Taubman College to Host Design Futures 2021

Taubman College is proud to host the annual Design Futures Forum, happening online June 9–12, 2021. Launched in 2013, the Design Futures Forum is an interdisciplinary leadership development conference centered on principles of racial justice and social equity. 

Design Futures fosters capacity building for future leaders to think critically about power, privilege, and positionality in the practice of community-engaged design and to rethink and elevate the role of the designer to address and dismantle systemic oppression in the built environment.

During the four-day convening — which includes three events that are open to the public — more than 70 student leaders from across the nation are coming together in a virtual space, representing design programs from leading academic institutions and more than 25 academic and practitioner faculty from private and nonprofit-based practices. Taubman College’s hosting team of eight students, faculty, and staff includes student participants Areli Balderrama, Pilar O’Hara, John Li, Kei Wing Wong, and Madeira BooydeGraaff.

“Design with compassion is my biggest motivator for being a good architect,” said Wong, explaining their interest in attending Design Futures. “To cooperate with underrepresented groups, humble ourselves, learn and magnify others’ goodness … to eventually enrich and influence the architectural community and the needy. Attending the Design Futures Forum seeds and grounds my passion further with a different lens. I’m hoping to expand the scope of inclusive design through practical architectural work and representational design in our daily life.”

Zain Abuseir and Young-Tack Oh, both lecturers in architecture, serve as Taubman College’s faculty representatives to the Design Futures Forum. 

“The Design Futures Forum is a space that is built on an inclusive culture, nurtured by a community that is accessible, willing to listen and grow — a community that transcends physical space,” Abuseir said. “We hope that the platforms we are co-creating can expand our understanding of how we can use design and the tools offered by the built environment to co-create systemic change.”

In addition, Marc Norman, an associate professor of practice in urban and regional planning at Taubman College, is a member of the Design Futures advisory board. He said that while much work remains to be done, he continues to be impressed by the pace of change: “When I first got involved with Design Futures eight years ago, it was an anomaly for students to have the opportunity to talk about equity, engaged design, and the ways that our fields of planning urban design and architecture could aid communities that were heretofore neglected. We now take it for granted, but Design Futures has been instrumental in embedding this ethos into curriculum and bringing students together from all over the country to be in dialogue with each other and learn best practices for making a better world through design disciplines.”

He added, “I am really excited for Design Futures to come to University of Michigan, and especially Taubman College. as it embodies the values that we teach our students and has the possibility of showing students from all over the country ways in which we train the next leaders in creating better places.”

The following Design Futures Forum events are open to the public:

Local Action: Acts of Urbanism
June 9, 2021 / 5:30–7 p.m. (EDT)

Acts of Urbanism is an experimental research initiative at the intersection of design, urbanism, and the performing arts, conceived to advance an expanded set of critical tools for the interpretation of cities. Through Acts of Urbanism, we will do 360-degree tours of three neighborhoods (Banglatown, Mexicantown – Southwest, Black Bottom) and learn about their history and people. The tours will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with Power House Productions, Thank You So Much For Coming, The Hinterlands, A Host of People, and Black Scroll Network History & Tours.
Learn more / attend

Local Knowledge: Emerging Voice
June 11, 2021 / 5–6:30 p.m. (EDT)

Four short panel discussions and an open Q+A feature 12 Detroit natives sharing their thoughts on the design field and the built environment. The panelists are connected through their past or present participation in ArcPrep, an architecture preparatory program made possible through the collaboration between Taubman College and Detroit Public Schools. Hosted by Sara Timberlake, M.Arch ’18. 
Learn more / attend

Keynote: Whose Water? Our Water! Fighting for safe and affordable water in Detroit and beyond
June 12, 2021 / 2:30–4 p.m. (EDT)

Using We the People of Detroit’s cross-disciplinary research, Monica Lewis-Patrick and Emily Kutil will discuss dynamics of infrastructure, race, and public health that define the struggle for water justice in Detroit. They will share lessons from work connecting design, movement organizing, coalition building, public health research, and other collaborative tactics in order to shape a more just and democratic future for water infrastructure at local and national levels.
Learn more / attend

Learn more about the Design Futures Forum here.

Faculty: Zain Abuseir ,