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Taubman College Students Honored in 2024 Saarinen Swanson Essay Competition

Several Taubman College students have been recognized in the annual Saarinen Swanson Essay Competition. Their work explores themes such as the true meaning of home and the deeper responsibilities of today’s architects.

Established in 1994, the contest encourages the use of writing to generate and disseminate ideas about architecture and planning. It is open to all students at Taubman College, at any level, in any program.

The competition seeks 1,000- to 1,500-word essays addressing contemporary issues in architecture, planning, and related topics. The essay can be a new text or work produced for a course.

Here are the winners of the 2024 competition and an excerpt from each of their essays:

First Place

Natalie DeLiso, M.Arch ’24, for “Two-Alarm Fire” ($5,000)

Excerpt: “One morning I received a call from a friend asking me, ‘Am I to blame for the death of these two men?’ Over a year ago she had completed her first built project, a small single-family home on Desire Street in New Orleans. The owners had planned to build several affordable homes for rent, this being the first of more to come. That morning she was informed the two men had been caught in a housefire, leading to their death.”

Special Recognition

Nicole Tooley, B.S. Arch ’24, B.A. English, Language and Literature, ’24, “Architecture is the Boy is the Buoy and the Pier and the Peering” ($2,000)
Excerpt: “The pier as a place where land extends its body, a body which is tectonic and governed by economies and labor — trash and an inner tube. But also a body that is plainly soft and lucid. The pier is a place where all of this meets the water. And the water says, ‘Just fine — come on in.’”

Irene Wei, M.Arch ’25, “What a Home Looks Like” ($2,000)
Excerpt: “As a second-generation Taiwanese immigrant, my New American experience is akin to grieving a version of my life that never existed, while still trying to simulate it the best I can in a seemingly parallel universe.”

Taubman faculty members Rob Goodspeed, chair of the urban and regional planning program, and John McMorrough, interim chair of the architecture program, judged the essay contest.