Architecture shelters and protects. Yet too often, the built environment also perpetuates entrenched biases as well as a domineering and extractive view of the natural world.

But what if architecture were rooted in a more holistic ethos? What if architecture tended not only to the needs of the body, but to the health of society and of the planet?

That’s the question posed by “Care,” the 2023 James Harrison Steedman Fellowship in Architecture. The biennial research competition invites early-career architects from around the world to investigate and reimagine the fundamental systems, facilities and services that underlie contemporary life.

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.

“For nearly a century, the Steedman Fellowship has supported the careers of young architects entering the profession,” said Chandler Ahrens, associate professor of architecture at the Sam Fox School and a member of the Steedman governing committee. “This year’s theme, developed by internationally recognized architect and designer Tatiana Bilbao, proposes a notion of responsible design that is at once climate-conscious and human-forward.”

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.

2023 Steedman jury chair Tatiana Bilbao (left) and jury members Elisa Iturbe, Ethel Barona Phol, Kotchakorn Voraakhom and Michael Willis. (Photos courtesy of the architects)

Jury and Applications

Bilbao, who also chairs the competition jury, is founding principal of Tatiana Bilbao Estudio. The practice, based in Mexico City, is widely celebrated for its multidisciplinary perspective and careful attention to surrounding context across a variety of project scales and typologies. These range from affordable and social housing to cultural and institutional buildings to the recent masterplan for On Olive, a 3.5-acre residential development in midtown St. Louis.

“The act of building defines our relationship with the ecosystem to which we belong,” Bilbao wrote in her call for Steedman proposals. “To our peril, and in many ways, architecture has become a powerful tool for the continuity of the different forms of exploitation, value extraction and discrimination.

“Knowing now the consequences of our recklessness, how might we begin this reconsideration?” Bilbao continued. “How might we bring about needed platform for a systemic change that understands this primary necessity?”

Other jurors include Elisa Iturbe, co-founder of Outside Development and assistant professor at The Cooper Union; Ethel Baraona Pohl, co-founder of dpr-barcelona; Kotchakorn Voraakhom, founding principal of Landprocess and designer-in-residence with the Sam Fox School and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation; and Michael Willis, founding principal of MWA Architects and a visiting professor in the Sam Fox School.

Application materials will include a portfolio, research proposal, budget and time frame. 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 is now open, and proposals are due Nov. 1. For more information, visit