The A&E System

Public Works and Private Interest in Architectural and Engineering Services, 2000–2020

Download the PDF here or read on Instagram @a_and_e_system

Architects’ fame does not necessarily correlate with their power. In fact, the opposite has tended to be true. Distributed across anonymous joint ventures, tangled bureaucracies, and vested interests, uncounted designers and producers of the built environment in the United States and beyond its borders constitute a formidable system of private interest. Thanks to its inscrutability, this system has an enormous impact, reproducing and reinforcing manifold injustices even as its most visible, if increasingly limited, public manifestations remain subject to democratic checks and balances.

What does architecture look like when studied through this system? Considering the increasing number of climate-related disasters requiring federally funded mitigation and response efforts, long-stalled infrastructure proposals, and heated debates about a "Green New Deal," “Green Stimulus,” or even “Green Reconstruction,” what does this system reveal about the built environment's relationship to today's interconnected crises of mutual care, racial oppression, and climate? And what part do architects truly play?

Systems hide. Accordingly, these questions are not easy to answer. This downloadable resource for students, teachers, and professionals in the arts and sciences of the built environment — available for download here, to the right, and on Instagram at @a_and_e_system — offers a provisional portrait of the A&E System. This system’s power is well established and diffuse, which makes it both important and difficult to understand.

The study focuses on public commissions, with the relationship between the “who” of federal procurement and the “what” of architecture in mind. By highlighting specific actors — identified as regulators, managers, stakeholders, and stewards — four chapters foreground the agency and responsibility of individuals and institutions in shaping the built environment. A web of public-private partnerships, the A&E System is complex, as are the built forms it generates. Nonetheless, it remains the responsibility of architects and other professionals of the built environment to understand how this system works.

Educational and professional institutions supporting the A&E System, however, have tended to shy away from this critical task in favor of more narrow understandings of the disciplines that shape the built environment and of their agency. Some aspects of the system, which stretches from small, locally-focused firms to those engaged in massive, multinational projects, will therefore be recognizable to readers, while others might seem less familiar, or perhaps even unrelated. This document simply sketches its most visible contours by stitching together publicly available federal procurement data, corporate websites, and advertisements. The first step toward systemic change is recognizing the system.


Public Works for a Green New Deal

“Public Works for a Green New Deal” assembled a cohort of nine courses from across programs at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation to consider the social, technical, and political contours of the ambitious—but still largely undefined—proposal known as the Green New Deal (GND). Supported by the Buell Center, “Public Works” was one of several initiatives within the POWER project dedicated to providing a forum for engaged, critical discussion on the role of the built environment in the GND and related proposals. Toward this end, the Center has continued to gather knowledge, materials, and perspectives that center on three related areas: linking policy with politics; working across scales; and thinking relationally and systemically.

Courses for “Public Works” were adapted to address the GND proposal directly, with all design studio sites being U.S.-based and all briefs responding directly to the text of the Green New Deal resolution. The courses also responded, in various ways, to the call for imagination in Kate Aronoff’s article, “With a Green New Deal, Here’s What the World Could Look Like for the Next Generation” (originally written for the Intercept and since republished on the POWER website). All participating students and faculty attended the "Designing a Green New Deal" event at the University of Pennsylvania on September 13th, 2019, for which the Buell Center was a co-sponsor, and a follow-up event, "Public Works for a Green New Deal," at GSAPP on September 27th.


GSAPP Faculty Responses

Listen to Buell Center Director and Professor Reinhold Martin and GSAPP Faculty including David Benjamin, Phu Hoang, Andrés Jaque, Kaja Kühl, Ariella Maron, Kate Orff, Thaddeus Pawlowski, Bryony Roberts, Marc Tsurumaki, and Douglas Woodward speak about their involvement in the Fall 2019 curricular initative.

Professor Reinhold Martin on Public Works for a Green New Deal

Associate Professor David Benjamin on Public Works for a Green New Deal

Faculty Phu Hoang on Public Works for a Green New Deal

Associate Professor Andrés Jaque on Public Works for a Green New Deal

Faculty Bryony Roberts on Public Works for a Green New Deal

Mark Tsurumaki on Public Works for a Green New Deal

Kaja Kühl on Public Works for a Green New Deal

Professor Kate Orff and Faculty Thaddeus Pawlowski on Public Works for a Green New Deal

Adjunct Professor Douglas Woodward on Public Works for a Green New Deal

Faculty Ariella Maron on Public Works for a Green New Deal


Student Presentations

On November 22, 2019, the nine “Public Works” courses gathered for a supercrit in Wood Auditorium. Students and faculty were joined by guest critics Kate Aronoff, Francisco J. Casablanca, Billy Fleming, and Gabriel Hernández Solano.


