Taubman College

Ph.D. in Architecture / Current Student Research and Awards

Ph.D. Research

Michael Abrahamson

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Claire Zimmerman

Michael Abrahamson's work explores how the cultural norms and tectonic forms of Modernist architecture were transformed as they rapidly traversed the globe following the Second World War. Michael's critical writings on contemporary architecture culture and observations about architectural Brutalism have been widely published, and he operates an influential Tumblr photo blog focusing on Brutalism that has nearly 200,000 followers.

His current research focuses on the archetypal work of Latvian-American late modern architect Gunnar Birkerts. Based in the Detroit area, Birkerts's international reputation was cemented in the late 1960s and early 1970s by a series of buildings strongly influenced by the expressionist tendencies of his mentors Eero Saarinen and Minoru Yamasaki though simultaneously characterized by a peculiar form of techno-utopianism.

Recent Publications (non-peer-reviewed)

  • "Sculpture into Architecture," in San Rocco 9 (Summer 2014): 69-78.
  • "The Problem of Large," in CLOG: Rem (Summer 2014): 50-51.
  • "Toward an Ineloquent Architecture," in CLOG: Unpublished (Fall 2013): 82-83.
  • Guest Editor and Contributor, CLOG: Brutalism (February 2013).
    • "On Brutalism," 24-25; "Citing Banham," 26-27; "The Economics of Concrete," 42-43; "Interview with Norbert Koehn," 54-55; "Interview with Jeffrey Strean, Cleveland Museum of Art," 140-143; "Brutalizing Breuer," 148-149.
  • "Two Trajectories," (Commissioned Essay) in Robert Maschke Architects Volume 2: 2007-2013 (Forthcoming).
  • "In Defense of the Donut," in CLOG: National Mall (November 2012): 90-91.
  • "Rendered Hot And/Or Cool," in CLOG: Rendering (August 2012): 74-75.


  • "Projecting an Equal Future: Gunnar Birkerts at Tougaloo College, 1965-1972," Graduate Student Research Fellowship, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Summer 2013

Symposia and Conferences

  • "What Criticism," Loeb Fellowship Symposium, Harvard Graduate School of Design, February 14, 2014

Maja Babic

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Andrew Herscher

Nu Ri Bae

Specialization: Building Technology
Advisor: Prof. Lars Junghans

Building energy models coupled with optimization algorithms can be usefully utilized to find the optimal solution for energy efficient buildings. However, building optimization possesses uncertainties, which may lead to unreliable optimization results. My research aims to find a way to deal with uncertainties in building simulation based optimization including (1) quantifying uncertainties in the optimization processes and (2) mitigating the uncertainties. The overarching question of my research is: "How can one deal with uncertainties inherent in computer simulation based building optimization to support better decision-making for economic and environmentally friendly building design and renovation?"

Secil Binboga

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Will Glover and Prof. Andrew Herscher

Irene Brisson

Specialization: Design Studies
Advisor: Prof. Joy Knoblauch

Niloufar Emami

Specialization: Building Technology
Advisor: Prof. Harry Giles

My research interest can be situated at the intersection of design, performance and fabrication in architecture and particularly in building envelopes. My research objective is to apply a generative geometrical design approach to façade shading configurations that are driven by functional parameters and performance metrics. The occupancy program which is considered as an important functional parameter suggests a graded geometry for building envelopes to modulate daylight. I am studying the possible design and fabrication approaches of such system.

Research Interests:

  • Generative design, Performance oriented design, Integrated design, Daylighting, Structural morphology, building envelopes


  • Emami, Niloufar. Giles, Harry. (2014 February 12-15) "Engineering without the Engine: an Integrated Panelized Passive Shading System for Transparent Facades", double peer reviewed paper accepted and presented at: International Conference of The Architectural Research Centers Consortium, (ARCC), University of Hawai'i, Honolulu, HI, USA
  • Emami, Niloufar. (2013 July 24-26) "Glass Structure, From Theory to Practice", peer reviewed paper accepted and presented at: The International Conference on Structure & Architecture (ICSA), University of Minho, Guimarães, Portugal
  • Emami, Niloufar. Hashem-Nejad, Hashem. (2011 May 15-16) "Integration of Architecture & Structure in Glass- houses", accepted paper and presented at: The Second International Conference on Architecture and Structure (ICAS), University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran. (In Persian)
  • Emami, Niloufar. Hashem-Nejad, Hashem. (2011 May 17-18). "ETFE Air Cushions an Appropriate Coverage for Spatial Lattice Structures", accepted paper and presented as a poster at: The Third National Conference on Spatial Structures, University of Tehran, Iran. (In Persian)
  • Hashem-Nejad, Hashem. Emami, Niloufar. (2011 April 15-17). "Provision of Practical Strategies for Improving the Architecture of Glass Facades", accepted paper and presented at: The First National Conference on Façade and City Appearance, Tehran, Iran. (In Persian)

You are welcome to review my portfolio:

Sina Esteky

Specialization: Design Studies
Combined doctoral studies with the Ross School of Business (Ph.D. in Business Administration - Marketing)
Advisors: Prof. Jean Wineman (Architecture), Prof. Aradhna Krishna (Business Administration)

My research interests fall broadly into the category of spatial cognition and spatial judgement in built environments. More specifically, I am interested in studying the cognitive processing and behavioral responses of consumers in complex designed settings such as shopping malls, airports, museums, hospitals and urban environments. My research draws on literature in cognitive and social psychology, marketing and design studies. Motivated by current research across these fields, I study how various spatial and sensory attributes influence consumers' evaluation of spaces, as well as their choices and actions.

