May 26, 2021

Biden Just Purged 4 On The Arts Panel That Advises Congress On Public Architecture

By Elizabeth Blair | NPR

President Biden announced his intention Tuesday afternoon to appoint four new members to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the body that oversees design and architecture of federal buildings in Washington, D.C. Their positions are appointed by the president and do not need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The four intended appointees are meant to replace four commissioners who had been installed by former President Donald Trump, some of whom helped to shape a controversial executive order intended to promote neoclassical architecture as the official style for federal buildings in Washington and at new federal courthouses elsewhere.

A White House official told NPR: “President Biden is proud to nominate this extremely qualified and well-respected group of professionals to the Commission on Fine Arts. They will bring to the commission a diversity of background and experience, as well as a range of aesthetic viewpoints.”

The four are Peter Cook, a principal at HGA Architects whose past projects include the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture; Hazel Ruth Edwards, a professor and chair of Howard University’s Department of Architecture; Justin Garrett Moore, the inaugural program officer of the Humanities in Place program at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and Billie Tsiena partner at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, whose firm designed the Barack Obama Presidential Center.

On Twitter in December, Moore quoted a Bloomberg article that noted of Trump’s choices: “All seven members of the Commission on Fine Arts are now white men…. Trump’s fully staffed commission is the first to include only men since 1963 and the first all-white one in a decade.”

The current chair of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts says he and three other commissioners were asked to resign or be fired by the Biden administration.

Justin Shubow, the commission chair and a fierce advocate of classical architecture, provided NPR with a copy of a letter he received from Catherine Russell, director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, requesting his resignation. The letter, dated May 24, says, “Should we not receive your resignation, your position with the Commission will be terminated effective 6:00 pm tonight.”

Shubow, appointed to chair the commission by Trump in 2018, declined the invitation to resign.

The commission is an independent federal agency that advises the president, Congress and the D.C. government “on matters of design and aesthetics.” It reviews designs “proposed for memorials, coins, medals, and new or renovated government buildings.”

Shubow’s response to the White House’s request to resign says, “As chairman of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, I was shocked and dismayed to learn that three of my fellow commissioners, along with myself, have been asked to resign or be terminated by the President. In the Commission’s 110-year history, no commissioner has ever been removed by a President, let alone the commission’s chairman. Any such removal would set a terrible precedent.”

When Trump appointed Shubow and the other commissioners to elevate a neoclassical style, many architects howled. Robert Ivy, CEO of the American Institute of Architects, told NPR, “In the 21st century, we’re very different people from the people who popularized Greek Revival architecture in the 19th century, as beautiful as it was,” he says. “To try to force-fit new systems in old forms is, in of itself difficult to do, inefficient, and is not who we are today.”

Biden revoked Trump’s executive order in February. Biden’s executive order also instructed the director of the Office of Management and Budget and any related departments and agencies to “promptly consider taking steps to rescind any orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies, or portions thereof” that would’ve implemented Trump’s actions. The president also called for the abolishment of any “personnel positions, committees, task forces, or other entities established” to fulfill Trump’s actions “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.”

One of the three commissioners asked to resign, landscape architect Perry Guillot, says he was “disappointed” to receive the letter but accepts the decision that his position has been terminated. He was appointed to the commission by Trump and began his term in January. He says he does not believe the push for classical architecture was behind the request, telling NPR, “My work is not informed by classical ideals or part of that vocabulary.”

Guillot says he believes the request is more about “the math.” He points out that Biden gets four new appointments to the commission, including the chair. “I wish President Biden and the serving commissioners the best moving forward,” he says.

At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, NPR’s Asma Khalid asked press secretary Jen Psaki whether it was out of the ordinary for a president to ask for the resignations of members of the U.S. Fine Arts Commission, as Shubow suggested. Psaki replied, “Certainly any president coming in has the right to nominate their own people to serve on a commission or serve in any positions in their own administration.”

Read the original article here.

Categories: Uncategorized  
May 17, 2021

20 in Their Twenties: Monique Becker, 27, Elyse Wolf, 27

Co-founders, Mona Lisa Development

By Kirk Pinho | Crain’s Detroit Business

They grew up together and went to college together. Now they live together and have a development, general contracting and consulting firm together.

Not much can separate Monique Becker and Elyse Wolf, who have been best friends since they were 4 years old. Even the name of their company, Detroit-based Mona Lisa Development, is a combination of their first names, a testament to their lifelong bond.

The two University of Michigan graduates have also accumulated a small portfolio of rental housing, eight units so far. Five are done and occupied, referred to as naturally occurring affordable housing, in the Virginia Park neighborhood, and three are under construction and expected to be completed in the coming months.

