good and when public university systems were recognized and funded as a public good. More information on the University of Michigan Michigan Architecture Preparatory Program can be found here.
The Architectural Imagination, the exhibition from the U.S. Pavilion of the 2016 Venice Biennale, is returning to the United States. Opening on February 11th at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the exhibition will bring the 12 proposed projects for Detroit back to their home city. Organized by the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and curated by Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon, the exhibition was first shown at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale. The show advocates for the power of architecture to construct culture and catalyze cities, with Detroit as the setting for a larger conversation about world cities. Projects in the show are presented through large models, drawings, and interactive virtual reality. The show includes work by; A(n) Office, Detroit, Michigan Marcelo López-Dinardi; V. Mitch McEwen BairBalliet, Columbus, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois Kelly Bair; Kristy Balliet Greg Lynn FORM, Los Angeles, California Greg Lynn Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, Atlanta, Georgia Mack Scogin; Merrill Elam Marshall Brown Projects, Chicago, Illinois Marshall Brown MOS Architects, New York, New York Hilary Sample; Michael Meredith Pita & Bloom, Los Angeles, California Florencia Pita; Jackilin Hah Bloom Present Future, Houston, Texas Albert Pope; Jesús Vassallo Preston Scott Cohen Inc., Boston, Massachusetts Preston Scott Cohen SAA/Stan Allen Architect, New York, New York Stan Allen T+E+A+M, Ann Arbor, Michigan Thom Moran; Ellie Abrons; Adam Fure; Meredith Miller Zago Architecture, Los Angeles, California Andrew Zago; Laura Bouwman The opening of the exhibition will include an introduction by Dean Robert Fishman of the Taubman College and a presentation by exhibition curators Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon. The exhibition will be on show from February 11th through April 16th, 2017, and will be free to the public at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit, Michigan.
Through February 20th, the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning is exhibiting the work of 1960s avant-garde architecture group Archigram. The show, organized by Archigram member Dennis Crompton, presents exhibition pieces, collages, drawings, and films from the group of six young architects. "In architecture, nothing ages so quickly as visions of the future. But somehow after more than a half-century, Archigram is still ahead of us—still amazing us with its explosive mixture of the carnival and the computer,” said Taubman College’s Interim Dean Robert Fishman. “One of the rare true collaborations in architecture, Archigram’s six founders deployed graphics borrowed from advertising and sci-fi comics to upset the solemnity of 1960s corporate modernism. They conceived the city as a basic power and transportation grid into which people 'plugged-in' a constantly-changing array of mass-produced modules. In this urbanism of constant flux, everyone is an architect." The exhibition fills the two-story space of the university’s Liberty Research Annex. Over-sized drawings backdrop framed original pieces, while large banners hang from the ceiling. Multiple projections play videos made by the group, and mannequins wear bright graphic clothes printed with the group's imagery. The gallery is located at 305 W. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, Michigan and is open to the public Thursday-Sunday, 3:00pm to 7:00pm. The show will be open through February 20th, 2017.