Justin Ferguson, AIA

Specialization: Design Studies
Advisor: Prof. Linda Groat
Dissertation Committee: Linda Groat, Chair; Lesli Hoey, PhD, Cognate; Jean Wineman, and Joongsub Kim (LTU)

Participative Architecture: exploring recent processes and outcomes of public participation through the planning and design of public libraries

This research looks at the processes of architects working with everyday people to plan and design their environments. Recently built, public libraries, opened between 2009-2012, serve as the building type under study. This research seeks to develop a conceptual framework of processes from across the country (breadth), and provide empirical examples of how architects, users, and the public, through these processes, impact the planning and design of public libraries (depth). This research will not only provide a glimpse into the processes of public participation in architecture recently occurring across the country, but it will also provide a rare look into the cultural outcomes of participatory design in addition to the physical building.

Research and Professional Interests: Public Participation in Architecture, Rethinking the Public Library, Community Design (Centers), Workplace and Organizational Strategy, and Architect / Suburban Divide

Sam Grabowska

Specialization: Design Studies
Advisor: Prof. Linda Groat
Dissertation Committee: Linda Groat (architecture), John McMorrough (architecture), Jason De Leon (cultural anthropology), Erik Mueggler (cultural anthropology)

Working Title:

"Architecture of the Other Side: The Secret Spaces and Human Traces of Unauthorized Border-Crossing in the Arizona Borderlands"

There are some spaces that have escaped the architect's eye; in part because they are invisible and in part because they have not yet been ordained by the profession as 'architecture' proper. But these secret makeshift spaces are often crucial when people are most vulnerable, giving them somewhere to take shelter and to transcend, survive, or escape the confines of their lives. This dissertation sets out to investigate clandestine and informal architecture by looking at the structures that migrants, drug mules, and coyotes build while illicitly crossing the US-Mexico border. Using architecture, cultural anthropology, and archaeology of the contemporary, I have conducted spatial and formal analysis, border-crosser interviews, and collected the objects migrants leave behind in the desert. By triangulating these disciplines and bodies of information, I look at how architecture mediates the intersubjective relationship between built form, political and natural landscapes, and the everyday narratives that chronicle the inner lives of border-crossers. I work to situate architecture between place (a rooted, ritualized, transcendent, and positively valued territory) and non-place (an ephemeral, nomadic, everyday spatial practice and artifact of supermodernity). As such the shelters of marginal space and illegal activities elucidate the essential nature of architecture, clarifying the larger role of built form in our daily lives and highlighting ways in which every spatial practice can be contested and negotiated.

Recent Work:

  • Book Chapter: Grabowska, Sam and John Doering-White. "Material Memories: (Re)Collecting Clandestine Crossings of the US-Mexico Borderlands." Excavating Memory, edited by Maria Starzmann and John Roby. University Press of Florida, forthcoming 2015.
  • Conference Half-Day Intensive - The Authentic Renovated: "The Transgressive Hut: Architecture's Response to Change in the Arizona Borderlands." Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) 45: Building With Change. New Orleans, Louisiana. May, 2014
  • Conference Paper: "The Paradox of 'El Otro Lado': The Materiality, Experience, and Practice of Transgressive Architecture in the Sonoran Borderlands." Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA) 10. Bristol, England. November 2013
  • Conference Half-Day Intensive - Inquest of the Authentic: "Who is the Other in Other Space: Problematizing 'Authenticity' Defined vis a vis Difference." Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) 44. Providence, Rhode Island. June 2013
  • Conference Poster: "Clandestine Architecture int he Sonoran Borderlands: Housing the Invisible Body in a Landscape of Surveillance." Society for American Archaeology (SAA) 78. Honolulu, Hawaii. April 2013
  • Conference Paper: "Unmaking Borders Into Boundaries: Authentic Placemaking in the 21st Century." Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) 43: Emergent Placemaking. Seattle, Washington. June, 2012


  • Rackham Pre-doctoral Fellowship (Fall 2014 – Summer 2015)
  • Dissertation Writing Institute/Sweetland Fellowship (Spring 2014)
  • Rackham Spring/Summer Faculty-Student Research Grant (Spring/Summer 2013)
  • Rackham Student Research Grant (Summer 2012)
  • Rackham Conference Travel Grant (May 2012; April 2013; November 2013)

Erin Hamilton, LEED GA

Specialization: Design Studies
Advisors: Prof. Jean Wineman (chair), Prof. Raymond De Young (co-chair)

Project Description:

People affect and are affected by the built and natural environment. This reciprocal relationship, currently underutilized in promoting sustainability, is the foundation of my research. Looking beyond the overly-narrow roles of building user and green consumer, and the confines of a single building, my work explores the possibility of Ecological Citizenship. Both theory-building and pragmatic, my project asks how green design informs Ecological Citizenship. It uses empirically derived frameworks from environmental psychology to identify physical and social features useable by designers intent on creating contexts in which to cultivate Ecological Citizenship, in addition to environmentally sustainable buildings.


