The SOM Foundation has announced two teams of academics as the winners of its 2023 Research Prize. Two pairs of teams from the University of Michigan and the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Appalachian State University, respectively, received $40,000 each to pursue projects related to the topic “Adapting Housing Strategies to Respond to New Realities” as chosen by the foundation. This is the sixth edition of the Prize, which was created in 2018 to “cultivate new ideas and meaningful research that addresses the critical issues of our time.”
The Prize is open to any faculty currently teaching at accredited degree programs in architecture, landscape architecture, interior architecture, urban design, or engineering in the United States.
The field was led by the midwestern duo that combined Gabriel Cuéllar from the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning with the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning's De Peter Yi. Their project titled "Block by Block: Advancing New American Dreams and Housing Justice by Aligning Design with Zoning Reform" strove to deliver "more just" housing defined by block scale and delimited by the restrictive zoning apparatus for neighborhoods in Detroit and Cincinnati that had traditionally been developed on a lot-by-lot basis.
Cuéllar and Yi say: "These new blocks, synthesizing the design of building types, property, and land, will be presented in public meetings in Detroit and Cincinnati with the goal of aligning design with municipal zoning reform toward a more collective and hopeful project of housing."
Carlos Bedoya, who served as a juror for the 2023 Research Prize, added: "The proposal 'Block by Block' to reconsider housing, involving the scale of the block as a catalyst for a collective architecture that goes beyond the individual housing unit, provides an excellent opportunity to reflect upon and more broadly question contemporary issues related to housing, such as its dimension, the application of new mixed-used zoning programs, ecological impact, and cost."
Their proposal was joined by another titled "A Taxonomy of Vacancy: Are Underutilized Commercial Strips the Answer to San Antonio’s Housing Shortage?" from a five-member team of architects and urban planners from the University of Texas at San Antonio School of Architecture + Planning, City of San Antonio Planning Department, and Appalachian State University College of Arts and Sciences. The project sought to counteract San Antonio’s urban expansion by identifying vacant lots and underutilized land parcels aimed at creating 500,000 new units of housing within the next decade.
The team says: "The research will proceed in two phases. First, the team will utilize quantitative methods to create a taxonomy of vacant or underutilized land parcels, focusing on seven commercial strips that align with future transit lines in the City’s SA Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan and VIA Metropolitan Transit's 2040 Long Range Plan. Second, graduate students in architecture will utilize design methods to generate new, affordable, sustainable multifamily housing prototypes that respond to evolving economic, programmatic, and demographic conditions along the seven commercial strips."
"Uniquely focused on the intersection of research, pedagogy, and interdisciplinary collaboration, the SOM Foundation Research Prize offers critical support for ambitious methodologies and speculative inquiries that can steer new directions for the design professions," juror Irene Sunwoo said. "This year’s winning proposals tackle affordable housing through distinct lenses on urban growth: on the one hand, using data analysis to assess the potential of vacant commercial strips, and on the other, harnessing the scale of the block as the foundation for zoning reform."
Applications for the 2024 cycle will be opened in September.
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