Awards, Events

SOM Foundation Announces Winners of 2018 Research Prize

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The SOM Foundation has announced the winners of the 2018 SOM Foundation Research Prize. Two teams—one led by North Carolina State University and one comprising representatives from the NewSchool of Architecture and Design, the University of Southern California, and Esri—will each receive a grant of $40,000 to conduct original research. These are the inaugural winners of the SOM Foundation Research Prize, which was created in 2018 to cultivate new ideas and meaningful research with the goal of addressing critical issues of our time. This year’s topic, Humanizing High Density, seeks to tackle the unprecedented rate of mass migration to urban centers worldwide.

In the Foundation’s call for submissions, applicants were asked to address the challenges design professionals currently face in creating built environments that optimize urban density while advancing human well-being and resiliency. Each proposing team was asked to explain how their research will integrate other disciplines to scientifically understand these topics.

The first winning team, whose abstract is titled "Natural Light and Health in Urban Environments," is led by a team from North Carolina State University (NCSU). The team includes: Dr. Wayne Place, Architecture; Dr. Jianxin Hu, Architecture; Dr. Stephen Terry, Mechanical and Aerospace; Dr. Jing Feng, Psychology; and Dr. Traci Rider, Architecture. The group will explore human perception and health as impacted by access to natural light. They will assess glazing technologies in urban settings and develop a full-scale, experimental module that will allow individuals to occupy and experience the luminous environment. Research will be conducted in conjunction with an ongoing studio course focused on tall building design at NCSU’s School of Architecture.

The second winning team is led by Dr. Kristine Mun of the NewSchool of Architecture and Design; Biayna Bogosian, a professor at the University of Southern California; and Namju Lee, a product engineer with computer software company Esri. Their abstract, titled "Architectural Standards Guide from a Neurological Perspective: On Urbanism," explains how research shows that urban contexts often lead to depression, loneliness, and psychological stresses. The team will address this complex problem through the lens of neuroscience by measuring signals of the body and brain as correlated to place. The research will initiate the first "Architectural Standards Guide from a Neurological Perspective" for designers.

"These two teams were chosen because their proposals demonstrate a rigorous approach to research that will involve diverse disciplines, robust data gathering and analysis, and the testing of design hypotheses in a studio environment," said SOM Foundation Co-Chair Leo Chow, FAIA. "We expect their efforts to result in a clear work product that will be extremely valuable to architectural, urban design, and related professions."

A jury comprising SOM Foundation Directors and renowned experts selected the winning teams. Jurors included Luís M. A. Bettencourt and Jason McLennan. Bettencourt is the Pritzker Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation and Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, as well as External Professor of Complex Systems at the Santa Fe Institute. McLennan is the creator of the Living Building Challenge—a green building certification program and sustainable design framework, and primary author of the WELL Building Standard. He serves as Chairman of the International Living Future Institute and is CEO of McLennan Design.

"I applaud the SOM Foundation for helping to fund and support research that has the potential to improve the entire profession,” said McLennan. "This year’s winners are innovative in their focus on ways to improve the quality of the built environment, using research to shine a light on new findings and approaches that could inform future design decisions."

"The nature and the tools of urban design and architecture are changing, and we now have the tangible opportunity, maybe for the first time, to fundamentally understand people holistically in relation to their built environment," said Bettencourt. "This research prize brings science and design closer together and speaks to an emerging interdisciplinary understanding of cities."

Prize recipients are expected to collaborate with faculty and leaders from various disciplines to pursue their research topics. They will be required to thoroughly document their findings and develop suggestions for application to professional practice. SOM’s Foundation Advisory Board is also anticipated to have interim interactions for the purpose of providing feedback and focus to maintain a high level of excellence throughout each team’s research efforts.


About SOM Foundation

The SOM Foundation grants awards to students and faculty of architecture, design, urban design, and structural engineering. The Foundation’s goal is to advance the design profession’s ability to address the key topics of our time through the support of groups and individuals, each with the highest possible design aspirations and desire to undertake rigorous interdisciplinary research. Established in 1981, the SOM Foundation offers five annual awards across the United States, the United Kingdom, and China.

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