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APLA Alum Matt Mueller working with Migrant Communities in Asia

Matt Mueller Working with Migrant Communities in Asia

Matt Mueller (BArch ’08) is applying the lessons he learned about socially conscious design and community service as an Auburn architecture student to work helping migrant communities in the rapidly changing economies of China and Nepal. A brief story on Matt’s experiences in China was included in last Winter’s StudioAPLA, and we are happy to share more about his work with your here.

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Matt lives in Shanghai, China and works with INCLUDED, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for migrant children and their families to achieve their full potential. INCLUDED works to design and construct strategically-located community centers in the heart of migrant neighborhoods in Beijing, Shanghai, Kathmandu and Dhaka.  These community centers offer holistic education and personal development programs to migrant families, helping them cope with the challenges of migration from rural areas to the rapidly growing cities of Asia. http://included.org/the-work/centers

Matt completed his 5th year as an Auburn student at the Architecture Program’s internationally-acclaimed Rural Studio.  After completing his 5th Year design/build project (a home designed to meet the needs of low-income families in west Alabama,) Matt worked for a short time with an architecture practice in Birmingham before moving to Green River Utah, where he worked with EPICENTER, a community oriented design/build organization founded by a team of his Auburn classmates.

Matt was eventually drawn away from EPICENTER by an opportunity to live and work in China, where he spent a little over two years working on projects of enormous scale in a private sector architecture practice, Atkins Design, based in Beijing.  This experience provided the opportunity to work and lead design teams on a range of projects, from office towers, to shopping malls, and even an opera house.  It was also during this time at Atkins Design that Matt was given the opportunity to lead a team of volunteer architects on a pro bono project. This project involved collaboration with Jonathan Hursh, the founder of INCLUDED, and the two found they had many shared values and experiences. Matt describes Hursh as “a kindred soul— another bald man from Alabama infatuated with the power of design.”

Matt eventually left Atkins Design to work fulltime for Hursh at INCLUDED, where he has overseen the completion of a portable shipping container community center in Shanghai, and a portable shipping container exhibition that celebrates migrants, and educates the general public about the value that migrants bring to all cities.  The community center was completed in late 2013, and the exhibition debuted in Beijing’s most popular commercial center in May of 2014. The exhibit plans to travel to several more cities around China.  In addition to those completed projects, Matt is collaborating with Cecil Balmond’s office (www.balmondstudio.com), to create portable community center model for Katmandu, Nepal.  He is also working with Markus Heinsdorff (www.heinsdorff.de/en) on an affordable, transportable, and reusable bridge that can survive the intense monsoon seasons of Nepal and other Southeast Asian countries. 

Matt has recently been promoted to director of INCLUDED’s design initiative, where he will work to develop a “design platform” for the non-profit that brings “innovation, dignity, and much needed attention to the migrant slums of the developing world.”  Matt says he hopes to continue living by the principals that he learned at Auburn University, the Rural Studio, and EPICENTER, and to “utilize design as tool for positive social change.”

If you are interested in Matt's work, visit www.included.org, or please contact him at matt.mueller@included.org. You can also help support INCLUDED by spreading news of their work and via financial support. Please contact Matt if you would like to donate, or donate online at http://www.justgiving.com/includedcitiesuk.