  • Hamilton, E. "Reframing Sacrifice: Designing for Personal and Ecological Well-Being." Paper presented at: Building With Change. 45th Annual Conference of the Environmental Design Research Association; 2014 May 28-31; New Orleans, LA.
  • Wineman, J. and Hamilton, E. "Promoting Energy Conscious Behavior in Energy Efficient Buildings." Paper presented at: Building With Change. 45th Annual Conference of the Environmental Design Research Association; 2014 May 28-31; New Orleans, LA.
  • Wineman, J. and Hamilton, E. "Occupant Participation in Energy Conservation." Paper presented at: Conference of the Architectural Research Centers Consortium; 2014 February 12-15; University of Hawai'i, Honolulu, HI.
  • Gibbons, E., Stults, M, Hamilton, E. "Transitioning From Intention to Action and From Planning to Implementation." Paper presented at: The Climate, Mind, and Behavior Symposium; 2013 June 10-12; The Garrison Institute, Garrison, NY.
  • Hamilton, E. "Building an Experience: Mindful Awareness in the Built Environment." Poster Presented at: Healthy + Healing Places. 44th Annual Conference of the Environmental Design Research Association; 2013 May 29 – June 1; Providence, RI.
  • Dong, W. and Hamilton, E. "Establishing an Expanded Approach to Sustainability Through Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Feng Shui and Green Design." Paper presented at: 5th International Conference on Design Principles and Practice; 2011 February 2-4; Sapienza University, Rome, Italy.


  • Dow Doctoral Sustainability Fellowship
  • 2013-2014 Center for the Education of Women Scholarship

Yongha Hwang

Specialization: Design Studies
Advisor: Prof. Jean Wineman
Dissertation Committee: Jean Wineman (chair), Gerald Davis, Linda Groat, John Peponis

Working Title

"Essays on Methods for Sociospatial Network Analysis on Research Environment"

  • Essay 1. Shared Paths to the Lab: A Sociospatial Network Analysis of Collaboration
  • Essay 2. Deploying a Social Network on a Spatial Network: betweenness centrality in a sociospatial network
  • Essay 3. Network Communities in the Visibility Graph: a new method for the discretization of space

Refereed Journal Publications

  • (in press) WINEMAN, Jean, HWANG, Yongha, KABO, Felichism, OWEN-SMITH, Jason, DAVIS, Gerald (2013) How Space Augments the Social Structures of Innovation. Environment and Planning B
  • (online) KABO, Felichism*, HWANG, Yongha*, LEVENSTEIN, Margaret, OWEN-SMITH, Jason (2013) Shared Paths to the Lab: A Sociospatial Network Analysis of Collaboration, Environment and Behavior. *Equal first authors
  • (under review) KABO, Felichism, COTTON-NESSLER, Natalie, HWANG, Yongha, LEVENSTEIN, Margaret, OWEN-SMITH, Jason (2013) Proximity Effects on the Dynamics and Outcomes of Scientific Collaborations. Under review at Research Policy

Refereed Conference Proceedings

  • (in press) Hwang, Yongha (2013) Network Communities in the Visibility Graph: a new method for the discretization of space, Proceedings of the 9th Space Syntax Symposium, Seoul:Korea
  • WINEMAN, Jean, HWANG, Yongha, KABO, Felichism, OWEN-SMITH, Jason, DAVIS, Gerald (2013) How Space Augments the Social Structures of Innovation, Proceedings of the 2013 ARCC Spring Research Conference, Charlotte: North Carolina, pp.715-724.
  • WINEMAN, Jean, OWEN-SMITH, Jason, KABO, Felichism, HWANG, Yongha, DAVIS, Gerald (2013) How Spatial Layout Augments Our Understanding of Social Networks and Innovation in Offices, Proceedings of the 44th Annual Conference of the Environmental Design Research Association, Providence: Rhode Island, pp.340-341.

Sung Kwon Jung

Specialization: Environmental Technology
Advisor: Prof. Jong-Jin Kim

Optimization methods for building environmental control systems

Emine Kayim

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Claire Zimmerman

Elizabeth Keslacy

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Amy Kulper

Dissertation Abstract

The Curatorial Impulse: Reading Postmodern Historicism on Exhibit, 1968-1989

This dissertation examines architectural exhibition as a key site of the formation of architectural Postmodernism. Complementing textually-based 'linguistic turn' that emerged in architectural theory, exhibitions manifested the visual 'historical turn' through two primary exhibition types: those that explored historical subjects and those that presented contemporary works that drew upon historical styles. Architects and historians, working as curators, used the medium of exhibition to re-present historical periods, such as the Neo-Classical and the Beaux-Arts, through interpretations that framed history as model and sourcebook for practitioners, and they assembled contemporaneous projects to identify and validate trends as a way of encouraging their adoption more widely. This project explores the ways which the experience choreographed by the exhibition is reflected in the aesthetic experience proffered by Postmodern architecture itself. Further, it considers the demonstrative nature of the exhibition and its implications for practitioners, engendered in the curator's interpretive agency and in the evolving conception of architecture as museum subject.

