With $1.3M, Taubman and LSA to fund research program on urban architecture

By Max Radwin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 3, 2014

The Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and LSA received a $1.3-million grant Monday from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The gift will fund architecture and humanities research on metropolitan issues in cities like Detroit, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro for the next four-and-half years.

The Mellon Foundation delivered the “Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities” grant to the University, which supports scholarship and higher education at the intersection of architecture and the humanities.

The grant will go toward a new program in Taubman called “Egalitarianism and the Contemporary Metropolis,” which Taubman Associate Dean Milton S.F. Curry said will better educate student architects as to making the projects they’re working on “more accessible, more palpable and more positive as an experience for a variety of people.”

The program will include a large lecture course open to undergraduate and graduate students on urbanism, urban issues and egalitarianism in architecture. It will also involve two small seminar courses focused on post-industrial cities experiencing a decline in population, as well as growing Latin and South American cities like Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro.

“Urban designers and architects are designing spaces and buildings in urban areas for a variety of people,” Curry said. “The challenge is how to deliver the work for that client but also to recognize that your building and your project sits within a larger context in which part of it will be seen, if not used, by the general public.”

The program will incorporate informal events where students and faculty will come together to discuss different topics covered in the classroom and their work. There will also be an annual symposium that will bring in faculty from the University and outside experts to talk about relevant topics.

If the program is successful, Curry said the college will seek “continuance funding” from the Mellon Foundation to continue its progress after its first four years.

“In my mind, by bringing together the depth of humanity of scholarship with a secular knowledge of design, the Mellon grant represents a major step forward in reframing how we think about urbanism,” said Monica Ponce de Leon, architecture professor and Dean of the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

The University will showcase exhibitions featuring the work of architectural designers and students studying the humanities on campus and in the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

The program will also offer four four-year postgraduate fellowships. Two candidates will be selected to teach in a new architecture preparation course for high school students in Detroit, and two others will teach the large lecture course offered through the new grant program.

At the end of the four-and-a-half years, a large book will be produced featuring the work of people who have participated in the program, along with other scholars and designers from outside of the program.

Correction appended: A previous version of this article did not say the money is a joint initiative with LSA as well. The previous version also did not list Monica Ponce de Leon as the Dean of the A Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.