Creatively Connecting People with Architecture:
MAF 2020 Architecture Awareness Grant Recipients Take Programs Digitally, Thrive Under COVID Challenges


How do you connect Michigan residents with architecture in creative ways? Award nearly $100,000 in grants over 20 years, to help fund 66 architecture-related programs including films, lectures, events, workshops and educational initiatives.

That’s the impact Michigan Architectural Foundation’s Architecture Awareness Grants have had since the program’s inception. MAF awards the grants to organizations and individuals for projects, programs, and activities that align with MAF’s mission to advance awareness of Michigan architecture, and how it enriches life. Find out more about MAF’s Architecture Awareness Grant program, and how to apply.

Over the past few months, COVID-19 naturally affected the ability to carry out traditional in-person programs. In response, MAF’s impacted 2020 Architecture Awareness grantees successfully pivoted their programs to virtual formats.  “The pandemic’s constraints demonstrated how creative and resourceful our grantees are – the same qualities that are hallmarks of their programs,” said Damian Farrell, FAIA, MAF Architecture Awareness Grants program chair. “It also showed how program reach can be expanded digitally to serve more Michigan residents, and done more economically, by removing physical costs such as printing of materials and event space rental.”

Six MAF Architecture Awareness Grants were awarded in 2020:

  1. AIA Saginaw Valley Chapter conducted a five-day architecture externship program for high school and college architecture students. *
  2. AIA Huron Valley Chapter created a book in both digital and print format, documenting the chapter’s award recipients. *
  3. Author Jeff Morrison’s grant is helping to cover costs for his new book, Guardians of Michigan. The book features images and information on architectural sculpture that adorns Michigan buildings.
  4. AIA Grand Valley Chapter held a virtual honor awards ceremony, partnering with west Michigan business publication MiBiz to increase visibility and reach for the event. *
  5. NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects) Detroit’s Project Pipeline Architecture Camps, which expose minority students to careers in architecture, converted its face-to-face camps to a virtual format this year. The virtual camp drew participants from Michigan and around the world. MAF has supported the program for multiple years running. *
  6. AIA Grand Valley offered its ACE Mentor Program, an after-school program that connects architects, engineers and contractors with students to expose them to careers in design, engineering, and the skilled trades. *

 *program was conducted virtually in 2020

From left: several of MAF’s 2020 Architecture Awareness Grant recipients successfully took their programs to virtual formats this year, including AIA Grand Valley’s Honor Awards (with sponsor MiBiz) and the chapter’s ACE Mentor Program, as well NOMA Detroit’s Project Pipeline summer architecture camp. Past recipients include organizations which held architecture exhibits; the Community Action Network’s architecture-based after school programs for kids; and a film on iconic architect Eero Saarinen. Top: Damian Farrell, FAIA, MAF Architecture Awareness Grants program chair. Below: the cover of AIA Huron Valley’s awards publication, and images from Jeff Morrison’s upcoming book, Guardians of Michigan.

What should potential applicants know about the grant program?  “It is easy to access the application, and MAF encourages creativity and innovation in programming ideas,” said Damian.  “Programs can be anything from a permanent project or installation, to something temporary like an experience or event, or of course, educational or community programming that has the potential to reach audiences of all ages and increase interest in architecture. We invite applicants to push their imaginations and ours with programming possibilities.”

Past MAF Architecture Awareness Grants have helped fund films on architect Eero Saarinen and Charlevoix’s ‘Mushroom’ Houses; Lego building block design challenges for children;  and the ArchiTreks video series for kids, in conjunction with Detroit Public Television (view them on MAF’s ‘Architecture for Youth’ YouTube channel).  The grants also have supported architecture exhibits and lecture series, including one on renowned architect John Lautner in his hometown of Marquette; and design competitions, including Flint’s Flat Lot Competition, which drew international participation.

How does Damian think architecture enriches life? His personal experience during COVID-19 has amplified the importance of how architecture impacts everyday experience, particularly when that architecture is your own home. “I designed the home to shelter our family. Our children and now our grandkids have loved playing here, and it’s been our constant,” he says. “Working from home, alongside my wife, has been a serendipitous reminder of the important role our house has played in our lives and our memories over the years. The house is more than just shelter – it is part of our family.”