Cranbrook Academy of Art halts admissions to its architecture program


Cranbrook Academy of Art halts admissions to its architecture program

The Cranbrook Academy of Art Library (Jessica Sheridan/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Michigan’s fabled Cranbook Academy of Art is reportedly applying the brakes to its admission process for graduate students wishing to enroll in its Architecture department for the fall 2021 semester in advance of a major “reimagining” of the program.

As first shared by Archinect in a post by Indianapolis-based architect and Cranbrook alumna Donna Sink, the move was revealed in a letter sent to Academy alumni from Dominic DiMarco, president of the Cranbrook Educational Community (CEC). In his role, DiMarco oversees all institutions located on the National Historic Landmark District-designated CEC campus, which is spread across 319 acres in the north-of-Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. The Cranbrook Academy of Art, the Cranbrook Art Museum, the Cranbrook Institute of Science, the Albert Kahn-designed Cranbrook House and Gardens, and the Cranbrook Schools, a pre-K­–12 college preparatory school comprised of a co-educational elementary school, a non-co-ed middle school, and a co-ed high school with boarding facilities, are all included.

In his letter, which also touched down on other institutional goings-on before getting to the most dramatic bit of information, DiMarco explained that the pause in admissions was being instituted so that the CEC can begin “an ambitious plan to reimagine the Architecture department at the Academy.” As announced by DiMarco, Architect-in-Residence Gretchen Wilkins will oversee the program overhaul.

“The goal is to ensure the new department is reflective of the evolving architecture and design environment, and that we are offering our students what they are seeking in multidisciplinary learning,” explained DiMarco. “The pioneering legacy of Architecture is a hallmark of Cranbrook and we are intent on preserving, and building upon, that legacy at Cranbrook Academy of Art.”

“Our Class of 2022 students will still move through the program toward graduation, but we will not be admitting a new class at this time,” he clarified.

Architecture is one of the 11 departments that comprise the Cranbrook Academy of Art alongside photography, sculpture, ceramics, painting, and more. (Both Master of Fine Arts and Master of Architecture degrees are conferred by the school; the latter is not accredited by the NAAB.)

Founded in 1932, the Academy was famously designed by Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen, who also master planned and designed numerous other major buildings spread throughout the CEC campus. (The Architecture department is housed within its own freestanding 6,000-square-foot-building.) Saarinen also served as the Academy’s inaugural president (1932­–1946) and, concurrently, headed the Department of Architecture and Urban Design (1932-1950).

In her dispatch for Archinect, Sink expressed optimism and excitement regarding the announcement. “The discipline—both practice and theory— has changed vastly in the 26 years since I completed the program, as has the global community at large, she wrote. “If we architects are going to be part of solving complex problems like global climate change and racial-economic inequities, the world needs designers who can reimagine entire systems of extraction, distribution, and consumer relationships.”

You can read DiMarco’s full letter—and Sink’s reaction to the news—here.