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Taubman College Salutes Saarinen Swanson Essay Competition Winners

Monday, March 30, 2020

Established in 1994, the Saarinen Swanson Essay Competition Writing Fund at Taubman College encourages strong writing as a medium to foster critical thinking and exposition among future professionals in architecture and planning.

The winners for the winter 2019 semester are: 

Alexander Abramowitz for “Places Selling: Shinola and Detroit” ($1,800): Abramowitz’s submission investigates the idea of place marketing as it relates to Shinola’s wielding of Detroit to bolster its claims of authenticity. His essay describes the history of place marketing as a concept and traces the evolution of Shinola’s attempts at branding itself as a benevolent, locally-informed company.
Read the essay

Kimberly Higgins for “Sustainability as a Privileged Distraction: Evaluating the Utility of Sustainable Development as a Paradigm in Urban Planning” ($1,800): Higgins’s essay focuses on the intersection of privilege, livelihood, and sustainability. She explores the various ways urban planning functions in the creation of sustainable cities and emphasizes the importance of specificity over ambiguous claims to sustainable frameworks.
Read the essay

Zijing Gao for “Learning from Chinese Gardens and Las Vegas in an autonomous vehicle” ($1,000): Gao explores connections between transportation, architecture, and urbanization through the interpretive lens of an autonomous vehicle. He describes the intersection between form and function in Chinese gardens and compares these elements to the layout of a Las Vegas whose cars do not require a driver’s active participation.
Read the essay

Maggie Cochrane for “Petunia” ($1,000): Cochrane’s submission takes the form of a script and explores “Bodies,” which was published by Kelly Bair, Kristy Balliet, Associate Professor of Architecture Adam Fure, and Kyle Miller in Possible Mediums. “Bodies” is one of sixteen speculative design mediums outlined in the publication and is described in the source text as “continuous topographical forms with features resembling human or animal body parts.” Cochrane’s script theorizes the textures and other material qualities of this category.
Read the essay

The faculty judges of the essay contest were Joy Knoblauch and Andrew Herscher.


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