UMass Amherst Alumna Anita Licis Wins Top Architecture Fellowship

AMHERST, Mass. - Anita Licis, a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts program of interior design and architectural studies, has won the prestigious Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Foundation Interior Architecture Traveling Fellowship. The fellowship will allow Licis to travel through Europe next summer studying "sacred places and spaces" such as churches, temples, and religious sites. Licis will receive half of the $7,500 award, with the other half awarded to this year''s co-winner, a student from Harvard University who is currently working in the Paris office of renowned architect Renzo Piano, the creator of the controversial Pompidou Center for the Arts in Paris.

Licis began her architecture studies in her native Latvia as an undergraduate at Reiga Technical University. She says she was attracted to the graduate program at UMass in large part because it combines interior design and architectural studies into one discipline. "UMass is unique in regarding the two disciplines as inseparable," says Licis. "It is a trend that is taking place in the professional world, where a lot of architecture firms are now also working on interior design assignments. I think the combination of the two at UMass definitely helped me to get the fellowship."

While at UMass, Licis studied closely with professors Kathleen Lugosch and Ray Kinoshita, two of the four women architects now teaching in the University''s innovative interior design and architectural studies program. According to Lugosch, it is very unusual for schools to truly integrate interior design and architecture, and even more unusual for a school to have so many licensed female architects on its faculty. "By our very female presence, and our emphasis on integrating the two disciplines, we''re bringing something of a fresh perspective to the way building and design have always been approached," she says. "I hope in some small way we helped to contribute to Anita''s success. I believe she has the potential to make significant contributions to the design profession."

The three-year-old Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Foundation Interior Architecture Traveling Fellowship is an outgrowth of the 18-year-old Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Foundation Architecture Traveling Fellowship, and as such reflects the rising importance of interior design in the world of architecture, Licis says. The fellowship is presented by the renowned Chicago architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and is one of the most prestigious student awards in the field.