In 2018, the SOM Foundation introduced the Research Prize to cultivate new ideas and meaningful research that addresses the critical issues of our time. Each year, two $40,000 prizes are awarded to faculty-led interdisciplinary teams based in the United States to conduct original research that contributes to the SOM Foundation’s current topic.
According to a United Nations Environment Programme report published in 2020 “natural resource extraction and processing still account for more than 90 percent of global biodiversity loss and water stress, and around half of global greenhouse gas emissions.” In a context of global environmental crisis and enduring resource inequality, it is essential to continue to reevaluate our relationship with materiality.
This year’s topic seeks to explore materiality from the micro- to the macroscale, bringing together designers and researchers from multiple disciplines in order to envision sustainable, responsible, and ethical relationships with materials and the communities that they come from. How do we shape nonexploitative networks of extraction, production, distribution, and waste? What type of social, cultural, and environmental landscapes do those new networks define? What are the roles and responsibilities of nations, corporations, communities, and individuals in shaping these networks? What are ways to limit the long-term impact on Earth of the human consumption of materials? And what material innovations—technical or in their application—present new possibilities?
The Research Prize is open to faculty currently teaching at a professionally accredited bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD program in architecture, landscape architecture, or urban design in the United States. The research must be developed in an academic studio or other research structure within the academic institution. The lead faculty member(s) will be expected to work in a collaborative manner with faculty from other disciplines, leading professionals, nonprofit organizations, and/or community representatives in addition to students enrolled in the studio. Collaborator(s) can be based worldwide.
SOM Foundation affiliated members and SOM employees should not be included as part of the proposals. Faculty from previously awarded proposals are not eligible. However, previously awarded academic institutions can submit new proposals.
During the research period, the SOM Foundation is anticipated to have periodic interactions for the purpose of providing feedback and focus to maintain a high level of excellence throughout the research effort.
The research portion of the prize is expected to be completed a year after its start date. The start date can vary to match academic calendars but needs to be no later than August 31, 2022.
The winning team will be required to thoroughly document the research findings and develop conclusions or suggestions for application to professional practice. The final product should advance the discussion around the selected topic and be visually compelling.
The leading faculty and academic institution submitting the grant application may present the results at the end of the project at a public event held at their institution. Faculty will be responsible for seeking out additional opportunities to disseminate research findings at relevant professional, public, and civic events, as well as in online and print publications.
5.1 Title Page
• Title of Research Project
• Name(s) and institutional affiliation of lead faculty member(s) and collaborator(s)
• Date of application
Maximum 250-word abstract summarizing the topic of the proposed research. Specifically, the problems or the conditions that demonstrate the need for the research, the research question that will be addressed, the scope and proposed methodology of the work, and the expected outcomes of the project.
Maximum 750-word expository description of the area of focus, scope, and outcomes of the proposed work. Include the institutional context of the research (e.g., team composition, travel, facilities, institutional support, etc.).
5.4 Work Plan
Identify project collaborator(s), a schedule, key milestones, preliminary budget, final products, and a draft syllabus.
5.5 Preliminary Budget
Provide itemized use of the grant funds (e.g., research assistance, travel, equipment, software, supplies, etc.). Please include additional funds or in-kind support, if any, provided by other funding sources. Administrative costs should be kept to a minimum and never to exceed 15% of the grant.
5.6 Supporting Documentation
• CV(s) of lead faculty member(s)
• Examples of student studio work produced under the instruction of the lead faculty member(s); examples from multiple students in a single studio are preferred
• Letter of support from the supervising department head or chief academic officer of the department, college, or university of the lead faculty member(s)
5.7 Supplemental Documentation
Maximum of 20 pages of additional documentation directly related to the proposed research program (e.g., copies of completed or speculative creative work or building designs, relevant writings or other documents that establish unique qualifications).
• Single PDF format
• 8.5ʺ x 11ʺ, portrait orientation
• 35 pages maximum
• 150 MB maximum
Submit information via the application page form no later than Monday, November 8, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. CST. Applications received after that time will not be considered.
This year’s jury will be led by SOM Foundation Executive Director Iker Gil and will include:
• Scott Duncan (Partner of SOM, Chicago and Cochair of the SOM Foundation)
• Gabriel Kozlowski (Principal of POLES.studio, Rio de Janeiro and Boston)
• James Leng (Founding Partner of Figure, San Francisco and 2013 SOM Foundation Fellow)
• Charlotte Malterre-Barthes (Assistant Professor of Urban Design at Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA)
• Zoë Ryan (Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia).
The SOM Foundation reserves the right to choose not to award, to co-award, or to split the prize as the jury deems appropriate.
• Proposal relevance to goals and objectives
• Research program innovation and rigorousness
• Clarity of approach to student engagement in the proposed research program
• Transferability of research outcomes to practice
• Qualifications, prior achievements, expertise, and track record of performance
• Capacity to administer, including contract and budget management
• Content and quality of supporting documentation
The winners will be notified no later than Monday, January 10, 2022.
By accepting an award, the recipients agree to:
• provide progress reports via email to the SOM Foundation Executive Director.
• complete the research and final report by December 31, 2023, or within an agreed-upon time, depending on circumstances.
• forfeit all fellowship money to the SOM Foundation in the event that research is not completed by December 31, 2023, unless prior written approval is received from the SOM Foundation Executive Director.
Any changes to the proposal, including the schedule and budget allocation, need to be submitted in writing and approved by the SOM Foundation.
The winning applications will become part of the SOM Foundation’s archive. The SOM Foundation reserves the right to use the winning applications—and the recipients’ monthly progress reports and final report—or any portion of them in press releases, presentations, exhibits, history books, and similar publications, as well as for public access for student and educational purposes in all media, including online. Authors will retain the copyright of their work.
Applications to the 2021 Research Prize are now closed.