The architectural design industry has struggled with diversity and inclusion, particularly for people of color. As an example, only 2% of licensed architects in the U.S. are African American*. This issue is especially notable in the City of Detroit, where the population of African Americans is 78.6%**. The issues and barriers to architecture are complex and deeply ingrained. Yet the current spotlight on lack of opportunities for people of color creates an imperative for architects to find solutions. One innovative program, called Architectural Prep (ArcPrep), has been making strides in addressing a root cause of systemic issues.
ArcPrep was founded by the University of Michigan in 2015 and is hosted by the Taubman School of Architecture. It creates educational pathways for high school juniors in the Detroit Public Schools to explore careers in the industry. Students are introduced to the multi-faceted discipline of architecture through an immersive, semester-long college preparatory course on architecture, urbanism, and integrated design studio practices. Students meet for three hours per day, five days a week over the course of a semester. The coursework focuses on three major components including, Architecture Studio, a Career Exposure Module and a Career Counseling Module.
Internships are a critical piece to ensure real world experiences. Partner companies provide a full-time pay commitment to one or more student each summer. Given that the students are still a full year from high school graduation, this approach demonstrates an unusual financial commitment to providing professional exposure in a field requiring specialized knowledge.
Abid Chowdry, who initially came to ROSSETTI as a paid intern in the 2016 ArcPrep cohort and is currently a senior in the architectural program at U of M, returned to ROSSETTI this summer. His work focused on creating a physical model for one of ROSSETTI’s large, complex projects. Abid’s experience is a tangible representation of the early stages of long-term pipeline impact that ArcPrep was designed to achieve.
The program is a superb example of the kind of highly intentional intervention required in order to enact tangible structural change, particularly in communities where both access and opportunity are limited.
For more information about ArcPrep: https://taubmancollege.umich.edu/architecture/high-school-programs/michigan-architecture-prep
* 2019 Directory of African American Architects
** U.S. Census Bureau 2019 estimates