The Language of Architecture:
MAF Scholarship Winner
Giovanni Zora


Architecture student Giovanni Zora first realized he wanted to become an architect in high school. “In my sophomore year, I took a drafting course with my favorite teacher (Mrs. Dossin), who inspired me and taught me the intricacies of hand-drafting plans, elevations, and sections. I then signed up for the Architecture I and II courses in my junior and senior years, where I continued to develop my skill and passion for architecture.”

Giovanni, currently in his senior year as an undergraduate student at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture and Community Design (UDM SACD), is the 2023 recipient of MAF’s Katherine and John Banicki Scholarship. MAF’s Scholarship Committee recognized Giovanni for his student leadership at UDM SACD and his community involvement. “Winning a MAF scholarship gave me confidence that there are others who see my potential as an architect, and want to support my growth and success.”

One of the things Giovanni is enjoying most about his architectural program at UDM SACD is the people involved. “Everyone from professors to fellow students want to help each other and see one another prosper,” he says. “Additionally, the creative thinking the professors encourage students to do in the studio is great for growth as a young architect.” Giovanni completed his study abroad program in Volterra, Italy, offered through UDM SACD, this past summer.

As part of their scholarship application, students are asked to include a personal statement regarding their interest, experience, and plans related to architecture. “I shared how much my family and Chaldean culture have shaped the person I am today,” said Giovanni. “For example, I spoke about my goal of building a soccer stadium in Iraq for the youth and professionals alike, an interest that stemmed from watching and playing sports with my dad and uncles while growing up.”

As a big sports fan, Giovanni would love to one day design sports stadiums, as well as residential architecture. “It would be an incredible feeling to build a home for a family and know they are raising their kids in a structure you designed.”

He continues, “In my scholarship application, I also spoke about my involvement in the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS), which is filled with people from all backgrounds who are interested in architecture, which I love. You get to learn from your peers and their experiences, and great guest speakers who share their perspectives on architecture.” Applicants are also required to submit a personal portfolio.  “I included projects ranging from artistic drawings to studio projects including one called “Connecting Detroit”, which is a museum dedicated to Detroit artists. Additionally, I included a rendering of a group project (created by Giovanni and classmates Jake Lampi, Mahmmoud Eljammali, and Ryan Lemke) intended to enhance Detroit’s Joe Louis Greenway.”

Giovanni likens identifying a favorite work of architecture to asking a parent to choose their favorite child but cites the U.S. White House and its surroundings (designed by renowned city planner Pierre L’Enfant), along with the Art Deco style and ocean/beach aesthetic of Miami, among architecture he admires. He adds,” After being in Italy for three months and touring multiple churches and cathedrals, I would have to include the Siena Cathedral, due to its spectacular detail and ornamentation.”

He also says that what he loves most about architecture is that architects understand one another – and can translate that understanding into structures that serve others. “We (architects) understand the complexities that go into a building from the design to its structure and functionality. I also enjoy that with my architecture colleagues, I can point to a unique building anywhere in the world and we can seemingly talk about it forever.”

Michigan Architectural Foundation’s mission is to advance awareness of how architecture enriches life. How does Giovanni think architecture enriches life? “Architecture makes you think, and stimulates the brain to allow us to comprehend the world and our surroundings in a new way.”

Photos, top to bottom: Giovanni; in his 3rd year studio with fellow classmates; a selection from Giovanni’s student design portfolio; visiting a project site; Giovanni enjoying Italy’s historic architecture during his UDM SACD study abroad program this past summer.