Participating Studios and Courses

Climate Design Corps: Reinventing Architecture, Labor, and Environment
David Benjamin

This studio is structured as a mini-thesis project; each student designs their own site, program, position, and 11-year impact in terms of both carbon emissions and equality. They explore new modes of practicing architecture. In addition to reimagining the approach to the climate crisis, this studio reimagines the discipline.


Being-With: Coexistence at a Planetary Scale
Phu Hoang

Rethinking public works as multi-species at both architectural/infrastructural and planetary scales, the studio proposes ecological imaginaries in response to the Green New Deal. Speculating on a carbon-free climate future in coastal Louisiana requires students to design at both habitat and planetary scales while avoiding thinking in binary terms of environmental relationships—human vs. animal, society vs. nature, organism vs. environment, even wild vs. domestic.


Transscalar Towers, The Ultra Clear-Glass Plan
Andrés Jaque

This studio interrogates the current obsession for ultra-clear glass (also known as lowiron glass) in contemporary high-end apartment and office buildings in globalizing urban settings, and the way its use is rhetorically presented as a contribution to the process of turning cities into environmentally sensitive floor-to-ceiling architectural schemes.


Structures of Care
Bryony Roberts

This studio addresses the social justice dimensions of the Green New Deal proposal, focusing on the connection between social and environmental sustainability.


Imaginative Realism: Cli-Fi, the Sublime, and the Public Imaginary
Marc Tsurumaki

This studio examines if and how the historical notion of the sublime might provide a lens through which to view our current crisis, examining the ways climate change is imagined, envisioned, and represented in order to understand how alternate narratives might be formulated and advanced.


The Climate Crisis—Imagining a Green New Deal in the Hudson Valley
Kaja Kühl

Working in the Hudson Valley, the studio operates at the regional scale and asks students to enter the discourse of urbanization beyond cities to engage unevenly dispersed socio-spatial ecosystems at multiple scales. Specifically, it explores the region’s rural/urban socio-spatial ecosystems as the site for intervention to address the global climate crisis.


Resilient Urban Design and Urban Planning Practicum: A Green New Deal for Appalachia
Kate Orff and Thaddeus Pawlowski

This course explores urban design and planning practice through the lens of resilience. It focuses on emerging approaches and strategies to climate adaptation in the built environment, and integrating ecological imperatives and social justice into next century forms of infrastructure.


Planning and the Green New Deal: A Practicum
Ariella Maron and Douglas Woodward

This course engages the proposed Green New Deal (H. Res. 109, the “GND”) from an urban planning perspective, investigating its political bases, technical feasibility, implementation strategy, and planning and land use impacts. The course approach concentrates on the socio-technical aspects of the GND as opposed to strictly technical responses to climate change, to mirror the focus of the proposed legislation itself.


For more information on the participating faculty members and courses, visit the GSAPP website.

Public Service Announcements

Green Reconstruction, which recognizes that climate justice is unthinkable without racial justice, requires a public sphere where economic redistribution is openly discussed. Media networks, and the stories told there, are among the most important tools for rebuilding our collective imagination to conceive of justice in this way.
Public service announcements (PSAs) borrow private networks for the purposes of public pedagogy. In a related spirit, the Buell Center has created this campaign, which is available to share in whole or in part. Distributed through social media (Instagram | Twitter), local newspapers across the United States, and other outlets, these messages aim to provoke the kind of imaginative rethinking that Green Reconstruction will require.
Designed by MTWTF, the PSAs build on stock images from the Associated Press with potentially surprising readings. As a guide to systemic change, they seek to sharpen public perceptions of hidden-in-plain-sight crises that define contemporary society. In highlighting the intentionally weakened systems of care—housing, healthcare, and education—in everyday life, each of the PSAs prompt calls for reimagining these systems, and for their subsequent reconstruction.
The format of each component—one stock image of a commonplace scene during the COVID-19 pandemic, with troubling readings set in rotation and accompanying image descriptions—can be replicated by anyone interested. Please write to us for more information, share, and create your own. Like the world to which it aspires, Green Reconstruction is a collective project.


[Image Description: Orange barricades and covered faces punctuate an outdoor scene with grey residential architecture in the background and temporary shelter in the foreground.]

[Image Description: A flat-roofed, single-story structure is nestled closely against a brown embankment, allowing for the narrow passage of a seven-person HAZMAT-suited team, entering through what appears to be the building’s back door.]

[Image Description: An aerial view reveals a large area of pavement with evenly demarcated rectangles, drawn in white — twenty-one are visible. Inside each rectangle are different types, colors, and sizes of tent structures.]

[Image Description: Darkly shaded silhouettes—of masked medical professionals on the left, and of two reflective personal automobiles in a line on the right—contrast sharply against a bright exterior beyond. One professional holds a thin swab in one hand, which extends into the window of the front car, an SUV, where its end is invisible.]