Recent Conference Presentations:

  • "Fun and Games: The Suppression of Authoriality and the Rise of the Reader," Creating_Making, College of Architecture, The University of Oklahoma, November 2014.
  • "A Question of Category: Translations between the Decorative Arts, Architecture, and Design at the birth of the Cooper-Hewitt (1963-1976)" Society of Architectural Historians Australia/New Zealand Annual Conference, Auckland, NZ, July 2014
  • "Reading Style: Postmodern recursions to Classicism in AD Magazine" Society of Architectural Historians Annual Conference, Austin, TX, April 2014.
  • "The Second Linguistic Turn: Postmodern Models of Interdisciplinarity" European Architecture History Network's Architectural Elective Affinities: Correspondences, Transfers, Inter/Multidisciplinarity, Universidade Sao Paolo, Brazil, March 2013.
  • "A Tempest in Four Teapots: an Allegory of Architecture's Aesthetics of Incom¬pleteness" PhilArch 2012: Architecture and its Image, Boston University, October 2012.

Anahita Khodadadi

Specialization: Building Technology
Advisor: Peter von Bülow

An overview of my independent studies, academic projects, some of my architecture designs, published books and papers demonstrates my two fields of interest, apparently looking different but reasonably following investigations on the coupling of geometry and structural performance. On one hand, I have studied the history of Iranian architecture from the 7th century till modern era, considering social, economical and political influence on space design, construction technology and, additionally, emergence of ornamentation through buildings. The results of these studies and my cooperation with Prof. Zohreh Bozorgmehri, Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization research fellow, have be published in: "Historical Ornaments of Iranian Architecture", 2011, and "History of Iranian Architecture through 651-1219 CE", 2013, Tehran: Soroush-e danesh publisher.

On the other hand, I've been exploring the configuration processing, geometrical and topological features of diverse types of spatial structures. I studied structural morphology and Formex algebra, a mathematical system whose geometrical concepts allow to define forms parametrically, attending some short courses offered by cooperation of University of Surrey, UK, and University of Tehran, Iran. The studies led to publish "Modern Lattice Domes Based on the Traditional Iranian Masonry Domes", 2010, International Journal of Space Structures, Vol. 27, Issue 4. Furthermore, being a member of International Association of Shells and Spatial Structures (IASS), has raised my interests in structural morphology significantly.

As a Ph.D. student and research fellow of Taubman College at University of Michigan, I've been studying different approaches in form generation of spatial structures, topology optimization and application of genetic algorithm in form exploration. My current research works consider dynamic configuration processing and optimization of three types of structures: truss bridges, towers and also folded plate domes. These works are to demonstrate a procedure that allows to expand the designers' perspective, facilitate modification of the forms and explore more possibilities of appropriate solutions in early stages of design.

You are welcome to review my portfolio:

Conrad Kickert

Specialization: Design Studies
Advisors: Prof. Robert Fishman and Prof. Linda Groat

Conrad's PhD research looks at a crucial element of the changing experience of downtown architecture over the past century: the relation between buildings and public space at the ground floor. After all, urban cores are mainly experienced on foot and at eye level as the main user of urban cores is the pedestrian, a creature with a surprisingly horizontal field of vision. To improve the downtown condition is to capitalize on the often unique experiential quality that historic cores can offer for pedestrians, setting downtowns apart from an increasingly commodified urban environment aimed at quick Return on Investment. Yet this eye level experience has suffered significantly over the past century as a result of many interrelated external forces and internal patterns, with an increasingly divide arising between the relative permanence of vitality in European inner cities and the decreasing ground floor activity in many North American downtowns.

To measure the difference in ground floor experience between North America and Europe and the increasing deactivation of ground floors across the Atlantic, Conrad's research focuses on the comparison of the besieged downtown of Detroit with the inner city of The Hague, a Dutch urban core which has received accolades for its vibrant commercial and public life. Rather than focusing on measuring the current interaction between buildings and public space and its effect on public life, the research takes a retrospective approach. This is a conscious decision to arrive at useful conclusions based on historical trends, patterns and likely causes behind the increasing deactivation of ground floor architecture, rather than to prove the commonly accepted mantra that architecture should interact with public space. Contemporary defensive architecture described by urban scholar William Whyte as "The Deadly Dull" is almost unanimously disliked by professionals and the general public, but how can cities avoid its further growth? Conrad studies the transformation of the two urban cores at ground level over the past 100 years by use of historical mapping, business directories and government records, in order to find internal patterns of frontage transformation and external forces to this transformation. The preliminary conclusions show as many similarities as differences across the Atlantic. Deserted Detroit has more in common with Thriving The Hague than you might think.

Joss Kiely

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Claire Zimmerman

Joss Kiely is a PhD candidate in Architectural History and Theory at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. His work focuses on defining a latent "aerialism" that developed during the jet age of air travel in the 1950s and 1960s, specifically focusing on a handful of thin shell concrete structures designed by Minoru Yamasaki, Eero Saarinen, and Felix Candela.

Conference Papers

  • "Late Modernism on the Prairie: Minoru Yamasaki and the Oklahoma Projects," Creating/Making Conference, Oklahoma University, Norman, OK, October 2014.
  • "Architectural Aerialism: The Translation of Aviation in Late Modern Architecture: 1956-85," Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand, XXXI Annual Meeting, Auckland, New Zealand, July 2014.
  • "Minoru Yamasaki and the Architecture of Inequality," Asian Conference on the Arts and Humanities, Osaka, Japan, April 2014.
  • "Towards an Aerial Modernism: Italian Aerofuturism and the Visions of Le Corbusier, 1911-1933", ACLA Annual Meeting, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 2013
  • "Disbelief, Suspended: Architectures of the Sky and the Transgressive Territorializations of Air." States of Suspension, The University of Chicago, November 2012.
  • "The Gendering of Architectonic Dance: Futurism, Choreography, and the Body in Space, 1914-29." Arts in Society, John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom, July 2012.