In the two or so years since starting the company and leaving their full-time jobs, Becker, who was born in Detroit, and Wolf have invested over $500,000 in the neighborhood.

“We really always have been kind of attached at the hip,” Becker said. “We always wanted to start a business together, but really didn’t know how that would manifest.”

By the time the pair moved to the city, they became interested in real estate development. Becker has spent time as a teacher as well as working for Detroit-based development firms The Platform LLC and Shelborne Development. Wolf was with Eastern Market Corp. and then Meridian Health Plan.

They have since shed those jobs, instead running Mona Lisa full time after Becker went through a Peter Allen real estate class at UM and Chase Cantrell’s Building Community Value development training program.

“Her term project was on the house we live in today,” Wolf said. “That was the first house that we bought. We were just renovating it and putting our salaries into the house, renovating after hours and on weekends, and then we bought our second house and did the same thing there. And it was after that second project where we said, ‘OK, I think we are really onto something. We are going to make that jump and pursue this business full time, or it’s never gonna be something that is going to amount to a full-scale business.’”

All that laid the foundation for a growing company, which grew its revenue by more than 250 percent between 2019 and 2020 and has hired a full-time employee and two part-time workers.

The two are also active in the community in which they live, advocating for a fresh approach to neighborhood development in Virginia Park, where New York-based developer Ron Castellano’s Herman Kiefer hospital complex and neighborhood improvement project has yet to materialize as promised.

“We really kind of started to organize the summer of 2020 around this kind of reckoning that this isn’t just an isolated issue or a neighborhood grievance against the developer,” Becker said. “This is a systemic problem where we’re seeing who’s given the opportunity to purchase land, who’s being given the green light in terms of having capacity to impact change in the neighborhoods, this difference between kind of one sole savior of a community who is very well resourced versus many different folks chipping away at one house or three houses or something like that at a time. It’s really a more grassroots way of approaching neighborhood development.”

Read the original article here.

Categories: Uncategorized  
April 14, 2021

Call for Teams: Designing for The Veterans Project at Sugar Hill

AIA Detroit, in collaboration local chapters of the Interior Designers Coalition for Change (IDCFC), the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), and American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and in partnership with Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), Develop Detroit, and Volunteers of America (VOA), is calling for teams that will employ trauma-informed design to finish 14 apartments for veterans in the nearly-completed Sugar Hill project in Midtown Detroit.


Each team will consist of 5-8 individuals from across Michigan, and is to have at least:

• 1 Architect
• 1 Emerging Professional (recently graduated, unlicensed)
• 1 Interior Designer
• 2 Students (not required, but strongly encouraged)

This cross-discipline approach to the team will ensure a variety of perspectives are represented throughout the process. You do NOT need an entire team to sign up, professionals and students are welcome to sign up individually. Final teams will be organized and assembled after registration closes; registration here does NOT guarantee selection for the final 14 teams.

Download the Team Informational Packet Here


MAY 17 Prospective Team Member Info Session: a virtual event to answer questions before team registrations are due – click the link to view the recording!
MAY 24, 12:00pm – Team & Individual Registrations are Due
MAY 24-28 – Final teams are assembled & contacted
JUNE 1 – Team Orientation: a mandatory virtual session for team members to learn more about project details and receive trauma-informed design training
JUNE 13 – IDCFC Cornhole Tournament: some light-hearted competition with the other teams + a major project fundraiser, sign up to play or sponsor!
JUNE-JULY 30 – Team fundraising, design work & order placements
AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 15 – Apartments are furnished & decorated by teams
LATE SEPTEMBER – Public-facing event to discuss teams’ processes & trauma-informed design

If you are interested in sponsoring this Project, please visit the IDCFC Cornhole Tournament page & select your preferred sponsorship!

If you are a vendor and have other services/products you can offer the Veterans Project at Sugar Hill, please fill out the Vendor Survey on IDCFC’s website.

Trauma is pervasive among American adults and can lead to lifelong physical and mental health consequences. It not only can have a lasting impact on the body and brain, but also, if left unaddressed, can negatively impact resident and community success. (more…)

April 21, 2021

A follow up to the BCRC’s discussion on “Shaping & Adopting Form-Based Codes: Why Architects Should Engage”

As a follow up to our “Shaping & Adopting Form-Based Codes: Why Architects Should Engage” session on December 17th, 2020, below are the links to the information packet and the video recording of City of East Lansing Planning Commission.

