2022 Recognition Award WInners
Charles Blessing Award / Michael Poris, AIA
Principal | McIntosh Poris Associates
Michael Poris, AIA, has been working to implement change in his hometown of Detroit for 27 years. Under his design leadership, McIntosh Poris Associates has been transforming communities through architecture, interior, and urban design throughout the region.
Michael established the firm in 1994 with the late Douglas McIntosh. Throughout the years, McIntosh Poris Associates’ adaptive re-use and multi-family practices have helped save many of Detroit’s 20th-century landmark buildings, districts, and iconic neighborhoods. Michael’s background in contemporary design working on both coasts before returning to Detroit has contributed to the city’s upswing. It is collaboration and creative consensus building that inspires his firm to design excellence, transforming every district, building, and interior into an innovative environment.
Michael received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, studied modern history at Yale University, and received his Master of Architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles. From 1985 to 1994, Michael worked with architects, including Cesar Pelli, Thom Mayne – Morphosis, Frank Gehry, and Richard Meier, among others where he learned multiple ways to approach design and architecture.
Michael recently won the 2022 AIA Michigan Charles Blessing Award and is currently a member of Architectural Salvage Warehouse Detroit board of directors, and DIA Friends of Modern art. He has served on various educational, cultural, and professional boards and committees in the past including, the SCI-arc board of trustees, AIA Detroit, and AIA Michigan boards.
Young Architect Award / Ellen Duff, AIA
Senior Designer | Fielding International
Ellen Duff, AIA, joined the field of architecture with a vision to use design as a catalyst for social impact. Her work draws specifically from the intersection of culture, community, and interactive design to form innovative solutions for dynamic and equitable educational environments.
Ellen implements this type of architecture as a Senior Designer with Fielding International. She designs local and international schools that re-imagine learning spaces through robust stakeholder engagement and visioning workshops. While all of her projects have unique vernacular architectural responses based on client needs and local context, each project has a similar process of envisioning future learning typologies that empower students, teachers, and leaders to work together as catalysts for educational change. Her method of working transforms a collage of these influences into explorative and layered design landscapes where learners thrive.
Her first project with Fielding International involved transforming a dilapidated nightclub in Shanghai into an Early Learning Center, which not only received an A4LE LeSolutions award in 2019 but was also the first LEED Gold school in the city of Shanghai. While she has led designs on a multitude of projects around the globe, ranging from a six-story elementary school in the rain forest of Singapore to a small middle school with vistas of the coast of Mexico, she also contributes to pushing the boundaries of educational design close to home, such as her current role designing a new elementary with embedded space for student health and wellness for Portage Public Schools.
“Above all, her work reflects attention to detail, and her capacity to take all the thoughts, ideas, and suggestions that emerge from a group discussion and translate them into drawings that have people smiling and nodding their heads because they know they were heard”, wrote Ken Schunk, Singapore American School’s Elementary Deputy Principal in a letter nominating Duff for the Young Architects Award. “ When I see someone like Ellen with all the qualities it takes to be highly effective in the tremendously communicative, interactive, relational environment we call school, then I know I am working with someone special.”
Beyond the drawing board and community engagement workshops, Ellen strives to share her design knowledge while learning from others. She has taught as a Graduate Student Instructor in sustainable systems coursework at the University of Michigan and is frequently invited to facilitate workshops for national educational conferences. One of her latest workshops was at the 2022 MASA (Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators) Midwinter Conference on "Designing for Staff and Student Wellness: Global trends in physical social-emotional learning spaces."
Ellen Duff has a Bachelor of Science in Architecture with a minor in International Affairs from Northeastern University and a Master of Architecture from the University of Michigan.
Young Architect Award / Corissa Leveille, AIA
Architect | Amy Baker Architect
Corissa Leveille, AIA, is an Architect and Project Manager at Amy Baker Architect, and is best known for her unconventional approach to design and love of wearing “all of the hats”. She attended the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture, where she developed a passion for studying the interaction between the user and the built environment, as well as the history of the constant evolution of space, time and process. Her user-focused, equitable design approach, partnered with her love of problem solving the real-world constraints of construction, schedule, and client budget, helps her to collaborate with passionate owners to create inclusive, reflective, and impactful projects that best serve their community.
During her young career, Corissa has already worked on a wide variety of project types, scales and complexities, including nationally recognized city-wide master plans, neighborhood parks, hotels, student housing, Fortune 500 commercial workspaces, restaurants, and so much more. What she enjoys most about many of these projects is working within the context of the existing, and often historically significant, buildings and neighborhoods in Detroit. Working within the constraints of an existing building, she excels at looking at the big picture from all angles, at communicating with complex teams, and most importantly, using her skills and her voice to speak up for those who are often overlooked during the design process in order to build equitable spaces that will continue to serve their community for generations.
Associate Member Award / Azubike Ononye
Director of Digital Technology | INFORM Studio
Azubike (Zubi) Ononye is the Director of Digital Technology at INFORM Studio and leads a team responsible for fostering a culture around human-computer interaction, digitally transforming the firm’s disciplines and project management processes with the ultimate goals of improving the project design and delivery experience for the firm’s clients, consultants, and the design team.