  • "Hermeneutic Discord: An Architect and his Critic," Clog, World Trade Center. New York, NY. October 2014.
  • "Architectural Aerialism: The Translation of Aviation in Late Modern Architecture: 1956-85," Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand, XXXI Annual Meeting Proceedings, July 2014.

Awards and Grants

  • Travel Grant, Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), The Scott Opler Endowment for New Scholars, SAH Study Tour, Columbus, IN, October 2013.
  • Rackham Conference Travel Grant (July and November 2012, April 2013, April and July 2014)
  • Rackham Research Travel Grant ($1500). Awarded for travel to Brasilia, Brazil, April 2013.

Michael McCulloch

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Robert Fishman

Working Title

Building the Working City: Designs on Home and Life in Boomtown Detroit, 1914-1929

The modern worker's home made Detroit's Fordist industrialization possible. My dissertation examines the making of industrial workers' housing in Detroit in the period 1914-1929, between the creation of Ford's "five dollar day" and the Great Depression. In this period many agents—industrialists, reformers, architects and government officials—grappled with homeownership's capacity to rationalize the city's working class cultures. At the same time developers and real estate brokers built and sold tens of thousands of modest bungalows and duplexes to industrial workers, posing these homes as lucrative investments and a source of security in older age. Many workers built families and communities at the rapidly expanding urban fringe in this period, negotiating their own ambitions with those of the many cultural authorities in their midst and with the new spatial configurations that they inhabited. The rationality and security that the modern worker's home promised, however, was elusive from the beginning as the social formation of industrial Detroit elaborated shifting real estate values, economic crises, and racial tensions. This history suggests that Detroit's residential "ruins" of today, and the blight of many post-foreclosure-crisis American cities, might be seen as more than mere emptiness or prosperity lost but as part of a century-old negotiation of the meaning of home in the crucible of industrialization.

Awards, Publications and Conference Papers

  • Mary Fair Croushore Graduate Student Fellow, Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, 2013-2014.
  • (Forthcoming) "Interpreting Abandoned Sites: Administrative, Market and Grassroots Frameworks." Journal of Urban History, Special Issue: Reinventing the American Post-Industrial City, 2014.
  • (Forthcoming) "Detroit's Other Industry: Real Estate and the Culture of Elusive Security." Paper to be presented at the SACRPH Biennial Conference, Toronto, ON, 2013.
  • "City of Homes: Industrialists Shape Detroit's Fordist Urbanism in the 1910s." Paper presented at the Buell Dissertation Colloquium, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia University, 2013.
  • Book Review: Austin and Doerr's Lost Detroit, Gallagher's Reimagining Detroit and Moore's Detroit Dissasembled. Preservation Education and Research, Volume 5, pp. 108-109, 2012.
  • Fishman, Robert, Michael McCulloch and Julia Reyes Taubman. "A Guide to the Photographs," in Taubman, Julia Reyes. Detroit: 138 Square Miles, pp.455-483. Detroit: Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and Distributed Art Publishers, 2012.

Faiza Moatasim

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Will Glover

Project Title

Making Exceptions: The Politics of Place in the Planned Modernist City of Islamabad


Unanticipated phenomena or "exceptions" in newly planned modernist cities of the twentieth century have been mostly conceptualized as contradictions to the ideal "plan." However, an examination of the functioning and everyday life of these planned places reveals that rather than being marginal dysfunctional phenomena, exceptions play critical roles in the way abstract plans are operationalized and planned cities are experienced. Moreover, spatial practices in planned modernist cities show the association of both marginalized and affluent communities with exceptions to gain access to certain rights and privileges within planned contexts. By focusing on the spatial exceptions found in Islamabad, the modernist capital of Pakistan planned in 1959 by Greek architect-planner C. A. Doxiadis, I thus ask: What is the relationship between the plan and the exception in a planned city? What are the similarities and differences found in the approaches of different socio-economic groups engaged in creating exceptions? To answer the first question, I will investigate the proliferation of exceptions in the planned sectors in Islamabad to highlight the role of exceptions as drivers of a planned city. To address the second question, I will present exceptions as a unit of analysis across socio-economic extremes by focusing on the histories of a squatter settlement and an illegal elite-housing neighborhood in Islamabad. This research project will explain the politics of creating a modernist space in Pakistan evident in place-making practices of different socio-economic groups external to the official planning discourses yet critical to the functioning and organization of a city.

Accepted Papers

  • "Topologies of 'exceptions' in the planned modernist city of Islamabad," at the "Annual Conference on South Asia 2011," University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
  • "Mapping spatial 'exceptions' in planned environments: The case of Islamabad" at the "VI International PhD Seminar, Urbanism and Urbanization 2011," IUAV School of Doctorate Studies, Venice, Italy
  • "Making Exceptions: The Politics of Place in Islamabad," Graduate Student Lightning Talks, Society of Architectural Historians Annual Meeting 2012, Detroit, USA
  • International Institute for Asian Studies Winter School, "Urban Hybridity in the Post-Colonial Age," taking place in Macau from 16-20 December 2013.

