New Faculty and Fellows Join Taubman College

Taubman College welcomes established practitioners and emerging talent to its faculty for the 2019–2020 academic year, enhancing the college’s boundary-pushing approach to the practice of architecture. “New faculty extend our capacities in directions we believe will be especially valuable for shaping future buildings and cities,” said Dean Jonathan Massey. “Many of the colleagues joining us this year work at the intersection of architecture with entrepreneurship and industry, helping our students find leverage points to change the world through design.”

Mania Aghaei Meibodi has joined the college as an assistant professor of architecture. She develops computational design methods and innovative ways of employing digital fabrication to create smart building elements, including the employment of additive manufacturing for building construction. Meibodi, who holds a Ph.D. in architecture from KTH, also is the founding principal of Meonia, an architecture and development practice in partnership based in Stockholm and Toronto. She previously was with ETH Zurich, where her projects included Smart Slab and Digital Metal (Facade, Spaceframe Structure, etc.), and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication in Switzerland. “I strongly believe that the combination of the people and facilities at the University of Michigan, along with the context of manufacturing and fabrication in Michigan, has fantastic potential to develop world-leading research for bespoke large-scale additive manufacturing in architecture,” Meibodi said in a September interview with the University Record. “With the extensive surrounding industrial expertise, stemming from the automotive industries and global leader in AM technologies, this research can have both local impact and develop innovations for export.”

Building on the strength of the college’s faculty fellows program as a pipeline for tenure-track faculty, Laida Aguirre — who joined the college as the 2017–2018 Muschenheim Fellow and most recently was a lecturer of architecture — is now an assistant professor of architecture. Aguirre, an architectural designer, and director of stock-a-studio, redesigns the circulation of materials and commodities to intervene in the politics of aesthetics, logistics, and media. Their research and design work has been exhibited at Storefront for Art and Architecture, Materials & Applications, Milan Architecture Week, A+D Museum, Berlin Art Week, and Oya in Oslo, and has been published in E-flux, Pin-Up Magazine, POOL, and Art Papers. Aguirre currently has projects in Los Angeles and Berlin.

Again this year, early-career practitioners and researchers share their expertise as faculty fellows — including the new Fishman Fellowship in Urbanism, which was established in 2018 with a gift from Professor Robert Fishman, an internationally recognized expert in the areas of urban history and urban policy and planning. Eduardo Mediero is serving as the inaugural Fishman Fellow, a one-year teaching and research opportunity for leading early-career scholars and practitioners to generate the knowledge and capacity to improve urban futures. Mediero is a licensed architect and founder of HANGHAR, an architecture practice based in Madrid that works on the confluence between architectural precedents and financial organizational models. The practice develops projects from furniture, interior design, housing, and urbanism. Mediero’s work has been exhibited at the XIV Biennial of Spanish Architecture and Urbanism, the 16th and 15th Venice Architecture Biennale, the Colegio de Arquitectos de Madrid and the ETSAM. 

Jacob Comerci joins Taubman College as the Muschenheim Fellow. His research and design work transforms models for collective life and work by way of the interior fit-out of existing real estate with furniture-scaled domestic equipment. As an M.Arch student at Princeton, he received the Howard Crosby Butler traveling fellowship to study building groups in Berlin and the Suzane Kolarik Underwood thesis prize for excellence in design. He previously worked with Bureau Spectacular in Chicago and Los Angeles and with MOS Architects and LTL Architects in New York. The Muschenheim Fellowship offers design instructors early in their career the opportunity to develop a body of work in the context of teaching.

The Sanders Fellowship, which supports individuals with significant, compelling, and timely research dealing with architectural issues, has been awarded to Matīss Groskaufmanis. Groskaufmanis redesigns architecture’s relationship to political and economic ideologies, with a particular focus on the emergence of global architecture practice. In 2018, he served as a curator of the Latvian Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, exploring housing as a means of nation-building. Since 2012, Groskaufmanis has worked on research, publishing, and building projects as part of Rotterdam-based architecture practices OMA/AMO and MVRDV.

As the Sojourner Truth Fellow, Jane Fran Morgan will co-teach a workshop in the winter 2020 semester that reviews the recent history of community engagement in Detroit neighborhoods and gives students a deepened understanding of the challenges and opportunities of working closely with project partners. The Sojourner Truth Fellowship is awarded to scholars, activists, or professional leaders who can strengthen the diversity, equity, and inclusion goals of the urban and regional planning program. Morgan, the founder of JFM Consulting Group, has extensive experience providing cross-sector planning, strategy, and evaluation services to diverse organizations in Detroit and beyond. 

In addition to the new 2019–2020 fellows, Bryan Norwood continues with the Michigan Society of Fellows, Arash Adel continues as the Taubman Postdoctoral Fellow, and Young-Tack Oh, M.Arch ’15, remains as the Michigan Mellon Design Fellow.

Visiting professors also will bring new perspectives from practice to the classroom and studio this year. Andrew Moddrell (PORT) and Clement Blanchet (Clement Blanchet Architecture), who taught in the winter 2019 semester, return this fall to teach studios that examine urban design relative to Chicago’s grid and the future of work, respectively. 

This fall, Adam Koogler and Jesse Ganes from WeWork are leading a seminar, “Space as a Service: How the Urban Tech Sector is Shaping Working, Learning, and Living,” which explores how tech culture is influencing traditional spatial practices, probes for opportunities to incubate new forms of professional agency, and examines how the confluence of these forces is transforming the design of our cities.

Also this fall, Bryan Boyer (Dash Marshall) is leading a thesis development seminar, “Civic Futures,” in which students are researching emerging technologies, speculating on their architectural and urban implications, and analyzing “micro institutions” operating at neighborhood scale, in preparation for designing their own micro institutions under Boyer’s guidance during a winter term thesis studio.

Gina Reichert (Design 99 and Powerhouse Productions), a Detroit-based artist, architect, and community developer is teaching an undergraduate design course this semester, “Back of House: spotlighting what is unseen.” The studio will work through often “unseen” elements of place — including stories, networks, and economics — to design a public amenity on the site of Chicago’s redeveloped Cabrini-Green neighborhood.

And during the winter semester, Ann Lui (Future Firm) will teach a Propositions studio concerning the future of the workplace for masters-level students. Future Firm has been featured in Architect’s Magazine’s Next Progressives issue.