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MUD Alumni

The University of Michigan has one of the largest alumni groups in the world. A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning maintains close contact with over 7,000 graduates in close to 70 countries throughout the world.

Employment Information

Click on an image below to view a PDF of the Master of Urban Design Employment Profile.

 

MUD Alumni Profiles

Name: Travis Crabtree

1. What made you choose Taubman College?
I chose Taubman College for the Master of Urban Design program’s emphasis on the post-industrial city. Detroit and other Rust Belt cities have a unique context and set of conditions that interested me. Before starting graduate school, I knew Detroit for its large volume of abandoned land and how it was being appropriated for ecological and agrarian purposes. I was curious about Detroit’s urbanism opportunities associated with land reactivation combined with the incredible amount of energy in community groups and small entrepreneurial startups.

2. Tell us about your career path/trajectory and any specific projects of interest:
After graduation I became a research associate under Geoffrey Thün and Kathy Velikov at their research-based interdisciplinary design practice, RVTR. A concentrated on geospatial-data aggregation and representation for projects. My specialization role in cartographic analysis and planning gave me the opportunity to collaborate with a mix of professionals like mobility experts, food entrepreneurs, health specialists, geologists, and archeologists.

I’m currently involved in multiple entrepreneurial ventures. My partner, Salam Rida (M.Arch ‘17; B.A. ‘11), and I started an interdisciplinary company called Carbon Office that practices architecture, landscape architecture, urbanism, real estate development, and sustainability consulting. Our largest project is an adaptive reuse project of an industrial building in Jackson, Mississippi, that we are acting as real estate developers on. The project is a mixed-use development with an emphasis on “urban agro-tourism.” Our work is concentrated around environmental concerns with design responses that explore ecological performance, creative economic development strategies, and forming innovative social environments.

3. What was the most invaluable component of your MUD degree program at Taubman College?
The ability to critically think about the various ingredients that go into constructing the built environment is a general skill that has application to all my work. Taubman College gave me the opportunity to exercise the design polemics I was interested in and have them questioned by a range of architectural professionals with various research interests. I’ve realized that my urban design education infused with my technical landscape architecture background has given me a refined methodological approach to the profession that I consider to be invaluable.

4. What advice, if any, would you give a student considering the program at U-M?
I would highly encourage anyone considering the program to have some pre-existing research interests that you would like to explore. It can give you an advantage in your class. The program will provide you with multiple perspectives on how to approach urban design and having an established research interest will help even if it changes dramatically during your graduate experience.

 

Name: Conrad Kickert
Current position: Assistant Professor of Urban Design, University of Cincinnati School of Planning

1. What made you choose Taubman College for your degree?
Taubman College had excellent resources to help me excel as an MUD exchange student and as a PhD student. The faculty has a tremendous amount of research experience in my field, and the University of Michigan library system is unprecedented. Ann Arbor is also a very inspiring place to learn.

2. Tell us about your career path/trajectory and any specific projects of interest:
I was first introduced to Taubman College as an MUD exchange student in 2005-2006. I went on to become a practicing urban designer, before I returned to the architecture program as a PhD student. I am currently an assistant professor of urban design at the University of CIncinnati.

3.What skill set in the program has been most beneficial to your current position, either in full-time employment or at an internship? Give us an example.
The MUD program taught me invaluable design and planning skills, and taught me a strong work ethic. The PhD program in Architecture provided me with a far deeper intellectual understanding of the relationship between buildings and public space, my research topic.

4. What was the most invaluable component of your degree program(s) at Taubman College?
I loved the studio courses in the MUD program, which brought my colleagues and me together as a team. In the PhD program, the individual contact with my adviser was incredibly important for my success as a researcher.

5. How has your experience at Taubman College and in your program helped you in your professional/career endeavours?
My time as an MUD exchange student and PhD student has fundamentally changed the way I look at the world. It has significantly expanded my horizons as a designer and scholar, providing me with new skills, insights and discipline that I use every day of my current career.

6. What advice, if any, would you give a student considering the program at U-M?
Think critically - which often means you need to take a perspective that doesn't align with your colleagues, or even your professor. Take every opportunity you can get to learn, not just from your own courses, but from visiting lecturers, your fellow students, and other faculty. Use the library to its fullest extent. Enjoy your time; you'll remember it fondly.

Dissertation Abstract

Active Centers - Interactive Edges, by Conrad Kickert

This dissertation explores the deteriorating relationship between architecture and public space plaguing many Western urban cores as a result of economic, cultural, political and social forces. It investigates the question of how and why ground floor frontages have been transformed, by comparing the urban cores of The Hague (Netherlands) and Detroit (United States) over the past century. Frontage interactivity is defined as the combination of physical transparency, functional permeability and perceptual hospitality, and is mapped in both urban cores over the span of a century in 10 to 25 year intervals. Interactivity is categorized into four tiers, based on fourteen functional frontage types, ranging from highly interactive retail businesses to dwellings and less interactive offices, parking structures and warehouses. Patterns of physical and functional fringe belt formation and urban erosion are found in the maps and statistical analyses. These analyses demonstrate a pattern of fringe interactivity decline, amplified by an acceleration of decline at the level of the street segment – pointing to the contagion of vacancy and inactive land uses. This interactivity erosion is usually followed and amplified by a rapid morphological change, often fueled by large-scale urban renewal interventions – a pattern that is surprisingly similar in both cities. The forces behind frontage transformation are illustrated by separate histories of The Hague and Detroit. The demonstrated forces and patterns of change are integrated into a set of conclusions, finding significant similarities between both case studies. From an economic, social and cultural perspective both cities have faced and still face similar challenges, albeit amplified in Detroit. The relationship between buildings and public space has deteriorated significantly in downtown Detroit as a result of socio-economic decline, amplified by a culture favoring progress over sustaining a collective memory. The Hague’s inner city has benefited from a somewhat finer balance between progress and permanence, often due to fierce public and political debates. The conclusions are followed by a set of recommendations for how to counter frontage deactivation, focusing on the role of economics, diversity, curbing fear and auto-mobility, and critical mass in reshaping the architecture of public life.