April 14, 2021 Planning Commission Information Packet:
Shaping the Avenue Work Session – Review of Public Comments and Action Items (
February 10, 2021 Planning Commission Video Recording (On-demand)

Our Committee would like to gauge interest in forming a sub-committee on this topic. Please email your interest in joining this committee or if you want to send in any other examples of Form-Based Codes in Michigan to BC&RC at this email:

March 5, 2021

Why it’s so Important for YOU to be a Part of AIA MI’s Legislative Day

The annual Legislative Day event serves to establish AIA as an active participant in Michigan government affairs. 

We are in the first quarter of a new legislative session, the ideal time to get involved. REGISTER BY MARCH 12th HERE!

Advocacy requires (among other things) relationship building, visibility, awareness, and vigilance. The political environment is constantly evolving, so displaying a consistent presence by AIA is vital. Our professional lobbyist provides an important measure of stability, but Legislators must be convinced that AIA Michigan represents a significant, active constituency that is engaged in the public forum and will continue to be so engaged. 

AESLC (Architects-Engineers-Surveyors Legislative Committee) represents a cooperative effort between ACEC Michigan, AIA Michigan, MSPE, and MSPS and was formed to address political issues affecting professional engineers, architects, and surveyors.

AESLC meets at least quarterly and coordinates legislative activities for the four organizations. AESLC retains and provides direction to a multi-client lobbyist, Kelley Cawthorne.

Why Attend?

  • Advocacy –Legislative Day is AIA Michigan’s largest advocacy event of the year, organized specifically for AESLC. It is the one day of the year where architects, engineers, and surveyors from all over the state come together (virtually in 2021) to show strength in numbers and share their concerns and experience with legislators.
  • Knowledge –You’ll learn about the issues, how the legislative process works, and how the potential outcomes can affect our profession.
  • Educate –Lawmakers need you to educate them on the role professional architects and engineers play in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public.   We are here as a resource for them.
  • Impact– Lawmakers need to hear from YOU, their constituents before they make decisions on legislative proposals that could significantly impact the architecture profession, construction industry, and our communities. By attending Legislative Day, you’re building relationships, helping to influence change, and make a difference.

The Issues we will be discussing:

  • Support the funding of infrastructure including clean water, public buildings, roads, bridges, dams, and energy systems.
  • Support legislation requiring a Qualification-Based Selection Process for design professionals on State of Michigan projects.
  • Support legislation updating Public Act 132  (important to the work of surveyors).

“What if I haven’t done this before?” Relax—you will be prepared!

Agenda & Expectations:

  • Register for the event.
  • Note that a donation to APAC (of any amount) is requested, but not required.
  • 17 March: You will receive your meeting times, issues, talking points, instructions, and a list of others who will be in the meetings with you.  Note that the earlier you register, the best chance of meeting with a legislator rather than staff!
  • 18 March, 8:00am-9:30am: Attend the preparatory webinar to go over the issues, understand the talking points and how to plan your 30-minute meeting.  Contact your groups outside of the webinar to plan who is going to open the meeting and who will discuss which talking points.  There may be some different people attending your meetings.  All first-timers? If your group needs an experienced member to attend your meeting—just ask!
  • 19 March, 8:00am-5:00pm:  Keep the event day flexible on your calendar for legislative meetings. You will be scheduled to virtually meet for one to four 30-minute meetings with your state senator(s) and/or representative(s) from your home and/or work districts). Sometimes you will meet with their staff if a legislator is not available.
  • Legislators receive a packet of our issues and talking points ahead of the legislative day. They also receive a list of those who will be meeting with them.
  • Take notes of any questions you can’t answer or follow up that you or AESLC should make.  Complete an online survey about your experience.

Follow up:

AESLC will deliver a thank you and information from all of our organizations to each legislator after the event.

Categories: AIA Detroit News   Membership  
February 25, 2021

AIA commends Biden Administration for reversing Trump federal design mandate

WASHINGTON – Feb. 25, 2021 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) commends the Biden Administration’s decision to overturn the Executive Order, “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture.”

“By overturning this order, the Biden Administration has restored communities with the freedom of design choice that is essential to designing federal buildings that best serve the public,” said AIA 2021 President Peter Exley, FAIA. “This is fundamental to an architect’s process and to achieving the highest quality buildings possible. We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration towards developing policies that create healthy, just and equitable communities.”

Under former President Trump’s Executive Order, government agencies could mandate an architectural style preference for federal courthouses and other federal buildings. It also promoted “classical” and “traditional” architecture above other designs and required extensive justification to use other styles. Additionally, the order conveyed misinformation about the General Service Administration’s (GSA) Design Excellence Program, which the AIA strongly supports. Overall, the mandate inappropriately elevated the design tastes of a few federal appointees over the communities in which the buildings would be placed.

