Boots-on-the-ground design with an impact

Source: Taubman College

A Taubman Public Design Corps team worked with Detroit’s Carr Center to develop an online platform featuring interactive galleries and a performance studio to showcase live and pre-recorded events.

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Taubman College

Last year Detroit resident Torri Smith, M.Arch ’21, saw first-hand how the coronavirus pandemic impacted vulnerable families and children. She wanted to find a way to use her architectural design skills to help those in need and to give back to her community.

Smith got that opportunity with the Taubman Public Design Corps, a new program that connects architecture and urban planning students with socially focused nonprofit organizations in southeast Michigan.

Over a six-week period in June and July, Design Corps student teams tackled pressing economic, environmental, social, and spatial challenges at six nonprofits.

Putting their design tools, analytical skills, and imaginations into action, the students created both onsite and virtual solutions. Their work included designing outdoor activity areas, virtual arts and culture spaces, food-distribution venues, and community-outreach platforms.

“The Design Corps really inspired and influenced me,” Smith says. “I had an opportunity to work with nonprofit leaders and community members, which is not something we usually get to do as students.”

Taubman College launched the Public Design Corps to fulfill students’ growing desire to perform pro bono work for organizations serving disadvantaged families and individuals in Metro Detroit. The initiative was met with enthusiasm by nonprofit leaders who often cannot afford professional architectural services.

“There are many ways architects and designers can shape and inflect the future of a community organization,” says Anya Sirota, associate dean for academic initiatives. “They can offer organizational or urban strategies as well as plans for the short- and long-term evolution of institutional infrastructure.”

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