2016 AIA Michigan Honor Awards Reflect Strong Foundation of KCAD’s Master of Architecture Program
Having recently celebrated its first group of graduates in May, the Master of Architecture (MArch) program at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) now looks to continue building upon the strong work students have produced since the program’s launch in 2014. But apart from student success, compelling evidence of how well-positioned the program is for the future comes from the educators and professionals who have nurtured its growth from the beginning.
A number of individuals connected to the KCAD MArch were among those honored at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Michigan chapter’s 2016 Honor Awards on June 10. The statewide awards spotlight individuals and organizations whose work has created substantial and lasting impact both in and outside of the field of architecture.
MArch Director Brian Craig was honored with the prestigious President’s Award, which according to the AIA Michigan website recognizes “an architect who has made outstanding contributions to the profession and service to the community.” Craig’s distinguished 40-year career has taken him around the world and spans both education and professional practice. After joining Ferris State University in 2010, he helped to found the university’s BS degree in Architecture and Sustainability, and from there led the founding of the KCAD MArch.
Like the Lifetime Achievement Award he received from the AIA Grand Rapids chapter in November 2015, Craig sees this latest honor not as a personal accomplishment, but as validation of the KCAD MArch’s mission to provide an educational experience he’s dubbed “very unlike the usual.”
“It was clear to me when I was informed of the award that it stems from what we have done in creating the KCAD MArch. The honor is as much about the program and the support I’ve received from KCAD as it is about me,” said Craig. “My involvement in this program is an opportunity to take the lessons I’ve learned from a career in architecture and span generations by working with emerging professionals to craft a program that’s focused on the future of architecture.”
Craig (right) at the AIA Michigan Honor Awards with AIA Michigan President Michael Neville (center) and AIA Michigan Honor Awards Chair Arthur Smith (left)
"KCAD congratulates Brian Craig on this milestone accomplishment. His dedication to architecture and the success of the KCAD MArch and its students is an inspiration to all of us," said Interim Dean of the College Ron Riksen.
Two of those emerging professionals Craig referenced, Megan Feenstra-Wall of Mathison | Mathison Architects and Thom Danckaert of Progressive AE, were recognized alongside Craig at the AIA Michigan Honor Awards. Both received the Young Architect Award, given to select AIA Michigan members under 40 years of age who have made significant contributions to the profession of architecture.
Feenstra-Wall is a founding and active member of the program’s Board of Formation. She points to place as a key driver of the KCAD MArch’s initial successes.
“I was convinced that the KCAD MArch could thrive in this area. I saw a lot of potential in having this really interesting, unique program in a culture here in West Michigan that is design focused,” she said.
Feenstra-Wall also served on the jury that evaluated the recent MArch graduates’ final thesis projects. “I think that being a part of something so unique and new will give these first graduates a sense of confidence that will empower them to try something else new, whether that’s starting their own firm or launching a start-up with someone else or taking a risk in a job,” she said.
Danckaert has been an adjunct faculty member at KCAD since 2006, first teaching in the Interior Design program before joining the MArch program as a guest critic and a thesis advisor.
“The process has been amazing,” Danckaert said of his experience in the program thus far. “The way the thesis course was structured as a one-on-one engagement between professionals and students was very beneficial. This program creates a higher level of dialogue that I think differentiates it from other programs.I’ve seen these students evolve and grow in really immense and healthy ways.”
KCAD MArch adjunct faculty members Bryan Koehn and Ned Baxter of Progressive AE were also recognized at the AIA Michigan Honor Awards with a Building Award for their involvement in Progressive AE’s “alone|among” installation in ArtPrize 2015.
Danckaert points to the high level of statewide recognition as a sign of greater things to come, both for the KCAD MArch and for the West Michigan architecture community as a whole.
“I think it adds a significant level of influence to the conversation around architecture and design in West Michigan. We’ve been a part of pushing the envelope of design for a long time, and architecture’s contribution to that dialogue is important, to reinforce our profession within a broader regional design community.”
For Craig, the President’s Award isn’t a career capstone, but rather motivation to continue moving forward.
“To me, life-long learning is more like life-long innovating. We can always get smarter about and more creative about what and how we innovate as we build on the experiences we have,” he said. “My intent is to drive the KCAD MArch forward until the program is itself sustainable. That’s why bridging between my generation and Megan and Thom’s generation is so important.”
"KCAD congratulates these outstanding faculty on being recognized as leaders in in the field of architecture. Their ability to both critically examine and actively participate in shaping the evolving role of architects in our society make them ideal mentors for our Master of Architecture students. The awards reflect the KCAD MArch's position as an architecture program of the future," said KCAD President Leslie Bellavance.
Learn more about the KCAD MArch at kcad.edu/m-arch