Paris Prize

Paris Prize

Three prizes of $3,000 each are awarded to students at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation whose fall semester architectural design (MArch & AAD) studio projects most successfully comply with, interpret, and/or critically extend the terms and spirit of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Winning proposals will directly address the social, technical, political, and symbolic implications of the climate accord in an architecturally specific fashion, at multiple scales.

2020 Paris Prize Recipients:

Core I Winner: "Carbon Culture" — Rose Zhang, Critic: Lindsey Wikstrom

Carbon Culture is a circular system that utilizes carbon capture and biosequestration to innovate, adapt, and improve the ecological health of two sites: places historically known for consumption and excavation. An investigation into the site of consumption, that of 29 Broadway, revealed a steel skeleton with a trail of destruction. Tracing the material to its site of extraction, the manufacturing and fabrication of steel laid waste to a ten-acre pond and unraveled the surrounding ecosystem, earning the name “Scotia Barrens.” Carbon Culture redeems this steel—an unremedied biological cost—by introducing microalgae to assimilate CO₂ through self-cultivation. Using a structural algae-infused bioplastic funnel, rainwater is channeled into a man-made pond capturing 17,204 kg of CO₂ annually. Supplanting the vacant retail space is a public maker lab, advancing innovation in construction practices using algae. Biological lab waste is processed into fertilizer and transported to Scotia Barrens, restoring its ability to host life by improving the soil health. Carbon Culture increases public awareness, collaboration, and accountability in each building’s response to climate change.

Core I Finalist: "Emergent Harvest" — Stephen Zimmerer, Critic: Alessandro Orsini

Core III Winner: "Units of Care" — Adeline Chum & Max Goldner, Critic: Hilary Sample

Units of Care calls for affordable housing that is both efficient and detailed, both humble and resourceful, and looks to provide care through every scale and program. It calls on sustainable design to assume more than flashy greenscapes, and looks toward thoughtful, and sometimes invisible, acts of care. We organized ground floor programs that could render maintenance as visible and important, enable access to sites of repair, reconstitute resilience by amplifying existing community support networks, and balance community amenities between street-facing and more internal areas.

Bridging the gap between efficiency and diligence that all too often comes with affordable housing design through precision, sensitivity, and care, we envision what affordable housing might offer. What should new housing developments bring to new and existing residents alike? What should be minimized, and what can be maximized?

Core III Finalists: "A Micro-Macro Community" — Gizem Karagoz & Lucia Song, Critic: Annie Barrett; "Urban Vegetated Filter" — Yongyeob Kim & Karen Matta, Critic: Erica Goetz

Advanced Winner: "Energy Tower in the Park" — Emily Ruopp, Critic: Gordon Kipping

Energy Tower in the Park creates an Architectural Activism that seeks to mitigate issues of income inequality, climate vulnerability, and social vulnerability. It achieves this through net-positive building alterations while also mobilizing an unemployed workforce to participate in the emerging economy of renewable resources and technology in a way that promotes the most vulnerable populations first. While it is relatively easy to conceive of sustainable single-family homes, working with tall buildings without horizontal real estate requires a rethinking of the way we typically see renewable technology. To achieve this, vertical solar farms, vertical axis wind turbines, and inline hydropower turbines are employed. Ultimately, this project is an experiment that attempts to alleviate the effects of climate change, mobilize an undervalued workforce, create community connection, and generate disposable income for residents of NYCHA housing, thereby making them less vulnerable and improving their living conditions. 

Advanced Finalists: "Bamboo Living Project: Makoko Iwaya Community" — Ochuko Okor, Critic: Nayhun Hwang; "Materializing Air: An Infrastructural Network of POPs Research and Care" — Audrey Marie Dandenault & Alek Tomich, Critic: Nayhun Hwang; "Public Luxury: Water as a Medium for Care" — Mark-Henry Decrausaz, Critic: Bryony Roberts


2019 Paris Prize Recipients:

Core I Winner: "Birdway on Broadway" — Aya Abdallah, Critic: Lindy Roy

“Birdway on Broadway” is an ornithological research station that is built on one of New York’s oldest roads. The project’s aim is to create a supportive environment for breeding, feeding and sheltering of birds. It’s intended to work in tandem with a classmate’s rat habitat project, which together, enhances a “predator-prey” system. The designed system will attract and grow bird populations that have become endangered through human construction and resource extraction, specifically Red Tailed Hawks - predators that feed off rodents, reptiles and squirrels. In addition, the associated system will rebalance the rat population without the use of harmful chemicals. By creating new habitats for them along Broadway, their relationship can serve as a self-sustaining pest control system to the city. Birdway on Broadway could be presented as an offset alternative, but instead of offsetting carbon, the designed system will offset biodiversity footprints. This explains the flyer format of some of the drawings, to be distributed to locals around Broadway to donate and offset their biodiversity footprint by using relatable and scalable comparisons. In this case, $30 could offset a flight from New York to San Francisco, which is the equivalent of 0.3 MSA.ha (Means Species Abundance).

