Climate change, COVID-19, the fight for social justice. In disruptive times, how can architecture help to chart new paths and implement far-reaching solutions?
That’s the question posed by “Disruption,” the 2021 James Harrison Steedman Fellowship in Architecture. The biennial research competition invites early-career architects from around the world to explore how architecture can help to address today’s most pressing global challenges.
The fellowship is organized by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, in concert with AIA St. Louis, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The winning proposal will receive $75,000 to support up to a year of international travel and research.
“Architecture is itself a disruptive force,” said Patty Heyda, associate professor of architecture and urban design in the Sam Fox School and a member of the Steedman governing committee. “Intentionally or not, architecture disrupts sites, ideas and existing paradigms. But today, the world is facing extreme climate, social and ecological breakdown.
“This call is looking for creative research proposals that will help to make sense of the disruptions we’re seeing,” Heyda added, “and define the disruptions we need.”
Established in 1926, the Steedman Fellowship is one of the oldest and most prestigious architectural awards in the United States. Seeking to promote both creative design thinking and cross-cultural exchange, the fellowship is open to practicing architects worldwide — not just those affiliated with the Sam Fox School — who have received an accredited degree in architecture within the past eight years.
Jury and applications
The 2021 competition jury is chaired by Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA, LEED Fellow, who also developed this year’s theme.
An internationally recognized leader in sustainable design, Lazarus points out that a major report, issued August 8 by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, found that over the next 20 years, global warming is likely to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius even with sharp cuts in emissions. To prevent even more catastrophic change, the report continues, nations will need to essentially eliminate all carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
“Pivoting from current trajectories will require urgent disruption,” Lazarus observed. “Radical solutions are required at all scales and systems. How does architecture — in all its modalities — disrupt and drive change? How can architecture have a measurable impact? What are the disruptions to define the next decade, and how will they redefine design?”
Lazarus, who coordinates the Sustainability Program in WashU’s University College, is a consultant at the Cameron MacAllister Group, where she works with design firms to define and develop sustainability and resiliency goals. She also serves on the AIA’s Strategic Council and the AIA Climate Change and Design Excellence Committee. She previously served as firmwide director of sustainable design at HOK and authored the AIA’s Sustainability Leadership Opportunity Scan.
Other jurors include: Shantel Blakely, assistant professor of architecture in the Sam Fox School; Billy Fleming, the founding Wilks Family Director of The Ian L. McHarg Center in the Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania; Janette Kim, founding principal of All of the Above and assistant professor and director of Urban Works Agency at the California College of the Arts; and Marsha Maytum, founding principal at Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (LMSA) in San Francisco.
Application materials will include a portfolio, research proposal, budget and timeframe. Extra consideration will be given to creative proposals that minimize carbon footprint. Fellows must be able to complete their projects within 18 months of receiving the award, and must be available afterward to share their research with the Washington University and St. Louis AIA architectural communities.
Registration will open Sept. 5 and proposals are due Nov. 15. For more information, visit steedmanfellowship.wustl.edu.