The University of Michigan Architecture Preparatory Program (ArcPrep) provides Detroit Public School juniors with an immersive, semester-long college preparatory course in architecture, urbanism and studio design. Meeting three hours per day, five days a week over the course of a semester, U-M ArcPrep works to broaden career horizons, meet future demand, and bring diverse voices into the fields of architecture, planning and design by serving students typically underrepresented in American architecture schools and thus the profession of architecture.
During this semester, students engage in a rigorous academic program that introduces fundamental studio design tools. The course strengthens participants' ability to translate observations about the world into visual and spatial language and, through a spatial justice lens, works to expand students' sense of agency in the built environment. Students receive instruction through a series of thematic, interrelated modules structured to deliver fundamental design and research methodologies, offer techniques for critical analysis, shed light on the profession and its affiliate fields, and demonstrate pathways to design education.
The main components of the program include:
DESIGN STUDIO: Includes assignments in mathematics & visual art through a wide range of digital and analog methods, paired with lectures from U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning faculty.
SELF-EXPRESSION & CREATIVE PRACTICE: Presents a set of rotating topical modules offering students modes of critical analysis to understand the forces that shape the built environment. Exercises encourage students to contemplate and reimagine architecture’s part in the construction of an equitable society.
PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE: Connects students with a range of leading professionals invited from the fields of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design, Art, Activism, and Community Advocacy to trace the myriad of professional pathways available through design education.
MENTORSHIP AND COUNSELING: Offers individual and group academic and career counseling that includes workshops on pathways to secondary education, financing college, and producing a competitive college application essay and portfolio.
BUILDING SOCIETY: A month-long final project focusing on the reimagination of a public institution, with the understanding that designers inflect dynamic social conditions within building walls and beyond.
Project Based Learning
Education practitioners, policy makers and researchers concur that architecture in particular is an exemplary project-based learning discipline – one which teaches the practical tools of counting, scaling, debating, and organizing – encouraging students to engage in both high level thinking and hands-on production. Within a studio-based, college-level work environment, ArcPrep builds on knowledge in mathematics and the visual arts, applying creative methodologies to real-life community endeavors. Through direct engagement, the program delivers design tools that empower, benefiting students are typically relegated to a privileged few.
ArcPrep’s current curriculum is broken into five modules:
1. Tool Box
The Tool Box module introduces students to the discipline of architecture, inviting them to explore the contemporary analog and digital tools professional designers use to actualize their ideas. 2D & 3D representation techniques are honed through sketching, model making, and the use of software packages including Rhinoceros 3D and the Adobe Creative Suite. Through iterative design exercises, students develop a technical proficiency necessary to complete a sophisticated final project.
2. Food, Culture, and Access
The Food, Culture, and Access module introduces students to the concept of spatial justice in relation to food as a right, a material of cultural expression and a component of a broader urban network, touching on the social, economic, and environmental implications of food systems. Through a series of lectures, presentations and workshops, the module will address current topics around food insecurity/equity and explore ways architecture and design can serve to make positive change.
3. Institutions and Civil Liberties
The goal of the Institutions and Civil Liberties module is to imbue students with a sense of agency to critique the harmful institutions that structure the world around them, envision alternative futures, and put those visions into practice. It will also instruct students about how people who have been directly impacted by the carceral system have marshaled creative expression to critique that system and put forth their own visions for their communities. The module is structured around three creative modalities: writing, visual art, and community building. Each section of the module introduces students to individuals and activists who have used that modality and provides students with opportunities to practice that modality themselves.
4. Technology and the City
This module introduces students to the topics of urban data and digital infrastructure. Throughout, they are encouraged to think at a range of scales – from the body to the city. The goal is to be realistic about the challenges and contemporary political issues surrounding digital infrastructure in Detroit, but to also make students feel empowered. They will be introduced to a range of ways to intervene in the digital infrastructure of the city, from hands-on technology tutorials, to understanding digital media as a vehicle for joy or aesthetic pleasure, to activism surrounding the way that digital technology is – or should be – implemented in Detroit. 