Core I Finalist: "Quilted" — Adeline Chum, Critic: Alessandro Orsini

Core III Winner: "Slow Water" — Alice Fang & Angela Sun, Critic: Daisy Ames

Due to the lack of access to regular maintenance and inability for water infrastructure to adapt to increased population growth and change in climate, “Slow Water” puts forth a new model for collecting, cleaning, and delivering water to residents in the South Bronx. Borrowing from cultures celebrating water as a holistic performance with the body, such as Japan with onsens/sentos, water became the main vessel for enhancing health. This proposal for future living provides housing for single mothers sharing lifestyles and goals of raising their children within a supportive community, pushing for parent-child and parent-community interpersonal relationships guided by a spectrum of individual and shared water experiences. Our project hopes to bridge something beyond an economic model of housing sustainability, striving for human driven empathetic spaces.The programs are interspersed among the living units, weaving in and out between spaces as a way to connect public and private, wet and dry, shared and individual.

Core III Finalist: "ID_ID Houses" — Vera Savory & Marcell Sandor, Critic: Galia Solomonoff

Advanced Winner: "Toxic Entanglements" — Christopher Spyrakos, Frederico Gualberto Castello Branco & Frank Mandell, Critic: Andrés Jaque

Toxic Entanglements utilizes architecture as a vehicle for the articulation of existing alternative waste treatment processes tying space, funding and actors of various scales in order to enable its implementation. Matter and resource are exchanged, produced, consumed and expelled. What is toxic for certain species nurtures the next, through a continuous circular system. An assemblage of 10 processes that function in unison regulating and providing for each other. An infrastructure that arranges ecosystems through biological and mechanical processes that circulates matter in various states of transformation. We analyze existing environments that are tied to waste management today to envision a possible New York. 50 Hudson Yards was chosen for the implementation of this first prototype due both to location at the interstice of unsustainable waste infrastructure, toxic sites, and problematic relations to animals, and as an effort to reground the East Yards, in an equitable sustainable future for New York.

Advanced Finalists: "Greenlining East Harlem" — Kachun Alex Wong & Lucy Navarro, Critic: Mabel Wilson & Jordan Carver. "High Time for Low Tech" — Julia Pyszkowski, Critic: David Benjamin 


2018 Paris Prize Recipients:


Core I Winner: "A Green Commodity" — Nelson De Jesus Ubri, Critic: Anna Puigjaner

A Green Commodity proposes green streets that carve into the existing architecture of the Upper West Side. The objective is to imagine how streetscapes could blend with buildings around them while reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption. Three aspects of the shared and collective in New York City were analyzed. Community gardens were researched to understand how public spaces empower local communities. The tenement typology was then analyzed to comprehend how the lack of daylight and air in interior spaces influenced the use of alleyways, bathrooms, and kitchens. And lastly, studying the value of NYC trees determined by the Department of Parks in relation to the services provided by them: stormwater interception, energy conservation, air pollutant removal, and carbon dioxide storage. This research led to three design strategies: carving into buildings to bring in light and air, creating porous edges between green streets and the adjacent architecture, and using the financial support of developers to plant trees and finance this greening effort. 

Core I Finalist: "The Great Billboard Walk" — Yaxin Jiang, Critic: Benjamin Cadena

Core III Winner: "Self-Sustainable Micro-Community" — Ge Guo & Qi Yang, Critic: Ilias Papageorgiou

We think that sustainability lies in the lifestyle people live. We propose the self-sustainable attitude towards living: A lot of things you consume in the architecture comes from the architectural system itself: light, wind, water and food. We transform the traditional large-scale public space into a series of domestic scale courtyards which nourish diverse activities and encourage the residents to maintain their own courtyards. People enter each unit through the roof landscape, which advocates the culture of walking and leads to a healthier and energy-saving lifestyle. The boundary of units is not fixed. All the living space is flowing in between the fixed elements: light wells, service cores, circulation cores, and shear walls. The design approach opens myriad possibilities of space usage and each unit is unique. In this way, the built structure could achieve its best efficiency.

Core III Finalist: "Upstairs - Downstairs, Living Together on Three Planes" — Alexandros Prince-Wright & Yoonwon Kang, Critic: Hilary Sample

Advanced Winner: "ESAMo: Constructing New Grounds for Agricultural and Social Transformation in Tunisia" — Mayrah Udvardi, Critic: Ziad Jamaleddine

The Ecole Superieur d’Agriculture de Mograne (ESAMo), was built in 1952 to train Tunisians in industrial agricultural methods and cement France’s hold on the country’s agro-economy. While a building itself cannot be held responsible for international slow violence, it can reveal the intentions and unintended consequences of top-down planning. My design challenges the French framing of the pastoral and rigid delineation of the groundline, offering a phased approach to diversify agricultural production and reintegrate students with the landscape. At the center of this new program are four seed libraries, built from stone of the hollowed campus ground floor. This process of deconstruction and rebuilding will, itself, become part of the curriculum, as students, teachers, builders, and farmworkers integrate their knowledge. Over time, this collective work will become pixelated throughout the campus; the formerly static groundline will become temporally dynamic, punctuated by retaining walls, bunds and terraces for cultivation and water collection. This process can be applied to other nodes of environmental degradation in Tunisia, redistributing agency and material resources to those who have been most impacted by imperialist development and climate change. 