Presented Papers

  • "The Origins of Unplanned Urbanism in Planned Modernism," at the "Texas Asia Conference 2011," University of Austin, USA
  • "Paradoxical Symbol: A study of the formal and informal housing scenario of the under-privileged residents of Islamabad," at the "Housing and Shelter: Looking into the Future" conference organized in 2009 by the Institute of Architects Pakistan – Rawalpindi/Islamabad chapter

Jennifer Darby Morris

Specialization: Design Studies
Advisor: Prof. Linda Groat
Dissertation Committee: Linda Groat (Chair, Architecture), Eric Hill (Architecture), Jane Dutton (Minor Advisor, Business)

Darby's research interests connect the world of professional practice to academia, and architecture to business. Specifically, she studies barriers to effective communication between architects and clients. Such barriers include the different languages architects speak, different ways they think, different perspectives they come from than their nondesigner clients. These barriers may be overcome through high quality connections, which have been found by Jane Dutton to promote numerous advantages such as heightened coordination and learning. Darby hopes these same high quality connections can benefit both architects and their clients in a variety of ways.

Darby is currently the TCAUP representative for AIA Huron Valley and has recently spoken at the 2014 Structures for Inclusion conference on Effective Communication.

Awards, Publications and Conference Papers

  • Center for Positive Organizations Summer Fellow, Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, 2014.
  • (Forthcoming) Book Review: Colonial Architecture and Urbanism in Africa. Journal of Architectural Education, Volume 68, Issue 2: Building Modern Africa, 2014.

Matthew Niermann

Specialization: Design Studies
Advisor: Linda Groat

Matthew Niermann is a Ph.D. student in Architectural Design Studies at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. His work focuses on contextual compatibility of design solutions in relation to both formal and symbolic aesthetics. Rooting his work in empirical aesthetic investigations, Matthew explores the intersections of built form; aesthetic perception, interest and preference; and correlated perceptions of role and place. Further, this research has a sub-focus on the differences of aesthetic perceptions by differing environmental roles, exploring the divergence of aesthetic perceptions between 'experts' and 'non-experts'.

This theoretical and empirical aesthetic work is combined with Matthew's previous advanced graduate work in the areas of Christian Theology, Missiology, and Philosophic Apologetics, to inform his dissertation research into the contextual compatibility of Protestant church building aesthetics in the United States of America.

Awards, Grants & Fellowships

  • 2013-2014 Alfred A. Taubman Scholar

Selected Publications and Conference Papers

  • "Truth in Arts" Paper presented at the Forum Inspir'action: Appelés à la vérité, at the Institut Emmaüs – Saint-Légier, Switzerland, 2014.

Azadeh Omidfar

Specialization: Building Technology
Advisor: Moji Navvab

How can we reinvent a metaphor for the building façade? Originally conceived and understood as a single layer, single purpose exterior building sheath, I suggest it be conceptually replaced with a smarter system analogous to a skin containing a fully integrated set of embedded intelligent systems designed to protect, adapt, ameliorate, mitigate, and adjust to the internal conditions of the structure it contains in response to a continuously changing set of internal demands and external conditions where and when necessary.

What are the critical roles for building skins to play, intelligently integrating the continuous process of coordinating a constantly changing building internal environment with independently dynamic environmental externals that we might not have considered or imagined before? What are the building material opportunities and limitations that will temper the smart integration of internal building systems with building skins? My research focuses on the integration of building skin designs, performance and fabrication. It looks into the ways in which the design of the building skin affects people physiologically and psychologically while being affected by the environment. The research is divided into two parts: looking into an understanding of how the design aesthetics are perceived by the occupants and observers, and how we should design a skin that will allow us to integrate many disparate aspects into a single multi-functional unit, dynamic and active in its performance in response to external and internal manifestations.


  • Omidfar, Azadeh. "DESIGN OPTIMIZATION OF A CONTEMPORARY HIGH PERFORMANCE." International Building Performance Simulation Association, 2011. Web. http://www.ibpsa.org/proceedings/BS2011/P_1779.pdf
  • Omidfar, Azadeh. "Design with Climate: The Role of Digital Tools in Computational Analysis of Site – Specific Architecture." Interdisciplinary Design: New Lessons from Architecture and Engineering. Ed. Daniel Weissman. N.p.: Actar, 2013. Print.


  • Daniel L. Schodek Award for Technology and Sustainability - Harvard Graduate School of Design 2011
  • EYP/Young Designers Award - 2012
  • California College of the Arts, Technology Book Award - 2008

Kush Patel

Specialization: Design Studies
Dissertation Committee: Linda Groat (Chair), Claire Zimmerman, Fernando Lara, and Scott Campbell (Cognate, Urban Planning)

Working Title:

Realizing Lefebvre: Ideas of Social Space in Lucien Kroll's La Mémé, Brussels 1969-1972 and Bernard Tschumi's Parc de la Villette, Paris 1982-1987

My research investigates the connections between the theoretical formulations of French philosopher-sociologist, Henri Lefebvre, and the architectural works of Belgian architect-writer, Lucien Kroll and Swiss-French architect-theorist, Bernard Tschumi. Specifically, the dissertation examines the extent to which the seminal writings and built works of Kroll and Tschumi articulate Lefebvre's conceptualization of the social production of space. The project focuses on Kroll's Medical Student Housing in Brussels and Tschumi's Parc de la Villette in Paris, and evaluates the two architects' distinct approaches to engaging wider social meanings against Lefebvre's spatial framework. Through literary analysis, the dissertation frames the conditions of linking social values of space to built works. Through fieldwork, the research presents the consequences of polemical positions as manifested in the respective settings and, furthermore, extends Lefebvre's empirical discourse in directions useful for questions of social engagement within architecture.

