“DIA: Beacon Artist Residency,” gallery. © Gabriela Robles-Muñoz and Aaron Koopal.
The SOM Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Robert L. Wesley Award. The award supports BIPOC undergraduate students enrolled in architecture, landscape architecture, interior architecture, urban design, or engineering programs in the United States. Bria Miller (Howard University, Department of Architecture), Kai Benjamin Parel-Sewell (California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, Department of Architecture), and Gabriela Robles-Muñoz (Iowa State University, Department of Architecture) will each receive a $10,000 award in addition to a yearlong mentorship program that connects the students with leading BIPOC practitioners and educators.
“It was been an absolute pleasure to work with and learn from the first ten Robert L. Wesley Award fellows. The goals, work, and ambitions that they have shared during our mentorship sessions have been an inspiration to all of us” said Iker Gil, Executive Director of the SOM Foundation. “As we enter the third cycle of the award, we are looking forward to supporting Bria, Gabriela, and Kai and learning about their ongoing contributions in their universities and communities.”
Bria Miller is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Howard University pursuing a Master of Architecture. Her first experience with architecture—although she didn’t know at the time—was as a young child. Growing up between the Bahamas and the United States, she enjoyed reimagining household items, turning cardboard boxes into play spaces, and building forts out of blankets. Years later, she took a chance on architecture school and ended up falling in love with architecture and design. Alongside her academic endeavors, Miller is a self-taught graphic designer for the Howard Black Liberation Coalition, a collective of student-led radical organizations seeking to support each other in the struggle toward Black liberation by serving the needs of the diaspora in her school community and beyond.
Kai Benjamin Parel-Sewell is a fourth-year Bachelor of Architecture student at California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. Raised by an architect and a photographer, Parel-Sewell’s passion for the visual arts began early. He served as the AIAS chapter Academic Events Coordinator and served as a Second Year Studio Teaching Assistant. Parel-Sewell worked as a Graphic Design Intern at the Cal Poly Corporation. At One World Architecture, he worked for a few years as an intern-architect. Currently, Parel-Sewell is enjoying a fantastic experience as an architectural designer at Carrier Johnson + Culture in San Diego.
Gabriela Robles-Muñoz is a fifth-year Bachelor of Architecture student at Iowa State University, pursuing minors in both Sustainability and Critical Studies. At Iowa State, she has been awarded for exceptional project development, most notably with respect to how her designs aim to reconcile pragmatic concerns within critical conceptual frameworks. Outside of her schoolwork, she is a research assistant under the 3DAIT Housing Project, works with the Department of Architecture as an undergraduate assistant, and is the coleader of DATUM Student Journal of a/Architecture, a student-run publication focused on critical academic discourse surrounding architecture and related topics.
This year’s jury was led by Robert L. Wesley (Retired Partner at SOM, Chicago) and included Paola Aguirre (Founder at Borderless, Chicago and San Antonio), Ojay Obinani (Associate Principal at SOM, New York City), and Jia Yi Gu (Director and Curator at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, West Hollywood, CA).