Cover Story

Dan Pitera

Dan Pitera (right), director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center.

Detroit Collaborative Design Center celebrates 20th Anniversary

While the School of Architecture is celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) is also recognizing a significant milestone.

Twenty years ago—during his first year as dean at the UDM School of Architecture—Stephen Vogel introduced the idea of a design center housed within an academic context. He enlisted Terrence Curry, S.J., an architect and full-time faculty member, to the University to establish the design center through a Neighborhood Design Studio in which students invoked the principles of community design through working with community groups in metro Detroit. These students worked closely with neighborhood leaders to assess the current conditions, investigate potentials, propose alternatives, and develop possibilities. The studio explored questions of process, theory, and execution alongside community and volunteer organizations, while emphasizing excellent design through collaboration. The planning analysis began by the Neighborhood Design Studio evolved into several focus projects in relation to community development including: housing, mixed-use, retail, streets capes, and emergency shelters. Over time, the studio grew beyond its limits and evolved into a full-service architectural design center called the Detroit Collaborative Design Center.

With the offer to be a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, Fr. Curry left the DCDC in 2000. The DCDC is now directed by Dan Pitera, a licensed architect who engages in social and political activism. Pitera came to the DCDC from San Francisco, where he was president of the Center for Critical Architecture/The Art and Architecture Exhibition Space—an outlet for the investigation of experimental architectural explorations. Under Pitera’s leadership, the DCDC diversified the nature of its architecture-based projects to include urban design, strategic planning, landscape design, and experimental installations that engage local communities in public dialogue about the value of design in community formation. Today, DCDC’s staff consists of six full-time architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture professionals, including an Enterprise Rose Architecture Fellow, and one to three student co-op interns.

The DCDC was the first university-based design center in metropolitan Detroit to provide design services to non-profit community organizations. It has placed UDM and our students in the forefront of community outreach and service, and more than 80 non-profit organizations have been assisted since 1994.

For more information about UDM, or to apply online, go to

Print Friendly Print-friendly