Student Spotlight: Culin Thompson
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“I want to become a licensed architect and urban planner and would love to work with developers to generate efficient, effective projects which serve a diverse population and contribute positively to society.”

Culin Thompson is a Master of Architecture and Master of Urban Planning candidate with a specialization in Housing and Development Planning. Culin will finish his Master of Architecture program in May of 2017, specializing in population health strategy integration within senior and affordable housing. He is expected to complete his planning degree in May of 2018.

During his freshman year at the University of Kansas, Culin organized a group of students and established a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation called Spaces of Hope. His intention was to increase student awareness of the role that architects, planners, and designers can play in saving forgotten and neglected areas of cities and in creating places that serve the greater good. His group developed, organized, and had oversight of a tiered set of national and regional design competitions for high school and college architecture students. The design projects focused on creating buildings that can stimulate investment and economic activity in impoverished communities. Today, under his supervision, the organization continues to promote experience, opportunity, and scholarship for students interested in studying design-related fields. The organization also provides mentorship for current and future students looking to continue a path from a design education to their professional careers. The Spaces of Hope initiatives have positively impacted more than 150 students in five states in addition to more than 50 practicing professionals.

Born in the suburbs of Chicago, Culin has always had an interest in the way that cities and their built fabric interact. His research for his Master of Architecture consisted of methodologies to provide increased healthcare access and assisted-living care by leveraging technological advancements alongside financing programs such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program and Chronic Care Management Voucher program. Leveraging his specialization in Housing and Development Planning, he looks to be able to continue to build upon financing models for development focused on social justice and equal opportunities for low-income households, senior households, and under-represented minority groups.

Culin has experience working within civic, hospitality, detention, and retail architecture sectors at DLR Group’s Chicago office and the Merriam, Kansas location of BRR Architecture.

Here's more from our Q&A with Culin:

Which ACSP member school do you attend?
University of Kansas

What specialty are you studying?
Housing and Development Planning

Why did you select your particular specialty?
I wanted to understand the financing side of built projects. Most architects and planners have the ability to write plans and develop large-scope objectives, but there is a lack of people who can understand how to realize projects - especially ones that address social justice.

Do you have a current job or internship in your specialty?
I currently work part-time at BRR Architecture in Kansas City, focusing on hospitality design and working with developers.

Is there a particular class or professor that has made a great impact on you? How so?
The combination of the Master of Architecture and Master of Urban Planning program had not existed prior to my pursuit of the dual degrees. Thankfully, Department Chairs Michael Swann and Stacey Swearingen White were able to jointly develop a degree program that allowed me to pursue both of my interests.

What's your favorite project you’ve worked on, in class or in practice?
In my Introduction of Housing course we analyzed the market conditions of a metropolitan area and were asked to develop policy recommendations. This included an in-depth market analysis of existing conditions and then critical analysis of this dataset to develop recommendations for future development including the integration of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, HOPE IV funds, and Mortgage Revenue Bond financing programs. This was my first introduction to the combination of complex financing models to address social inequities and provide adequate, affordable housing to diverse populations. 

What future goals do you have in your field?
I want to become a licensed architect and urban planner, and would love to work with developers to generate efficient, effective projects that serve a diverse population and contribute positively to society.

How has planning school changed your daily habits?
Planning has made me much more organized. I find myself analyzing things more within a policy-driven mindset and find myself thinking more holistically.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A history teacher!

How many different cities have you lived in and which was your favorite?
I've only lived in Aurora, Illinois and Lawrence, Kansas. I love Lawrence because of the food and music scene. Everyone is also so friendly - midwestern hospitality is truly a thing!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
During my undergrad, I had the opportunity to travel to Berlin, Germany for two weeks. If I had the opportunity I would go back for even longer! The food and culture there were a life-changing experience and something I would love to be able to further immerse myself in! It was also very rewarding to analyze and see the patching of the division of East and West Germany which is still occurring.

What is the title of the last book you read? What did you learn from it?
"A Burglar's Guide to the City" by Geoff Manaugh. The book analyzed urban fabrics through the lens of a burglar and focused on how designers see their cities through an idealistic lens of perfection and peace. As planners, we must adopt to realizing the city through all lenses which exist and have to plan for and address all of them.

What’s your favorite color and how would you creatively incorporate it into a planning project?
My favorite color is orange! Within a planning project, bright colors (such as orange) can be used as a highlight color - focusing attention to select components of a built project. Because most of my research deals with community activation and social justice, highlight spaces and gathering spaces - often activated by color - are essential components to design!

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The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.

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