James Chaffers, FAIA, an emeritus professor of architecture at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, was the recipient of the nation’s first Doctorate of Architecture from Taubman College in 1971.
A Woodrow Wilson Fellow and finalist for the White House Fellowship, Chaffers is the recipient of three Distinguished Faculty and three Outstanding Teacher Awards from U-M and other universities. In addition, he was named “Educator of the Year” by the Michigan Association of Colleges and Universities. In further recognition of his distinguished teaching and professional practice, Chaffers was elevated to the “College of Fellows,” FAIA, within the American Institute of Architects.
In his academic/professional roles, Chaffers has served as director of Taubman College’s PhD Program in Architecture, director of the Florence-Tuscany Design Studio in Florence, Italy, and director for 10 years of the West African Design Studio in Kumasi, Ghana. Chaffers is the founder of two inner-city design centers and a first-prize winner in the student/professor category of several international design competitions.
With the focus of his professional and academic work on the exploration of design links between spatial quality and human spirituality, Chaffers was asked in April 1997 to serve as senior design juror for a “living memorial” in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Guided by competition criteria co-developed by Chaffers, the winning entry for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was chosen from more than 900 competitive briefs submitted by the international design community. The memorial opened in 2011 and is located next to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.