PROFILE: This Architect is Building a Career on Community Involvement
UC's Michaele Pride-Wells is already a master builder of university-community partnerships.
Date: 10/6/2003 8:00:00 AMCommunity engagement is the keystone on which architect Michaele Pride-Wells, new director of UC’s architecture and interior design programs, has built her professional and academic career.
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover
For instance, working professionally in Los Angeles at the time of the riot and unrest in that city in 1992, Michaele responded by helping to organize the design community’s talents to make a difference. Her own design efforts there focused on community-related projects like renovation of drug/alcohol rehabilitation facilities, neighborhood revitalization plans, and affordable housing in South Central Los Angeles.
The chance to continue such work is what first drew Michaele to academic life. “I love being at a university because of the energy, research, teaching, and most of all, the dialogue within the university community and outside of it. We want to build connections between the community and the school, to connect all the dots,” she says.
Michaele comes to UC from the University of Kentucky where she did just that, built connections between campus and town. Her experience there included serving as director of UK’s Downtown Design Center which specialized in community-service research projects related to neighborhood design issues.
She wants to continue to foster community outreach in UC’s School of Architecture and Interior Design (SAID), which has been ranked very highly in annual, national surveys – interior design has consistently placed number one in the country and architecture as the number three by the Almanac of Architecture & Design.
“It’s one of my goals for the program,” Michaele states, “To support efforts like The Niehoff Studio [an ongoing UC design studio that focuses on inner-city neighborhoods]. We’re one of the great programs in the country, and community connections can augment that.” In heading SAID, which is part of the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, Michaele is the second African American academic unit head in architecture in the country – apart from primarily black colleges – and the first African American women to do so.
Michaele has exhibited her designs several times in Los Angeles and has received a number of awards there for her work. She and her work have been featured in “Progressive Architecture,” “Architecture,” “Ebony,” “Los Angeles Times Magazine,” and the “The Chicago Tribune.”
She says she comes by her love of design and architecture quite naturally since her father was a painter and architect. She adds, “My parents cultivated my creativity and my brothers’. I had ability in math and science and started out to be a chemist. But, I eventually wanted more contact with people and community, and that drew me to architecture.”