5. Building Society: Applied Final Project
Each year, ArcPrep selects an institution for students to reimagine. The branch library has been tabbed this academic year, as the library system in Detroit finds itself under unprecedented burden and pressure. Only six of 21 branches are slated to reopen in the Fall of 2021, after funding shortfalls, accentuated by the challenges of an ongoing pandemic, have strained a beloved civic institution. Students will be asked to consider the future of branch libraries – their alterations, sustainability, social obligations, and civic role both in Detroit and more broadly.
Under the directorship of Anya Sirota, associate dean of Academic Initiatives, ArcPrep is led by Michigan Mellon design fellows and supplemented by an educational ecosystem composed of prominent academics from the University of Michigan. Additionally, the program is strengthened through its Detroit partnerships, bringing leading design firms, community advocates, artists, and civic leaders into the classroom.
Anya Sirota, ArcPrep Program Director
Anya Sirota is an architectural designer, associate professor, associate dean of Academic Initiatives at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and founding principal of Akoaki. Her work, situated at the intersection of architecture and urban design, explores how a distinct synthesis of aesthetics, social enterprise, and cultural programming can offer contemporary and multi-disciplinary strategies for urban transformation. Her ongoing research and design efforts have received international recognition with recent projects featured at the Vitra Design Museum, the Brussels Design Museum, the Centro Pecci Prato, the Saint Etienne Design Biennale, and the Chicago Cultural Center. She is the recipient of the Architectural League Prize (2018), the ACSA Faculty Design Award (2016), the SXSW Eco Place by Design Award (2015), and the R+D Award from Architect Magazine (2013), and other honors. Sirota regularly contributes to international lectures, panels, workshops, and expositions addressing socially driven architectural practice and its impact on cities.
Sirota earned her Master in Architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where she was awarded the Araldo Cossutta Prize for Design Excellence. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University.
Young-Tack Oh, ArcPrep Leader
Young-Tack Oh is the current Michigan Mellon Design Fellow in Egalitarianism and the Metropolis leading the ArcPrep program since Fall 2018. He is a founding member of the experimental studio Archipleasure. His speculative research and practice explicate on the marginal and overlooked occurrences in contemporary urbanism— how seemingly inconsequential things form the basis of major movements and systems— and from which subversive and more playful interventions are generated. The work consistently seeks renewed interpretations of architecture that cast more inclusive ambitions and exuberant prospects for the built environment. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Architecture from University of Michigan.
Jacob Comerci, Project Manager for Academic Initiatives
Jacob Comerci is a designer, educator, and project manager for Academic Initiatives at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. He was the 2019-2020 William Muschenheim Fellow at the University of Michigan, having previously received a Master of Architecture from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While at Princeton, Comerci was awarded the Suzane Kolarik Underwood thesis prize for excellence in design and the Howard Crosby Butler traveling fellowship where he studied building groups in Berlin. He has worked with the offices of Bureau Spectacular in Chicago and Los Angeles and with MOS Architects and LTL Architects in New York. He is co-founder of Taubman Public Design Corps alongside María Arquero de Alarcón, Irene Hwang & Anya Sirota – a program connecting students in architecture, urban design, and planning with organizations to tackle pressing economic, environmental, social, and spatial challenges. His ongoing research and design work reconsiders models for collective life and work by way of the interior fit-out of existing real estate with furniture-scaled domestic equipment.
Ishan Pal Singh, New Media Specialist
Ishan Pal Singh is the new media specialist at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. A licensed architect in India, he received a Master of Architecture from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and a Bachelor of Architecture at Sushant School of Architecture, Delhi NCR, India. While at Taubman College he was awarded the Alpha Rho Chi Award for leadership. In India he held his own private practice for two years and was awarded IIDA Best of Asia Pacific Design Award. 
Deepthi Bathala, PhD Curriculum Advisor
Deepthi Bathala is a Ph.D. candidate in Architectural History and Theory at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Michigan. Her interests lie in colonial networks and food transfers as these have shaped architecture.