Advanced Finalist: "Five Opportunities for Planetary Acupuncture" — Kevin Hai, Critic: Andres Jaque 


2017 Paris Prize Recipients:


Core I Winner: "Armadillo" — Lizzy Zevallos, Critic: Brandt Knapp

The Armadillo aims to set an example for sustainable building while making New York City adaptive to a changing world through socially productive means. It is located on the East River at 14th Street adjacent to the Con-Edison power plant. Barricaded within a concrete shell during the winter and extreme weather, it is an incubator space for art, dance, theater, and science. In the summer, it expands into six autonomous floating components, each with its own public programming potential as a stage, exhibition space, and more. The components dock up around NYC and North Jersey, making art accessible to various communities. The Armadillo ensures its own longevity through its adaptive concrete shell that protects the components during extreme weather. It also protects Con-Ed from storm surge. Lastly, it is a template for many similar structures to form a flood wall chain around lower Manhattan, which may otherwise be underwater within our lifetimes.

A Green Commodity proposes green streets that carve into the existing architecture of the Upper West Side. The objective is to imagine how streetscapes could blend with buildings around them while reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption. Three aspects of the shared and collective in New York City were analyzed. Community gardens were researched to understand how public spaces empower local communities. The tenement typology was then analyzed to comprehend how the lack of daylight and air in interior spaces influenced the use of alleyways, bathrooms, and kitchens. And lastly, studying the value of NYC trees determined by the Department of Parks in relation to the services provided by them: stormwater interception, energy conservation, air pollutant removal, and carbon dioxide storage. This research led to three design strategies: carving into buildings to bring in light and air, creating porous edges between green streets and the adjacent architecture, and using the financial support of developers to plant trees and finance this greening effort. 

Core I Finalists: "Urban Farm" — Gauri Bahuguna, Critic: Iñaqui Carnicero; "Forest Farms" — Marc Francl, Critic: Tei Carpenter; "Instrument of Nature" — Serena GuoGe, Critic: Tei Carpenter

Core III Winner: "Sharing Economy" — Emily Po & Quentin Yiu, Critic: Galia Solomonoff

We believe sharing within a housing complex can double the fulfillment of the user by just creating half of the space. Through a series of studies on household objects, we have developed a concept of sharing based on usage and programming. Therefore, we work towards reducing overall construction area as well as increasing operational efficiency of those spaces. Thus, through the idea of sharing, this project reduces carbon footprint through eliminating underutilized appliances within the flat and relocating them in a common space, which is more efficient and social at the same time. Realizing food as a social construct, we introduce dine-in restaurants, cafes and informal outdoor areas in the public plaza. Along with the community kitchens, these spaces encourage social activities and gatherings.

Core III Finalist: "The Open Core" — Mayrah Udvardi & Sarah Rutland, Critic: Daisy Ames


Advanced Winner: "Culture Culture" — Christopher Gardner, Critic: David Benjamin

The coming biological age should be seen as an opportunity to reassess “sustainability”. For my project, a research complex in the sugar cane fields outside Campinas, Brazil, I’ve employed the grown material of bacterial cellulose, the leathery by-product of the bacteria commonly found in Kombucha. While utilizing bacterial cellulose is demonstrably positive environmentally, my goal with this project is to engage the non-quantifiable: the inherent politics, morality, and perceptions surrounding a new building materiality. To interrogating these manifold issues, I have created a series of narratives profiling seven different actors and their relationship to the research complex building. These narratives, each represented through their own unique media, define a scenario while also informing the design. In finding the edges of our current relationships and tweaking them, I believe we can achieve a much broader impact. Perhaps then we can begin to address climate change with the necessary urgency.