With his technology-based approach, Ononye provides clients with insight that informs their business decisions from proforma optimization to environmental analysis. Beyond the development and management of a portfolio of tools and workflows, he has developed a unique process that has made a computational thinker out of everyone at INFORM Studio. Also, with his deep understanding of the digital fabrication process, he constantly works with consultants to encode and embed fabrication intelligence in the firm digital process.
Ononye’s award-winning projects include the Van Leesten Memorial Bridge in Providence, Rhode Island, the LTU East Residence Hall, and Pewabic Pottery among others within and outside the city of Detroit. He also spearheaded an Automation Toolkit for Verizon that reduced the turnaround time of projects by about 98%.
Currently he is working on several urban scale and mixed-use projects including the Roger Williams Park Gateway and Visitor Center in Providence, Rhode Island; the I-395 Pedestrian Baywalk & Bikeway Bridge in Miami, Florida; the Traverse City Riverwalk & Pedestrian Plaza in Traverse City, Michigan; and The MID, which is a 4-acre mixed-use development in Detroit, Michigan.
Ononye has a Master of Architecture from Lawrence Technological University (LTU) and a Bachelor of Architecture from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. He is currently an adjunct professor at LTU where he teaches the Critical Practice (CritPrax) Studio and is also a founding member and Chair of Co.De.D (Computational Design Detroit) – an AIA Detroit TAP committee that seeks to empower students and professionals in the AEC industry to learn, share and implement computational thinking.
Honorary Affiliate Award / Bonnie Fahoome
Co-Executive Director | Design Core Detroit
Bonnie Fahoome has over 12 years of experience serving the entrepreneurs and small businesses of Detroit. In leading Design Core’s business program the last 6 years, Bonnie grew membership in the Detroit Design Network to over 120 businesses, developed a Design Guide workbook series, created a series of business to business matchmaking services to grow the market for creative talent, and developed a Design Jam event series to increase potential for new Michigan-made adaptive products for outdoor recreation. In her new role as Co-Executive Director, Bonnie will add oversight of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation to her responsibilities.
Bonnie has a B.A.A. in Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts and Interpersonal and Public Communication from Central Michigan University. She also studied Administration at the graduate level. Her early career experiences included communications, human resource administration, program development and sales.
Honorary Affiliate Award / Kiana Wenzell
Co-Executive Director | Design Core Detroit
Kiana Wenzell has more than 18 years’ experience researching, planning, curating and executing design projects in metropolitan Detroit. Kiana currently serves as the Co-Executive of Design Core Detroit, a nonprofit economic development organization housed within the College for Creative Studies. In her role she leads the organization overall and produces the Detroit Month of Design, Drinks x Design and manages other key Design Core public programs.
Kiana has an undergraduate degree in interior design from Eastern Michigan University and a graduate degree in technical writing and professional communication from Lawrence Technological University. She was born and raised in Detroit.
Honorary Affiliate Award / David Merritt
Co-Founder & Board Chair | Give Merit
David Merritt was born on February 26th, 1986 in Detroit, Michigan. He grew up in West Bloomfield, MI and attended West Bloomfield High School, where he graduated with academic honors and was an All-State basketball player. Merritt then accepted an academic scholarship to the University of Michigan, and later was selected as a walk-on to the Men's Basketball team in 2006. During his last year in 2008-2009, he served as a Captain, and Michigan reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eleven years. Merritt graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management and also served as a Radio Color Commentator for the Michigan IMG Sports Network from 2009-2013.
Since his time at Michigan, Merritt launched a cause-based fashion brand called Merit. Every Merit purchase shapes the fate of students in need and helps send them to college (20% of the company’s profits fund Merit’s youth program, FATE). In FATE, students work on real-life business projects for them to discover that they can create their own futures. If the students complete the program, they are guaranteed up to $8,000 in college scholarships and the program currently supports 150 Detroit students.
David Merritt serves as an Associate Pastor at the Straight Gate International Church, under the leadership of his parents, Bishop Andrew & Pastor Viveca Merritt, in Detroit, MI. He is also part-owner of the Narrow Way Café & Shop and the Founder of Renaissance of Hope, Inc. Merritt's passions consist of being all that God wants him to be. Every single day, he asks God that His Will be done and strives daily to bring into being those things that he can see, however, cannot touch.
Honorary Affiliate Award / Kuhu Saha
Co-Founder, Executive Director, Secretary | Give Merit
Kuhu Saha has been a part of the Merit Team since its inception, involved in all aspects of the company's development and growth. She is most fulfilled in her role furthering the organization’s community impact through Merit's nonprofit arm, Give Merit. As Founder/Executive Director, Kuhu, and co-founder, David Merritt, have developed the FATE Program, an educational enrichment and leadership program for Detroit-area high school students. Working closely with community partners, donors, and families, Kuhu leads the effort in creating and implementing high quality, innovative, and interactive youth development programming for Detroit youth ages 14-24. Give Merit and the FATE Program exist to enhance and extend educational opportunities for Detroit youth through innovative mentorship, enrichment, and athletic activities. Kuhu and her team are intent on helping young people aspire, believe, and contribute while creating platforms for them to create the future.
She holds a BA from the University of Michigan in American Culture and Sociology, with a focus on social inequality.