Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

LETTER TO TAUBMAN COLLEGE OF ARCHITECTURE, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

January 13, 2009
Dear Admissions Committee,
I'm more of an entrepreneur than an architect. As a teenager, I'd buy plants from my parent's greenhouse and run a local flower sale. With the profits one year, I made enough to buy my first car, a Jeep Wrangler. In high school, I was the economics class president. At Hope College, I was the president of my fraternity. Rather than take the minimum requirements to get my BA in Business Management, I took all the business classes Hope College offered. I also spent a semester in London taking international business and marketing classes.
Never one for the corporate lifestyle, it wasn't long after college until I decided to flesh out a business project of my own, Bloomscape Inc. The goal was to get plants into the urban setting in a new way: selling a line of container gardens through an e-commerce website. Among a number of other challenges (see my portfolio), creating Bloomscape meant designing a shipping method that could safely transport fully grown plants. Building Bloomscape as a business turned out to be the largest challenge I’d ever faced, one that ultimately didn’t work out. But during that year and a half, I learned some very valuable lessons. I learned about the place where idea and reality collide. I learned to explore a concept without fear. I learned the value of leadership and collaboration.
In the year and a half since Bloomscape, I've focused on building my entrepreneurial skills. I went to work for Dot&Cross, an integrated media company, to help them develop a new business and online community called uBloom. I also became a partner at Teamwork Design. Teamwork brought me on to help them build a business out of their concept: selling a line of messenger bags made from waste sails. With each experience, my understanding of how to be an effective entrepreneur has grown.
My appreciation for good design and it’s potential has also grown. I’ve noticed that the best businesses are created around something more than pushing product and working the system; the pursuit of profit alone is incomplete. Innovation and smart design can create value and solve problems; they provide better ways of living and doing things. Six months ago, I started investigating architecture. The allure of the design process and building something physical captivated me. For a time, I felt architects and designers could solve all the world’s problems. To follow this revelation, I started pursuing acceptance into an architecture program. To bulk up my credentials, I did things like joining the Project H Design team and the Greener Grand Rapids city planning group. But eventually, I discovered my view of good design as the final solution wasn’t true. The best blueprints have very little impact if they never materialize. Finally, I saw the connection to my entrepreneurial experiences.
There’s an opportunity for architecture to be more entrepreneurial and vice versa. Our communities would benefit. Perhaps this means expanding the role of the architect or improving the methods for bringing plans to fruition. I’m excited to explore what that looks like. I want to make the field of architecture my entrepreneurial home.
Despite my larger aspirations, I’ve learned that real creativity and true value are built at the ground level with a mastery of the basics. Getting an architecture degree is important to me. I don’t have much experience practicing design but I’m very eager to learn. Attention to craft, rather than just concept, is a value I’d like to share with the faculty and other students.
The Taubman College of Architecture is known for a high level of education, its excellent facilities, and the quality of the faculty. But what struck me most during my visit, was the spirit of exploration that seemed to exist in every aspect of the program. For this reason, I would love to start my journey into architecture at the University of Michigan in the 3G architecture program.

Sincerely,
Justin Mast
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