From a young age, Hanen Mohammad was inspired by the power of architecture as shelter. “As a child in Iraq, my family and I had to move around a lot after the country was invaded in 2003,” said Hanen. It was an experience no one should have to endure. I drew houses and dreamed one day that my family would again have our own home (Hanen’s family came to the U.S. right before she turned 12). But I did not consider becoming an architect until I had to start thinking about what to study in college and eventually do for a living.”
Hanen, a graduate student at the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture and Community Design (SACD), is the 2022 recipient of the AIA Michigan President’s Scholarship. Founded by AIA Michigan’s past presidents, the scholarship is for graduate students in architecture that have demonstrated leadership in professional, community, or public service activities. MAF’s scholarship jury noted Hanan’s outstanding portfolio, academic performance, and involvement and leadership with NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects) and AIAS (American Institute of Architects Students), as well as excellent references in their decision to award her with the scholarship.
Winning the scholarship helped Hanen get one step closer to her dream and to helping others in a similar situation as she was as a child. “In a word, this scholarship means hope,” said Hanen. “I am the first in my family to graduate from college, and it is empowering and rewarding for me to be able to show my sisters that hard work pays off.”
Hanen will be starting the Masters of Architecture program this Fall, also at SACD. “I’m really enjoying how student-centered my program is,” said Hanen. “Our professors encourage personal, professional, and academic growth and present us with the opportunities to make that growth happen. And as part of NOMA and AIAS, we are exposed to the broader community, which provides great opportunities.”
As part of the MAF scholarship application, students are required to submit a design portfolio. Hanen’s portfolio, which was created during and influenced partly by the pandemic, features flexible, transitional spaces that provide users isolation and privacy yet a sense of community, as well as spaces intended to increase productivity and interaction as design drivers.
Hanen would like to design residential architecture, as well as explore designing disaster relief architecture. “Finding solutions to human concerns happens to be one of the things I appreciate most about the profession, and my passion for disaster relief architecture stems from my own childhood experience,” she said. “I would like to utilize my education to design semi-permanent housing for those experiencing displacement, to ensure people are not without shelter. Without shelter, you lose hope.”
How does Hanen think architecture enriches life? “There are so many avenues to architecture. “It shelters us, heals us, and inspires us. No matter where we live or our socioeconomic status, we all have the opportunity to benefit from architecture. As an architect, the ability to creatively problem solve through design is very powerful. If that can change one person’s life, then architecture has fulfilled its purpose.”
Photos, from top: Hanen; Hanen and her student NOMA and AIAS groups during a firm visit; a selection of photos from Hanen’s design portfolio.