Advanced Finalist: "The Brine" — Lincoln Antonio, Critic: David Benjamin 


For more information, see

jrm2031 Mon, 11/12/2018 - 13:24
Buell Center Paris Prize 2020

Buell Center Paris Prize 2020

A diagram showing step-by-step process of how the project's two sites become carbon negative

2020 Core I Winner: “Carbon Culture”—Rose Zhang, Critic: Lindsey Wikstrom

Floor plan of the project with three rendered views of the project's massing and terracotta-colored exterior brick finish, and one from within one of the unit's looking out at a landscaped courtyard

Core III Winner: "Units of Care"—Adeline Chum & Max Goldner, Critic: Hilary Sample

A rendered view of the proposed project, with four drawings along the top indicating placement of wind turbines, hydropower turbines, ventilation, and solar panels with further details of existing condition vs. proposed building on the left

2020 Advanced Winner: “Energy Tower in the Park”—Emily Ruopp, Critic: Gordon Kipping

Buell Center Paris Prize 2019

Buell Center Paris Prize 2019

Section detail rendering of 2019 Paris Prize project by Aya Abdallah from Core Architecture 3 Studio, titled "Birdway on Broadway"

2019 Core I Winner: “Birdway on Broadway”—Aya Abdallah, Critic: Lindy Roy

Section rendering of 2019 Paris Prize project by Alice Fang and Angela Sun from Core Architecture Studio 3, titled "Slow Water"

2019 Core III Winner: “Slow Water”—Alice Fang and Angela Sun, Critic: Daisy Ames

Gif of 2019 Paris Prize project by Christopher Spyrakos, Frederico Gualberto Castello Branco, and Frank Mandell from Advanced 5 Architectue Studio, titled "Toxic Entanglements"

2019 Advanced Winner: “Toxic Entanglements”—Christopher Spyrakos, Frederico Gualberto Castello Branco, and Frank Mandell, Critic: Andrés Jaque

Buell Center Paris Prize 2018

Buell Center Paris Prize 2018

Plan rendering of 2018 Paris Prize project by Nelson De Jesus Ubri from Core Architecture Studio 1, titled “A Green Commodity”

2018 Core I Winner: “A Green Commodity”—Nelson De Jesus Ubri, Critic: Anna Puigjaner

Site model of 2018 Paris Prize project by Ge Guo & Qi Yang from Core Architecture 3 Studio, titled “Self-Sustainable Micro-Community”

2018 Core III Winner: “Self-Sustainable Micro-Community”—Ge Guo & Qi Yang, Critic: Ilias Papageorgiou

Rendering of 2018 Paris Prize project by Mayrah Udvardi from Advanced Architecture Studio, titled "ESAMo Constructing New Grounds for Agricultural and Social Transformation in Tunisia"

2018 Advanced Winner: “ESAMo: Constructing New Grounds for Agricultural and Social Transformation in Tunisia”—Mayrah Udvardi, Critic: Ziad Jamaleddine

Buell Center Paris Prize 2017

Buell Center Paris Prize 2017

2017 Core I Winner: "Armadillo" — Lizzy Zevallos, Critic: Brandt Knapp

2017 Core I Winner: "Armadillo" — Lizzy Zevallos, Critic: Brandt Knapp

2017 Core III Winner: "Sharing Economy" — Emily Po & Quentin Yiu, Critic: Galia Solomonoff

2017 Core III Winner: "Sharing Economy" — Emily Po & Quentin Yiu, Critic: Galia Solomonoff

2017 Advanced Winner: "Culture Culture" — Christopher Gardner, Critic: David Benjamin

2017 Advanced Winner: "Culture Culture" — Christopher Gardner, Critic: David Benjamin

Green Reconstruction

What is Green Reconstruction? It is an outline, an open work, for the repair of a world ravaged by three intersecting crises—of mutual care, of racial oppression, and of climate, all intersecting in turn with economic inequality—that moves along two axes, the Green axis of ecological transformation, and the gilded axis of material redistribution, or Reconstruction. The Green axis refers to the ecological and economic ambitions of proposals like the Green New Deal and its counterparts around the world, all of which merit serious academic and public attention. The second axis recovers the unfinished project of what W. E. B. Du Bois called, in Black Reconstruction in America (1935), “abolition democracy,” and with it, the political-economic restructuring of a system for which the expropriation of Black and brown lives is business as usual, as racial and ecological apartheid remain global norms.

More specifically for the arts and sciences of the built environment, Green Reconstruction names a new curriculum, a potential change of course. By this the Buell Center recognizes the central role of professional, academically sanctioned expertise in constructing and maintaining a status quo, including a status quo nominally devoted to perpetual innovation. To mean anything and to change anything, Green Reconstruction must speak from below; but to endure, it must find its own designers, planners, and technicians. Such figures, both scholars and practitioners, link the powers below with the powers above, with the aim of supplying technical equipment with which to make things change.

We support these efforts first by inviting any and all to join a concrete conversation about what might change and why and how. In recent years, the Buell Center has attempted to convene parts of that conversation, with detailed studies of the “right to infrastructure” in sites of racialized dispossession like Flint, Michigan, and of the states of emergency by which democratic self-governance was withheld, again along racial lines, from hurricane-torn New Orleans and Puerto Rico. We have co-hosted a public assembly in Queens to discuss the real, multi-scalar implications of the Green New Deal, and sponsored coursework at Columbia to explore its potential and its limits. Cases and occasions like these link up into a network of inputs, a constellation of site-specific conflicts and their provisional resolution, that draw the outlines of a larger, more collective effort to define change. These local efforts only begin to capture the full scope of the individual problems they explore. But taken together, they confirm the extent of the current crisis and indicate some of its key dynamics: not merely privatization, but de-democratization; not merely racist expression, but racially organized dispossession; not merely climate denial, but the knowing, profit-driven embrace of a fossil-fueled future.

