An architectural movement

Mezzanine Detroit Opera House, supplied by Albert Kahn Architects

An organization takes steps toward raising public awareness about architecture throughout the state.


Since 1957 the Michigan Architectural Foundation has dedicated its efforts to promoting and preserving architecture as a fine art. Originally established by the Michigan Society of Architects—now known as the Michigan Chapter of American Institute of Architects—the foundation not only serves as a resource for educational programs, information, and funding, but also strives to raise public awareness and appreciation for architecture.

“The Foundation’s mission is to make the public aware of how architecture enriches our lives,” said Robert P. Washer, president of MAF. Washer has a civil engineering background, is a Fellow at the Engineering Society of Detroit, and became an honorary affiliate of AIA Michigan in 2002.

“[Architecture] doesn’t have to be buildings: it could be walkways, bridges or a lot of different things that make you healthier and make your life more pleasurable,” added Washer.

Michigan State University Case Hall Dining Hall, photo credit: James Haefner, supplied by SmithGroupJJR

The Foundation, which is also governed by an elected Board of Trustees, has developed a number of educational initiatives, scholarships, grants, fundraisers, and events bringing attention to how architecture has the ability to support cohesive and sustainable communities, increase economic value, and add beauty to life.

“I can see and I can feel architecture has enriched my life,” said Washer. “[My wife and I] have a place in Canadian Lakes and I hired an AIA architect back in the late-90s before I was on the board. Now here I am almost 20 years later seeing some of the features and the details he put into it that makes the house more pleasurable, if you will, to me as the owner.”



While the organization offers financial resources and services to the general public as a whole, it is known in recent years for its educational efforts and work with the younger populations through programs such as the Rae Dumke Collection of 100 Essential Architecture Books housed at the Baldwin Public Library, and the Build Imagination Collection also donated by the Rae Dumke Fund in pediatric units at five different hospitals in the state.

Madison Building, photo credit: Maconochie Photography, supplied by Neumann/Smith Architecture

“The K-5 program that we have had for a long time has been rejuvenated and supported by Rae Dumke and the Dumke Fund for educational purposes, primarily for the very young kids,” said Washer. “[Dumke] has made those books available to the pediatrics department so we can put architectural books in their hands to make them aware of architecture at a very young age.”

The Build Imagination Collection features 100 different books intended for a youthful audience on different topics in architecture and design, such as: art and color, graphic design, shapes, famous landmarks, and LEGO. The collection was donated to the Munson Hospital Cowell Cancer Center in Traverse City, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Bronson’s Children’s Hospital in Kalamazoo, the Renucci Hospitality House in Grand Rapids, and the Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan in Grand Rapids.

Washer said while contractors, engineers, and those in the building industry know about architecture, exposing the younger generation to architecture early on is very important since they “are going to be the architects of the future.”

“We need to maintain that,” said Washer.

Romulus Athletic Center, supplied by Sidock Architects

The Foundation has also partnered with Detroit Public Television to produce a video series program known as Architreks. The five minute segments are hosted by young architects and have focused on prominent buildings, hidden shapes found in architectural structures, and the functionality of design.

“We have developed three or four videos and they may go on for about five minutes, but it is basically a young architectural student walking through a [neighborhood]. We did one downtown Grand Rapids and downtown Detroit, and we are in the process of going into a second grade classroom in Brighton,” said Washer. “They are going in to talk to the kids and hear their opinion on what they think architecture is.”



In line with its dedication exposing the younger generation to the field of architecture, MAF awards scholarships to collegiate students who are working toward a Master of Architecture degree. Some of the different scholarships available comprise: $4,000 AIA Michigan President’s Scholarship; $1,500 American Institute of Architect’s Scholarship; $1,000 Kenneth Neumann Design Scholarship with a summer internship; and $2,000 John Banicki Scholarship.

Upon submitting a design portfolio and other requirements, a panel of judges will select a student for each of the different scholarships offered. The architectural students are then presented with the awards during the Foundation’s April quarterly meeting, according to Washer.

Madison Building, photo credit: Maconochie Photography, supplied by Neumann/Smith Architecture

“We present them with the scholarships and they are able to network with some very high level architects, many of whom own architectural companies so there is an opportunity for employment,” said Washer. “I think it is a very good program that has been going on for many years.”

MAF also offers an $7,500 Evans Memorial Historic Preservation Grant named in honor of David Evans, FAIA, which was created through a partnership with the Clannad Foundation. The grant is intended for preservation work and since its establishment in 1999 has allocated nearly $60,000 for projects with historic significance throughout Michigan.

“It is not only appreciating and supporting architecture as it is being built at this time in our lives, but also the preservation of architecture that has been around for a while,” said Washer.



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Also: (architreks videos)