The AIA and its members have been working to stop the order for more than a year. (more…)

Categories: AIA Detroit News   Membership  
February 24, 2021

Architectural billings continue to contract in 2021

WASHINGTON – Feb. 24, 2021 – A slight improvement in business conditions has led to fewer architecture firms reporting declining billings, according to a new report today from The American Institute of Architects (AIA).

AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score for January was 44.9* compared to 42.3 in December (any score below 50 indicates a decline in firm billings). Last month’s score indicates overall revenue at U.S architecture firms continued to decline from December to January, however, the pace of decline slowed. Inquiries into new projects during January grew for the second month in a row, with a score of 56.8 compared to 51.7 in December. The value of new design contracts also reflected an easing in the pace of decline, rising to a score of 48.8 in January from 47.0 the previous month.

“The broader economy entered a soft spot during the fourth quarter of last year, and business conditions at design firms have reflected this general slowdown,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “While federal stimulus and the increasing pace of vaccinations may begin to accelerate progress in the coming months, the year has gotten off to a slow start, with architecture firms in all regions of the country and in all specializations reporting continued declines in project billings.” (more…)

Categories: AIA Detroit News   Membership  
February 3, 2021

Have YOUR Webinar Featured with AIAD

Still unable to host lunch & learns? AIA Detroit is currently offering companies the opportunity to present a Continuing Education-certified webinar to our membership virtually through our Sponsored Webinar package. AIA Detroit has over 900 members and an enthusiastic design community. (more…)

January 20, 2021

UDM’s School of Architecture & NOMA Detroit Join Forces

From Dan Pitera, FAIA | Dean, Detroit Mercy School of Architecture:

NOMA Detroit and the Detroit Mercy School of Architecture have worked together to sponsor a studio that focuses on the annual NOMA National competition that will be judged at NOMA’s annual convention in October 2021. This year marks the 50th anniversary of NOMA, which makes this studio even more interesting because the site and the convention are in Detroit. The NOMA Studio is more than a class. It is in its second year and becoming a tradition at the School of Architecture. In many ways, it intentionally broadens the faculty that have a commitment and passion to the education of our students. We are truly excited to have Imani Day and Pierre Roberson teach the studio. They bring a wonderful energy and insight to the course content and the School at large. Thank you to NOMA’s leadership for having the vision to collaborate to make this studio come to life.

“Truly looking forward to engaging UDM students in the development of the 2021 NOMA Student Competition submission. I feel that it is important for underrepresented students to encounter significant and meaningful contact with professors of the same background throughout their education.  It is my goal to help to jumpstart some careers and spark some long-term mentorship relationships, and also help to give these students early access into their professional network.”

~ Pierre Roberson

Categories: AIA Detroit News  

Number of licensed Black female architects increases to 500

By Katherine Guimapang | Archinect Dec 21, 2020

The push for increasing the number of Black licensed architects has been an ongoing effort. Organizations like NOMA and individuals like Norma Merrick SklarekPaul WilliamsZena HowardPhillip FreelonGabrielle BullockCurtis Moody, and many others have paved the way for a new generation of Black architects and architects of color to continue to make a difference within the industry.

However, when it comes to licensed female architects, specifically Black female architects, the disparity in numbers is quite evident. Katherine Williams and the Black Women in Architecture Network and individuals such as the late Barbara Laurie, Tiffany BrownKimberly DowdellPascale Sablan, and young emerging designers like Morgan Medley of blackgirlsDraw has made it their mission to increase the number of Black female architects. They continue to raise the awareness of diversity and representation within the profession and make conscious efforts to connect other Black women and young girls as they dive into architecture.

During an interview in February 2019, Tiffany Brown of 400 Forward spoke to Essence Magazine. Together they discussed that Brown was “on track to becoming one of 452 licensed Black women architects in the United States.” A little over a year later during the 2020 NOMA conference in October, it was announced that the number of licensed Black female architects (currently living) reaching its 500th mark.

Thanks to NOMA’s collaborative efforts and the Directory of African American Architects, their mission has been to be a “public service to promote an awareness of who African American architects are and where they are located. The sole qualification for listing is licensure in one of the fifty US jurisdictions and their territories.”

“Reaching this milestone is one of the most significant in the history of American architecture,” said Kathryn T. Prigmore, FAIA, NOMAC, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, CDT, founding collaborator of Riding the Vortex: African American Women in Architecture and Related Professions. “African American architects practice in all aspects of the profession, including at the pinnacle of some of the world’s most well-known and respected firms.”

While the story and contributions of Black female architects continue to grow and be celebrated, the industry’s future will continue to improve as long as there dedicated individuals willing to persevere and push through the adversity to create an opportunity for all. 

To read the full article click here.

Categories: AIA Detroit News  
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