International Berkeley Prize for Undergraduate Design Excellence

The international Berkeley Prize for Undergraduate Design Excellence launches on November 1, 2008. Each year the Berkeley Prize, whose primary goal is to foster a larger awareness and understanding of the social art of architecture, sponsors an Essay Competition, a Travel Fellowship Competition, and an Architectural Design Fellowship Competition open to undergraduates studying architecture throughout the world.

A total of $9,500 US in prize money is awarded to the Essay Competition winners with a guaranteed first prize of $4,000 US. The Travel Fellow(s) is/are given round-trip air-fare and a stipend to attend a major international architectural event in the summer of 2009. The Architectural Design Fellow(s) is/are given a cash award.

Students are asked to submit a 500-word essay proposal in response to a posted question. The 2009 prize question explores the concept of “Sustainable Architecture/Traditional Wisdom.” The proposals are due on December 1, 2008.

Approximately 25 student semifinalists are invited to expand their proposal into a 2,500-word essay due in mid-February, 2009. From this pool, 5-7 finalist essays are forwarded to the 2009 Berkely Prize jury, who will select first-, second-, and third-place winners.

This year, the jury includes:
Gail Brager, Professor of Architecture and Building Science, and Associate Director of the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California in Berkeley
Chuck Davis, Senior Principal at EHDD Architecture in San Francisco, and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects
Tom Fisher, Professor and Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota
Ahmad Hamid, Principal/Founder of Ahmad Hamid Architects in Cairo, and Professor of Architecture and Design at the Modern Sciences and Arts University in Cairo, and Faculty Member of the American University in Cairo
John Ochsendorf, Associate Professor of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and MacArthur Foundation Fellow

The top semifinalists are also offered the opportunity to compete for either the 2009 Berkeley Prize Travel Fellowship award or the Architectural Design Fellowship award.

In past years, Travel Fellows have participated in Habitat for Humanity in Lethoso, South Africa; the Global Studio in Johannesburg, South Africa; attended the Open Public Urban Spaces 2008 Annual Conference, Stavanger, Norway; the United Nations Habitat Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; the International Union of Architects Congress in Istanbul, Turkey; and Forum Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain.

Last year’s Architectural Design Fellows, who were the first to receive this honour, are from the University of Minnesota, USA, and from Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, Jammu and Kashmir, India. Both teams are planning design competitions, underwritten by the Berkeley Prize, to investigate how architects can respond to pressing social issues in their region.

The Berkeley Prize is consistently becoming more international. During the past ten years, over 800 students from 43 countries have participated in the various competitions.

The outreach of the Berkeley Prize expanded in 2003 with the competition being named a special event of “World Heritage in the Digital Age,” a virtual congress helping to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. This special recognition also highlights the fact that the entire operations of the Prize, including all submittals and judging, are conducted online.

The Berkeley Prize is also the recipient of the 2002 American Institute of Architects’ Education Honor Award.

The full agenda and history of the Berkeley Prize are best explained by visiting the website at This includes archives of all of the years’ competitions.