Building community 

Artists have gallery openings, poets have in-store readings and musicians have concerts. Be it in the back of a bar or inside an arena with stadium seating, most creative people have some way of interacting with their audience. But architects, who are working in arguably the most people-oriented of all art forms, have few opportunities to engage with the community at large.

Through the end of March, University of Detroit Mercy's School of Architecture lets architects have the stage as the school presents four lectures, each given by a prominent architect. The series, curated by UDM architecture professor Julie Kim, tends to draw UDM students, as well as those from Lawrence Tech and University of Michigan, and local practicing architects.

The first lecture, to be held Wednesday, Jan. 31, is given by Los Angeles architect Michael Rotondi. In recent years, Rotondi has shifted his focus from the world of chic and sleek commissions to more socially oriented projects, often working with nonprofits and Native American groups. Kim explains that Rotondi's firm, RoTo, is known for making high-end modern design accessible to its clients in a thoughtful and collaborative manner.

Rotondi is also identified as a major contributor to the identity of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), a school with a "push-the-envelope" reputation. He was one of its first students back in the early 1970s, and has remained involved with the school ever since, even holding the position of director for a decade.

The following lecture, on Friday, Feb. 23, is one with some local connection. Dan Hoffman is an Arizona State University professor who was the former head of architecture at Cranbrook; his contributions to the Bloomfield Hills campus include the pedestrian bridge and gatehouse at the Woodward entrance. UDM hosts Montreal-based architect and urban designer Renée Daoust on Wednesday, March 14 and Tanzanian-born Londonite David Adjaye on Monday, March. 26.

The lectures are held at the Warren Loranger Architecture Building at UDM's McNichols campus. More information can be found at the Architecture School's Web site:

Kelli B. Kavanuagh is a freelancer for Metro Times. Send comments to

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