The SOM Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 SOM Foundation Research Prize. Two teams—one from the University of Texas at Arlington and one from Tulane University—will each receive a grant of $40,000 to conduct original research. The Research Prize 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, “Examining Social Justice in Urban Contexts,” encouraged applicants to explore and identify long-term policies, immediate actions, and comprehensive plans have the potential to shape a more equitable and sustainable future. Twenty-one proposals were submitted from faculty and universities across the US, focusing on antiracism, advocacy, climate change, environmental justice, governance, inclusiveness, mobility, participatory processes, public space, resilience, urban ecology, and youth.
The first winning team, whose proposal is titled “Reclaiming Black Settlements: A Design Playbook for Historic Communities in the Shadow of Sprawl” is led by Diane Jones Allen (Program Director and Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington), Austin Allen (Associate Professor of Practice in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington), and Kathryn Holliday (Professor of Architecture and Director of the Dillon Center for Texas Architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington). Their project seeks to bring together faculty and students in architecture, landscape architecture, planning, policy, and historic preservation to develop a design playbook particular to the needs of historic Black settlements in Dallas-Fort Worth that are exposed to risks of top-down development in the wake of explosive urban development and sprawl. Through a partnership with the South Central Civic League, the research team will develop best practices for negotiating complex regulatory policies that have been impacted by long-standing patterns of structural racism. With a focus on grassroots storytelling and capacity building, the design playbook will center the voices of Black communities in design decision making processes in an otherwise complex and fragmented policy landscape.
The second winning team is led by Tiffany Lin (architect and Associate Professor at Tulane School of Architecture), Lisa Molix (Associate Professor of Psychology at Tulane University), and Emilie Taylor Welty (architect and Professor of Practice at the Tulane School of Architecture). Their proposal, titled “Public Space and Scrutiny: Examining Urban Monuments through Social Psychology,” proposes a study of existing public spaces, monuments, and memorials through the lens of social psychology in order to establish a broader frame of reference for future design. It aims to examine strategies to bridge the gap between architects and the general public, specifically when designing for urban spaces marked by racial injustice. The project’s intent is to help both students and professionals gain a deeper understanding of and commitment to the relationship between design and social justice.
This year’s jury remarked on the range and quality of the submissions received. All the proposals addressed social justice thoroughly and from a multitude of approaches. For the jury, it was important to understand modes of research and methodologies, how those were connected with students and academic units, and the impact the research could have in defined locations and communities. The SOM Foundation is looking forward to working with the winning teams as they set up their projects in the coming months.
Iker Gil, Chair of the Jury
A jury, chaired by SOM Foundation Executive Director Iker Gil, selected the two winning teams. This year’s jury included David Brown (2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Director and Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Architecture), Justin Garrett Moore (Program Officer for the Humanities in Place program at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), Arathi Gowda (Associate Director at SOM), Toni L. Griffin (Founder of Urban Planning and Design for the American City, New York City), and Doug Voigt (Urban Design and Planning Partner at SOM). All the proposals submitted were evaluated independently by each of the jurors, who then submitted their individual recommendations. Shortlisted proposals were subsequently discussed as a group.
Research Prize recipients are expected to collaborate with students, faculty, and leaders from various disciplines to pursue their research topics. They will be required to document their findings and develop suggestions for application to professional practice. The outcome of the research will ultimately be shared publicly on the SOM Foundation’s website as well as other mediums identified by the winning teams.