We propose to assist in this change of course by changing professional curricula. By gathering specialists in the professions of the built environment, part of whose job is to impart meaning to that environment and to make it work, the Buell Center aims to show how these curricula might be modified with tools designed expressly not to repeat a deadly status quo but rather, to model societal transformation both symbolically and materially. As signaled in the Buell Center’s Green Reconstruction public service announcements, this is a civic undertaking, governed by a spirit of cooperation among educators, students, and publics with different and sometimes competing interests. Today’s multi-dimensional crisis requires us to rethink together the social, economic, and ecological order devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic in a manner that repairs the damage, amends injustice, and averts still worse. It requires us to ask how to erase longstanding inequities made clear as day, when safety, comfort, and care for some has meant heightened risk for countless others. 

How to heed the warning, as fossil-fueled climate change forces overexposed populations onto front lines redrawn before our very eyes? How to see what links the absence of planning with planned exploitation? Racial oppression with ecological apartheid? Public health with environmental justice? Healing the planet with healing society?

To assist in teaching these questions and developing their provisional answers we aim to fashion, with the help of many, a tool kit of new curricular infrastructures for professional education in the design and planning of the built environment.

Our larger goal is twofold: 

  1. To educate ourselves, our colleagues, and our students into ways of thinking and acting that link professional responsibility with societal change.
  2. To outline pedagogical frameworks and courses of action for others to adopt and make their own. 

Please join us.


Local Course Development

Between Design, Nature and Politics
Columbia University GSAPP
Fall 2018
Instructor: Tei Carpenter

[Parallel course taught by Jesse LeCavalier at the New Jersey Institute of Technology]

Infrastructural systems are not merely technical but also capable of generating desire and fantasy. This seminar explores the way in which infrastructure might occupy these multiple (and at times competing) roles in order to better understand how it has been thought of historically, how it is thought of now, and how it might be thought of otherwise going forward. Within the context of the the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture’s ongoing research initiative, Power: Infrastructure in America, this seminar reflects on the current state of infrastructure in the United States through an examination of its recent history and offers a set of thematic tools to understand infrastructure as it relates to nature and politics.

The course looks at a series of built and speculative case studies by architects, landscape architects, civil engineers, policy makers, and urban designers, to better understand how design operates within infrastructural systems. These case studies focus on the ways infrastructure shapes the built environment through, for example, the mediation of resources, including water, waste, and energy. The course is particularly interested in investigating—and potentially developing—a heuristics of infrastructure, i.e. ways we might engage it as designers through, for example its aesthetic dimensions and systematic qualities.


Architecture's Multi-Nationalisms
Columbia University GSAPP
Spring 2019
Instructor: Mark Wasiuta

Most of us have never been this saturated with signs of nationalism or this aware of its infrastructures, architectures, and spaces. Through the current government shutdown, border wall hysteria, images of rallies in Europe and America, and the rising trend that political theorist Wendy Brown calls “apocalyptic populism,” nationalism has entered the daily news cycle, political discourse, and both the American and global social imaginary with alarming ferocity in the last years.

Yet, despite these spatial demarcations and moments of eruption that appear directly or indirectly linked to nationalism, and despite its seeming ubiquity and currency, nationalism is disarmingly elusive. Almost every theorist or writer of nationalism contends with its multiple and contradictory personalities. Although it is identified with repressive, racist, xenophobic, and even fascistic states and movements—both historical and contemporary—nationalism was once also identified with post-colonial state formations and liberation struggles.

Moreover, in its most recent iterations, nationalism acquires multiplicity through its globalism. Nationalism is global because almost every country—from Greece and China to the UK and the USA—has been impacted by its own particular form. It is also global in that its current resurgence as a populist movement is the byproduct of globalized economies and global neoliberalism. David Harvey describes our current nationalism as a political tool that offers compensation for the erosion of whatever privilege or benefits, real or illusory, was attached to nationhood. The elusiveness of nationalism results from its internal contradictions, complex history, and divergent associations. Yet nationalism is primarily elusive because the nation, faced with erosions, is itself ever harder to delineate, describe, or define with concrete certainty.

Against the backdrop of the simultaneous resurgence of nationalism and the erosion Wendy Brown names “waning sovereignty,” the seminar will track both historical theorizations and contemporary speculations of architectural nationalism. For Brown, waning sovereignty is most clearly discerned in border walls and other forms of national fortification. These structures have both expressive and functional dimensions. They guard against incursion and entry, while also announcing the enclosure, protection, and insularity of the state. Further, as Brown recognizes, the walls’ expressive dimension reveals a primary anxiety, a “tremulousness” of state security, that underlies these defense systems. The walls are not only spatial inscriptions of nation and statehood, but also talismanic objects—they call up the force of the state and the coherence of the nation at the moment of its greatest vulnerability.

