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Dan Pitera named Loeb Fellow at Harvard University

Dan Pitera has bid farewell to the University of Detroit Mercy to pursue a prestigious career opportunity at Harvard University—and the School of Architecture couldn’t be happier. That’s because the Detroit Collaborative Design Center director will be back in fall 2006 with a wealth of new ideas for the Design Center and for Detroit.

Pitera learned recently that he has been named a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s School of Design. He’ll leave for Massachusetts at the end of the summer after completing a summer sabbatical in Italy, where he will teach in the School of Architecture’s study abroad program.

At Harvard, Pitera will join 10 other mid-career professionals from around the United States and Canada, representing a disparate collection of professions, including a newspaper editor from Colorado, the mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, a museum curator from St. Louis and an urban transportation planner from Toronto. There are also a few architects in the mix, including Pitera. Their commonality is a desire to study some aspect of the urban environment. The Loeb Fellowship requires that its members are somehow engaged professionally in the built and natural environment.

“I’m in shock,” says Pitera about being selected for the fellowship. “It’s still sinking in.”

It didn’t take Pitera long, however, to determine what he hopes to accomplish with his time at Harvard.

Pitera plans to use his fellowship to examine the interaction of numerous issues for shrinking cities—a strong area of focus for the Design Center—including race, urban economics, cultural histories, and urban planning policies. His study will also entail the ways in which design and planning practices can respond to those issues. “The generative moment of my study will center on the Detroit Metropolitan area as a case study,” Pitera adds.

The primary motivation for Pitera’s research is to determine new ways for the Design Center to play an even stronger role in the city of Detroit. Much of the Design Center’s role currently is to help community groups find funding and cut through the bureaucracy that can make or break a development project. For some time, the Design Center has wanted to expand its role to become a primary city resource for policy issues and information. Pitera explains that with the day-to-day operation of the Design Center, there hasn’t been time to develop this avenue. The fellowship will allow him this time.

One of the significant opportunities available to the fellows is that they will be able to audit virtually any classes offered at Harvard. Pitera plans to take courses in government and urban economics. The Loeb Fellows will also choose a destination anywhere in the world to visit and study an urban issue as a group. In addition, the fellowship allows for each member to invite any speaker to the Harvard campus. Pitera is hoping to bring in Nelson Mandela, who he believes is a foremost expert on race relations, a topic that factors heavily into Pitera’s research.

Pitera is especially looking forward to the opportunity to interact and share knowledge with his new colleagues as well as the esteemed faculty and students at Harvard University.