Recent Work:

  • Conference Paper: "Seeking Participation, Seeking Change: Lucien Kroll and the Architecture of La Mémé, Brussels," Environmental Design Research Association 45, New Orleans, May 2014.
  • Conference Paper: "Human Factors and Social Research: Discussing Multiple Understandings of Social Space," Environmental Design Research Association 44 Providence, RI, June 2013.
  • Published Work: Review of "Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets," EDRA Connections, EDRA, May 2013, 9-10.
  • Published Work: Pedagogical Experiments in Urban Design, Series 1: Social Space, Spatial Practice. Proceedings of Graduate Student Reading Seminar. Ahmedabad: CEPT University Press, 2012.
  • Conference Paper: "Locating softness in the program-oriented architecture of Bernard Tschumi," Environmental Design Research Association 43, Seattle, WA, June 2012.
  • Conference Paper: "Social Space and Spatial Practice," Environmental Design Research Association 42, Chicago, IL, May 2011.
  • Conference Paper: "Design as lived and experienced - An Inquiry into the relationship between space of abstraction and space of everyday lived experience," Environmental Design Research Association 41, Washington D.C., June 2010.
  • Conference Paper: "Outlining the relationship between space and social agency in architecture," Michigan Social Theory Conference, Ann Arbor, MI, March 2010.
  • Published Work: Drawings. In Architecture and Narrative: The Structure of Space and Cultural Meaning in Buildings by Sophia Psarra, Figures 1.0, 2.0, 5.0, 7.0, 7.2, 8.0. London: Routledge, 2009.
  • Conference Paper: "Ecology as Lived: An Inquiry into the role and meaning of lived space in architectural design," Theory Forum '09: Sheffield School of Architecture, Sheffield, UK, November 2009.
  • Conference Paper: "Between Ideal and Real: An inquiry into definitions of space in the works of architect-theorist, Bernard Tschumi, social-theorist, Henri Lefebvre and spatial-theorist, Bill Hillier," 5th Annual Research Student Symposium – Architectural Humanities Research Association (UK), Leicester School of Architecture, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, December 2008.
  • Conference Poster: "An Inquiry into the Definitions of "Space": Discussing the works of spatial theorists, Bernard Tschumi, Henri Lefebvre, and Bill Hillier." Oxford Conference 2008: Resetting the Agenda for Architectural Education, Oxford University, UK, July 2008.
  • Conference Poster: "Spatio-Functional Analysis of an Indian Colonial Imprint, Calcutta: 'Core' and the 'Center,'" Conference Poster, ACSA 96th Annual Meeting: Seeking the City: Visionaries on the margins, Houston, TX, March 2008.

Johnathan Puff

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Claire Zimmerman

My project examines safety and risk in 19th and 20th century American buildings. During this period, disasters—particularly conflagrations—plagued the hastily constructed urban areas that were expanding in cities across the country. Critics of the time believed that vulnerability to fire resulted from rampant real estate speculation and the proliferation of "jerry-built" structures. My research concentrates on a countervailing vision for the design of a "City Unburnable." This urban ideal combined the masonry expertise of Pre-Raphaelite architects, the use of non-combustible industrial building products like iron and terra cotta, and functional circulation planning derived from the École des Beaux-Arts.

Rudai Shan

Specializaiton: Building Technology
Advisor: Prof. Lars Junghans

My research interests focus on sustainable design strategies that could lower energy consumption – especially electricity consumption for lighting in commercial and government office buildings. Also includes daylight analysis, building performance simulation, and life-cycle cost analysis. I also join the University of Michigan – Shanghai Jiao Tong University Collaboration on Renewable Energy Science and Technology: Large panel integrated light transmitting and solar energy harvesting façade systems for net zero energy efficient buildings.

Benjamin Smith

Specialization: Design Studies
Advisor: Prof. John McMorrough

Working Title

Without Walls: SCI-Arc and Los Angeles Architecture in the 1970s and 1980s

My dissertation research is on the origins and progress of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and the Los Angeles architects of the LA School who taught there during the 1970s and 1980s. The research recounts the history of the school from its formation and focuses on the initial pedagogical strategies and the evolution that took place as faculty matured and changed. As SCI-Arc developed an identifiable group of architects also emerged in Los Angeles, many of whom taught at the school. This group, known as the LA School, approached architecture with individualized perspectives. Their work was indicative of motivations promoted within the SCI-Arc design studios. Probing this professional work investigates the diverse methods that these architects used and situates it within its historical context. The dissertation will show the developments of experimental pedagogy and how SCI-Arc and these architects fostered ideas and actions within architectural discourse—revealing discoveries, opportunities, challenges, and disputes. This research offers opportunities to theorize how architecture was questioned, transformed, and advanced in the 1970s and 1980s through discussion, drawing, and building—research that participates in the continued exploration of architectural aesthetics.

