Gift from SHoP architects will help bring greater diversity to the field of architecture

Started January 2015, ArcPrep is a one semester college-level architecture course curriculum for Detroit high school students on architecture, urbanism, and design-related fields. Credit: Taubman College

New York-based SHoP Architects has committed a generous lead gift to the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning to bring a greater diversity of talent into the field of architecture.

SHoP Architects has made a name for itself for large-scale projects that transform neighborhoods. Named in 2014 by Fast Company magazine as the “Most Innovative Architecture Firm in the World,” the firm also embraces the importance of transforming the profession, starting with access to education necessary to succeed in practice.

“By investing in education, we aim to evolve the profession of architecture, and our firm, to better reflect the world around us,” said Gregg Pasquarelli, one of four founding principals of SHoP Architects. “We recognize that any attempt to do so starts with introducing young talent to the discipline through programs such as Taubman College’s Michigan Architecture Prep program.”

Since its founding in 1996, SHoP Architects has intentionally challenged long-held conventions within the architecture community by considering how the profession could and should change. This predilection for changing perceptions and solving problems aligns with Taubman College’s goal to do the same as a leader in education in architecture and urban and regional planning.

“We are pleased to partner with SHoP Architects in our pursuit of equity innovation: academic innovation that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion by making education more accessible to a broader range of learners,” said Jonathan Massey, dean of Taubman College. “Their support will help create a ladder of opportunities to invite a diversity of talent into the study and practice of architecture.”

Over five years, the college will use the gift to integrate and strengthen mentoring and professional development programs for students from underrepresented backgrounds to learn about, engage with, join, and transform architecture and related fields.

Studies by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards show that the discipline of architecture is marked by gaps in participation and advancement by gender and ethnicity, leading to a profession with pronounced disparities. These disparities begin at many accredited U.S. architecture programs where the student body often skews toward white, male, and able-bodied people from affluent families.

“Taubman College enriches architectural education and practice by expanding access and improving the value proposition for underrepresented individuals,” said Massey. “One of the ways we make progress toward this goal is through pathways and mentoring programs at every stage, from high school through entry into the profession and beyond.”

Taubman College students are leading the way in expanding opportunities by calling upon leadership to establish more extensive job, internship, and mentorship resources that provide improved access to career opportunities, especially for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and undocumented students, in their formal education and post-graduation.

A portion of the SHoP Architects gift will support the development of online teaching materials for Michigan Architecture Prep (ArcPrep), Taubman College’s semester-long program that introduces juniors in the Detroit Public Schools to  architecture and urbanisms. This will allow Taubman College to transition elements of this successful program into a scalable format adapted to online and hybrid educational delivery, thereby making the experience accessible to more students during the immediate needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

“Michigan ArcPrep was the first program at the national level to offer a fully embedded, tuition-free, for-credit studio experience to public school students. At this critical inflection point, where the challenges of distance learning have ushered in new opportunities for growth and advancement, this gift will help us extend the impact of our goals,” said Anya Sirota, associate professor of architecture and associate dean for academic initiatives at Taubman College.

The gift also will support efforts to create a continuum of engagement by connecting ArcPrep with ArcStart, Taubman College’s three-week on-campus summer program for high school students. By supporting ArcStart enrollment for some ArcPrep graduates, more students will experience firsthand how a design education prepares them to engage the world around them and continue their exploration of architecture and the built environment.

Additionally, the gift will enable Taubman College to work with its chapter of NOMAS(National Organization of Minority Architecture Students) and other student groups to expand peer mentoring activities connecting and supporting alumni, graduate students, undergraduates, and high school students, as well as to expand career opportunities via workshops, externships, and internships.

“Our fervent hope is that this gift and our partnership with Taubman College will motivate others to join us in making a difference for many young students and our profession as a whole,” said Pasquarelli. “Imagine the impact we can have if we all join together.”

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