Yojairo Lomeli’s graduate thesis received high acclaim for interweaving hip-hop and architecture to comment on cultural erasure, gentrification and the power of altering physical spaces.

“The project has a lot of layers to it,” Lomeli said of the thesis titled “The Yada Yada.” “It is a project not visible to the public, essentially a project that is made to be invisible.” 

Lomeli, lecturer II in architecture and urban planning, crafted structural displays in various pockets of Detroit and altered them to offer multiple interpretations of their construction, depending on where the viewer is.

The product was moving and powerful, and even years later the ideas surrounding identity and visibility he explored in the thesis inform his teaching and professional practices.

Yojairo Lomeli, lecturer II in architecture and urban planning, incorporates into his teaching many of the ideas he explored while working on his graduate thesis surrounding identity and visibility.
Yojairo Lomeli, lecturer II in architecture and urban planning, incorporates into his teaching many of the ideas he explored while working on his graduate thesis surrounding identity and visibility. (Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography)

Lomeli received his Bachelor of Science degree in architecture and his Master of Architecture degree with high distinction from U-M. He is involved with several courses in the undergraduate and pre-architecture program, the latter of which is for undergraduate students who are not yet enrolled in the architecture program but are considering applying.

“I like teaching the pre-program students so much,” Lomeli said. “I think that when students become a more prototypical student of architecture in, say, graduate school, they are all more or less similar and lose a lot of their eccentricities about them. They all start dressing and acting the same, but teaching undergraduates is a lot more fun because they come in with a really diverse set of ideas and makes it seem like there are more things possible.

“And I think that it’s the field’s fault for how the creativity has kind of been beaten out of them and the students allow themselves to be molded in a certain way.”

Lomeli is also the co-founder of ccbb, a practice that was created in response to his observations on the disconnect between the rate of young architects’ ambitions and ideas and logistical constraints such as time and funding. It aims to unify those two spheres to allow for a generation of architectural works.

“I think something we learned about at school here is that we always run out of time,” Lomeli said. “A lot of these students will run out of time at the end. We tell them, ‘Hey you have a lot of great ideas but they may not happen to the fullest extent that you want them to because of constraints.’ So (in ccbb we are) trying to not have that happen, to actually execute at a level we’re proud of and to always have something that we don’t have to Photoshop (in post-production).”

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Currently, Lomeli’s two main ambitions involve amplifying devalued or silenced voices, aligning with the knowledge learned from “The Yada Yada” that he has adopted into his pedagogy. He is quick to point out this association.

“Similar to how architecture students tend to get molded into a certain shape, people who drive the creation of cities eventually try to make everything look the same, too,” Lomeli said. “If you were to go from Detroit to Boston it might feel a little different, but you can still access the same chains of restaurants, chains of stores, the same stuff present in every city.”

However, he adds that while it is important to retain one’s essence, there is value to sharing knowledge and experience.

“You might be working on the same thing as everyone else, but then someone sitting across from you might be approaching it in a different way,” Lomeli said. “So you’re not just learning how to do it, but also how someone else is doing it. and it all gets mixed up and ultimately creates stronger students that way.

“Because there’s no right answer in art, truly.”

Q&A

What memorable moment in the workplace stands out?

What has been most memorable has been student personalities and getting to know so many characters.

What can’t you live without?

You realize how dependent you are on the support you have from people who’ve come into your orbit, the interactions around you, and the motivational impact they can bring to your life.

Name your favorite spot on campus.

The NCRB (North Campus Recreation Building) or any other place with a (basketball) rim.

What inspires you?

I’ve learned that a lot of different things can inspire me, but I know when it’s happening because it feels similarly. While making contact between a baseball and bat is a mostly painful and frustrating feeling, if everything is squared up, the result is a moment of high impact and minimal sensation, a brief inspiration that reminds you of why you endure and continue.

What are you currently reading?

David Foster Wallace’s “Both Flesh and Not.” It’s an absolute showcase of language’s potential specificity.

Who had the greatest impact on your career path?

Melissa Harris hasn’t just shaped the teacher I’ve become in the countless hours of sharing her thoughts with me, but she’s also modeled an example in the enthusiasm, care and thoughtfulness that I expect from myself in my own life. She’s continually provided guidance and friendship, often unknowingly, at times when I’ve needed it most.

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