Nora Krinitsky, PhD Curriculum Advisor
Nora Krinitsky is a lecturer in the Residential College, the interim director of the Prison Creative Arts Project, and a faculty director of the Carceral State Project. She is a historian of the twentieth-century United States.
Rebecca Smith, PhD Curriculum Advisor
Rebecca Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in Architectural History and Theory at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Michigan. Her interests lie in urban data, digital infrastructures, and surveillance.
U–M Faculty Collaborators
- Ellie Abrons
- Zain Abuseir
- María Arquero de Alarcón
- Bryan Boyer
- Jacob Comerci
- Harley Etienne
- Melissa Harris
- Lesli Hoey
- Irene Hwang
- Yojairo Lomeli
- John McMorrough
- Julia McMorrough
- Ana Morcillo Pallarés
- Cyrus Peñarroyo
- Gina Reichert
- Mireille Roddier
- Jonathan Rule
- Jose Sanchez
- Geoffrey Thün
- Anca Trandafirescu
- Anthony Vanky
- Kathy Velikov
- Missy Ablin
- Allen Gillers
- Suzanne Lettieri
- Julie Pedtke
- Paulina Reyes
- Sara Timberlake
Select Professional Partners
- 313 Creative
- Berardi Partners
- Equity in Architectural Education Consortium
- Fielding International
- Hamilton Anderson and Associates
- National Organization of Minority Architects
- Smith Group
Partnering Cultural Institutions
- 400 Forward
- A Host of People
- Design Core Detroit
- Detroit Institute of Art
- Detroit Public Library
- Kresge Arts
- Oakland Avenue Urban Farm
- Scarab Club
- Sidewalk Festival
- Power House Productions
Select Academic Partners
- Cornell University
- University of Detroit Mercy
- Lawrence Technological University
ArcPrep Awards and Career Opportunities
Academic Achievement Award
The Academic Achievement Award is granted to up to five students per semester who have exhibited exemplary maturity and work ethic, contributed to an intellectual and collegial environment, and shown independent and innovative thinking in the execution of project assignments and public presentations.
Academic Improvement Award
The Academic Improvement Award is granted to up to three students per semester who have improved their performance through growing initiative and independence in the classroom. These individuals have shown an increased willingness to learn from their instructors and peers, resulting in a strong final project.
The Studio Award is granted to up to three students for design excellence. These individuals have iterated upon numerous designs, expanded on their best option, visually represented the project in a technically proficient and compelling manner, and presented their vision with clarity and confidence to a design jury.
University of Michigan ArcStart Award
Multiple scholarships will be awarded to high-achieving students to attend ArcStart, a three-week long residential program for high school students that offers students the opportunity to explore the built environment firsthand through an introduction to architectural design. Participants will experience the rewarding intensity of an engaging college architecture studio, partake in skill-building workshops that reinforce analytical and conceptual problem solving skills, and visit architecturally significant projects in Southeast Michigan.
Cornell Future Architecture Award
University of Michigan + Cornell University Joint Initiative
Michigan Architecture Prep and Cornell University’s Department of Architecture offers the Cornell Future Architecture Award to students who have shown an interest in and talent for design and architecture. Awardees will attend the Cornell Introduction to Architecture Program – a six-week architecture enrichment program at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York – at no cost. Each year, ArcPrep graduates accepted into this program receive a full tuition, room and board scholarship covering all expenses related to the program.
Rossetti Internship Program
University of Michigan + Rossetti Joint Initiative
Rossetti, an award-winning architecture and design firm based in Detroit, offers up to three paid internships to high-achieving graduates of the ArcPrep program. Summer interns will work on architecture, urban design and interior design projects at Rossetti offices in downtown Detroit.
Any student from a participating DPSCD high school is eligible. Students are selected by their principals and must meet the following requirements:
- 2.5 GPA or better
- Good attendance and academic standing
- An interest in architecture