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Michael Abrahamson

Current Student—Ph.D in Architecture

Michael Abrahamson

Specialization: History and Theory
Advisor: Prof. Claire Zimmerman

Michael Abrahamson is a designer, critic, and PhD Candidate in the history and theory of architecture at the University of Michigan. He operates a popular Tumblr blog focused on Brutalism that has over 200,000 followers, and is a correspondent for the Architectural Review.

His dissertation project is a monographic study of Latvian-American late modernist Gunnar Birkerts (1925-) that centers on five key projects completed over two decades by this architect and his firm. Through these projects, Michael will explore Birkerts's psychologized design process and the means by which his architecture firm organized and oriented a group of individuals toward a collective goal through its protocols, processes and standards. Birkerts serves as an archetype through which one can trace the trajectory of a particular model of architectural practice that centers on a single creative entrepreneur. Out of step with contemporaneous trends, Birkerts’s work 'tested' the corporatized professional establishment, questioning the hegemony of large, bureaucratic firms while pushing his individualist model of creative practice to its limits.

Recent Publications (non-peer-reviewed):

  • “Designing the Great Migration,” coauthored with James D. Graham, The Aggregate website, Volume 2 (March, 2015)
  • "Means Without Ends," [translated to Spanish as "Medios Sin Fines"] Plot 22 (January 2015), 178-181.
  • "Sculpture into Architecture,” in San Rocco Architecture Magazine 9 (Spring 2014), 69-78.
  • 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..


  • Summer Research Award ($8000) awarded by Rackham Graduate School, 2015, for “Protocols of Process & Expression: Professional Method at Gunnar Birkerts and Associates, 1960-1980”
  • Graduate Student Research Fellowship ($3000) awarded by Bentley Historical Library, 2013, for “Projecting an Equal Future: Gunnar Birkerts at Tougaloo College, 1965-1972

Symposia and Presentations:

  • "'Decent and Suitable' Modules: The Politics of Construction Research in HUD’s Operation Breakthrough, 1969-1974," Fifth International Conference on Construction History, Chicago, Illinois, June 6, 2015
  • "A Brutal Context: Gunnar Birkerts at Tougaloo College, 1965-1972," Society of Architectural Historians Annual Conference, Chicago, Illinois, April 15, 2015
  • "Means Without Ends," What Criticism? Loeb Fellowship Symposium, Harvard Graduate School of Design, February 14, 2014