Recent Work

  • (Forthcoming) "SCI-Arc Builds a School: Trespassing on Pedagogy." Paper to be presented at Transgression: Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA) Conference, Bristol, England, 2013.
  • Selected to teach the annual PhD Student Led Seminar for the course Artifacts of Architectural Production: Diamonds, Diagrams, Drawls, and Drodels, University of Michigan, 2013.
  • "SCI-Arc's Origins: Exodus from Cal Poly and the Formation of an Alternative Pedagogy." Paper presented at Open: Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) Conference, Gold Coast, Australia, 2013.
  • "Demystifying the SCI-Arc Design Studio: 1972-1976." Paper presented at (un)Common Currency: Association of Architectural Educators (AAE) Conference, Nottingham, England, 2013.
  • "Evaluating the Manifesto: Architecture Through Constraint." Published in PAST FORWARD: Think Space Pamphlet, 2013.
  • Whither Installation Symposium. Moderator for the panel Practice, University of Michigan, January 2013.

Lori Smithey

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Amy Kulper

My research is invested in constructing a genealogical narrative of Decadence told through the lens of sacred and domestic architecture in both fin-de-siècle France and postmodern America. At stake in trafficing across these programtic and temporal domains is an evacuation of the critical capacity of aesthetics as well as the loss of a middle ground between the phenomenological aspects of lived experience and the aesthetic distanciation of style and stylization. Through case studies such as the Goncourt brothers' Villa Montmorency, the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur, and Philip Johnson's Glass House and Crystal Cathedral, my objective is to investigate a series of responses and reactions to the recognition of being in a post-construction or late moment.

Awards, Publications and Conference Papers:

  • (Forthcoming) "Baubles in the Salle de Bain." Paper to be presented at the 40th Annual 19th-Century French Studies Colloquium, fall 2014
  • Rackham Centennial Fellowship, University of Michigan, summer 2013
  • "Three of Architecture's Fictions: Metaphor, Mechanism, Movement." Paper presented at the 10th Fictions," LTH – School of Architecture, Lund, Sweden, spring 2013
  • Figuring Gothic Architecture through Decadent Poetics." Paper presented at the Center for Victorian Studies conference "Decadent Poetics," University of Exeter, UK, summer 2011
  • "Ralph Adams Cram: Subverting the Collapse of Social and Artistic Value," in Column 5 Journal of Architecture, Seattle, Washington: Department of Architecture, University of Washington, 2011
  • "Ralph Adams Cram and Decadent Space: a Sacred Wasteland." Paper presented at the ICLS Graduate Conference: "Uselessness," Columbia University, New York, NY, spring 2010

Babak Soleimani

Specialization: Design Studies
Advisor: Prof. Jean Wineman

Maria Taylor

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Andrew Herscher

My scholarly interests center on the evolving trajectory of utopian and normative urban design ideologies in the 20th century. I am particularly interested in the way that place- and time-specific notions of "nature" and "urbanity" influence and are influenced by the discourse and decision-making of the built environment professions. In my dissertation research, I investigate the history of post-WWII Soviet urbanism from a landscape history perspective, looking in particular at the architectural development of the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk and its ozelenenie [greening] in the 1950s to 1970s. In this period, bracketed by Khrushchev's mass housing program and Virgin Lands campaign on one side and increasing environmentalist and preservationist opposition to large-scale hydro-engineering projects on the other (e.g. among Siberian "Village Prose" writers), Krasnoyarsk's development reveals how the modernist trinity of 'light, air, and greenery' was distinctively incorporated into Soviet citybuilding. This research contributes a needed alternative perspective onto the history of 20th century urban design and environmental thought.

Grants & Fellowships:

  • 2013-2014: SSRC Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF)
  • 2013-2014: U.S. Fulbright Program Student/Research Fellowship
  • 2013-2014: University of Michigan Rackham International Research Award
  • 2012-13: Nathan & Marilyn Levine Architectural Research Scholarship, Taubman College, UM
  • 2012: SSRC 'Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship' (DPDF) in Ecological History.
  • 2011-12: Graduate Seminar on Global Transformations (GSGT) at the Center for International and Comparative Studies, UM
  • 2011: Summer Program Grant, Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, UM
  • 2010-11: Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies Student Fellowship, UM
  • 2005-2006: Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, Stanford University.

Selected Conference Papers & Other Work:

  • Conference Paper: "Re-constructing a Profession: Urban Design in post-Soviet Siberia," Association of American Geographers Annual Conference 2010, Washington, D.C.
  • Conference Paper: "Nature, Ecology, & Urban Design Narratives in Contemporary Siberia," American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies Annual Conference 2009, Boston, MA
  • MLA research thesis: "Local Landscapes, Local Views: Nature, Ecology & Urban Design in Krasnoyarsk, Russia," University of Washington, 2009.

Omid Oliyan Torghabehi

Specialization: Building Technology
Advisor: Prof. Peter von Bülow

Omid Oliyan is currently a Ph.D. student at Taubman College of Architecture at University of Michigan. Having a background in structural engineering and some research experiences in Computational Mechanics and Artificial Intelligence, He is now pursuing his doctoral studies in the field of computational design which connects architecture with the fields of computer and material science, biomimetic and structural engineering. He is now focusing his research on exploring new performance based design strategies in architectural form finding and material systems which can be put in three categories:

  • Performance based design: Genetic based exploration processes in architectural form finding usin performance based information models
  • Material computation and optimization: Integrating material properties and behavior in the process of for finding and fabrication through material simulation
  • Design computation: Exploring parametric and generative design strategies through integrating and developing form finding software