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Student Feature: "Architecture for everyone"

By Rabab Jafri

Courtney Klee is a sophomore studying architecture at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.
Courtney Klee is a sophomore studying architecture at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning who has a passion for visual arts and designing architecture that is inclusive of all abilities. She spoke to with Rabab Jafri, U-M Arts & Culture intern, about where she gets her inspiration from and what drives her to keep creating, inside and outside the classroom. RJ: What inspires you to create art? Klee: Growing up I’ve always been an artist. Ever since I was two and three my parents would put out boxes or egg cartons to throw away and I would take them and make sculptures and use them for whatever I wanted to. They had to start hiding them all because I kept doing that… and I’ve always been concerned about how my creativity could benefit the world and do something greater than just creating sculptures or paintings.

Axonometric of E. 1027 by Eileen Gray.

RJ: Was there a specific experience that made you know that you wanted to study architecture? Klee: In high school while I was making art I was also volunteering at a therapeutic equestrian center; I helped disabled kids learn how to ride horses. There was a mom there who found out that I was very into design and so she asked me to make a wheelchair cover for her daughter’s wheelchair because her head would rub against it and it was rubbing off her hair. And so after I made those head covers I knew that I wanted to do some kind of design. That’s when I strayed away from fine art—while I still love painting and have an appreciation for art history, I gravitated towards architecture because I wanted some way to better peoples’ lives through design. RJ: In your opinion, how can architecture “better peoples’” lives through design”? Klee: I have a fascination with how people move throughout buildings and how they respond to spaces. And so I wanted to help create positive experiences for people and make their days easier by designing spaces. And within architecture I’m really interested in inclusive design. I’m interested in having a mindset when I design that buildings are not just for able-bodied people, but for people of all physical capabilities and mental capabilities.

“Altering Perspectives of Detroit” An oil painting of the Guardian Building in Detroit.

RJ: You said that you still like to paint. Is this something that you do in addition to your architecture studies, or separately? Klee: I find that even though I’m studying architecture it’s really connected to art and the art that I make because art has always been a part of me—I can never separate it the two. I feel that when I’m painting I feel like I’m really connected to how the line is used, which is really connected to the designs I make in architecture. It’s really helped me understand how people respond to different designs and different effects within their artwork.
RJ: What have you been working on recently? Klee: I decided to do a 100 day challenge on Instagram because I found myself becoming really hypercritical of the work I was making—I stopped painting because I usually like painting things that take a couple of months and have depth and thought into it. But I decided to create to keep me happy and keep that creative side going while I was doing drafting work, which got kind of repetitive. But I found I got an overwhelmingly positive response from friends who follow me and after day 70 I stopped posting as frequently because I decided to do Artist’s Bazaar in Detroit and try to sell my work. And so that 100 day challenge lead me to find a different painting style and learn a different way to express my voice through painting.”

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