The Building Blocks for
Architectural Success:
MAF Scholarship Winner Jacob Nugent


As a kid, Jacob Nugent loved playing with Lego building blocks – so much so, that at the tender age of five, his family told him he should become an architect. Jacob took their advice, and this fall, he started his senior year at University of Michigan’s Taubman School of Architecture.

He also is the 2020 recipient of MAF’s Richard M. and Sidney K. Robinson Scholarship, awarded to a University of Michigan undergraduate architecture student who aspires to a career that combines the roles of citizen and artist. The scholarship is offered in cooperation with the Huron Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Jacob was selected for the scholarship based on his essay demonstrating his desire for and understanding of architecture based in citizenship, along with the portfolio of his early work. According to Jacob, “One of the strongest things I have been told by a professor is that, ‘the goal of architecture, as with all professional degrees, should be to do no harm.’ But architecture and development can do harm, if they displace people and create sprawl. It should be the job of architects to serve their role responsibly, and impact on our communities should always be at the forefront of design thought.  As a practicing architect, that goal will guide me.”

When asked what he is enjoying most about his architectural degree program, Jacob responds, “Learning about the representation of architecture, how to communicate your ideas, and creating drawings which accurately describe the goals of your project.”

In the future, Jacob would like to run an architecture firm, and encourage his staff to expand their design vision. “It would be rewarding to see what’s possible for building more affordable housing. Instead of the bland, cookie cutter approach that typifies the project type, more distinguished design can give all residents a sense of pride and ownership.”  Jacob continues, “Homes are inherently unique because they are personal. I really like houses designed by Louis Kahn, in particular, his Esherick House in Philadelphia. Kahn used simple forms on its Modern exterior, and incorporated more rustic elements such as a large rough exposed beam per the client’s request. It’s a style compromise that works.”

In what ways does Jacob think architecture improves the quality of life for people? “People are products of their environment, including their built environment. Architecture presents a tremendous opportunity to positively affect who we are, and improve our mood, outlook and well being, while being functional and practical. Architecture also has the ability to change with use and based on who is interacting with it – something other art forms lack.

Images, top and bottom, one of Jacob’s renderings and the project board from his Winter 2019 studio project at University of Michigan, a competitive rowing center located on Ford Lake.

Right: Jacob admires the residential work of architect Louis Kahn, particularly the simple forms of his Modern Esherick House in Philadelphia.