Similarly, this seminar will focus on the architecture of nationalism to glimpse the complexes of global finance, climate, refugee populations, communications, law, and the myriad other systems and relationships against which the nation and nationalism are positioned. In the seminar we will read texts that help us identify, locate, and examine the forms of architecture, infrastructure, and media, that—like the walls President Trump wants to build and that Wendy Brown has catalogued around the planet reveal the conditions and frictions between the nation and the forms of internationalism that erase, efface, and dissolve it.

Active, Banal, Spectacular
Nationalism is often portrayed as an action—the formation, consolidation, or demarcation, of state or ethnic territory—and a set of credos and sentiments. It is political philosophy, territorial instrument, and an atmosphere of beliefs and ideologies. This soft atmosphere of nationalism is distinct from the hardness of its monuments. We can use the term spectacular nationalism to describe these monuments as well as border walls, national museums, and military operations. In contrast, banal nationalism describes those objects at the edge of perception and perceptibility: bureaucracies, anonymous federal buildings, postal uniforms, and license plates. In both spectacular and banal cases, nationalism is conjured by beliefs, concrete signifiers of national identity and history, and their systems of transmission and reproduction. Nationalism is architecture, media, and territory folded together to form an aesthetic political technology.

Accordingly, we will consider nationalism as an active modifier that not only inflects thought and perception, forms political subjects, but that also alters architecture and spaces. With readings from within architecture and architectural history—as well as readings across a range of other disciplines—this seminar, then, probes the matter of nationalism by asking what nationalist discourses activate spatially, materially, and infrastructurally. As such, building proper will be one historically privileged site of nationalist attachment and representation. Yet, as sovereignty dissipates (and multiplies) so do its objects and its territories. The multi-nationalisms of the title reference this dissipation and multiplication as well as the financial girding of both nationalist and globalist discourses.

We will use the sessions to trace how nationalism has been thought, perceived, and mobilized in and through architecture. At the same time, will use the readings, topics, and discussion to reconceive nationalism and architecture through issues such as the documentary state, biometric identification, sovereign chemicals and pollutants, and the national construction of vision and perception. Rather than assume that architecture and nationalism form a clearly identifiable object or field, we will study how these two terms put each other in suspension and into new alignments in order to also ask what nationalism allows us to see of architecture—its agency, utility, and relation to power in various forms anew.


Course Development Prize in Architecture, Climate Change, and Society


Education in architecture and urbanism is well positioned creatively and critically to address the exigencies of climate change. However, pedagogical methods that prioritize technological solutions alone can come at the expense of teaching and research that explore the sociocultural and ecopolitical dimensions of the crisis. This, in turn, ultimately limits the range of approaches addressing climate change in professional practice. Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture is therefore issuing, together with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, a competitive call for course proposals on the theme of “Architecture, Climate Change, and Society.”

From history seminars to visual studies and from design studios to building technologies, the wide variety of course offerings at schools of architecture is a testament to the diversity of perspectives, skills, and tools that ultimately comprise quality work in the field. In contrast, the urgency of the unfolding climate crisis—especially as it intersects with demands for environmental and racial justice—can seem to demand a singular focus that is antithetical to humanities-based critical inquiry or to longer-term creative and technical endeavors. We seek the kind of realism, however, that redefines problems and leaves room for the imagination. Successful proposals for this Course Development Prize in Architecture, Climate Change, and Society will include methods and themes that innovate within their institutional setting—asking hard questions of students that are equal in weight to the hard questions being asked of society in the midst of a global pandemic as it continues to grapple with the intertwined causes and effects of climate change.

This proposal is related to a multi-year Buell Center project entitled “Power: Infrastructure in America,” which seeks critically to understand the intersections of climate, infrastructure, and architecture. Objects of intense political, social, and economic contestation, technical infrastructures distribute power in both senses of the word: as energy and as force. Concentrating on the United States but extending internationally, “Power: Infrastructure in America” opens overlapping windows onto how “America” is constructed infrastructurally to exclude neighbors and to divide citizens. But infrastructures can also connect. Organized in a modular fashion as an open access resource for learning, teaching, and acting, the contents of the project website enable visitors to better understand the complex webs of power shaping our lives and the lives of others. It is in this spirit that the prize aims to contribute to the development of intersectional pedagogy on the theme of “Architecture, Climate Change, and Society” in America today. Change begins with connecting the dots.

Are you interested in joining a network of faculty teaching architecture, climate change, and society? PLEASE SIGN UP


Gulf: Architecture, Ecology, and Precarity on the Gulf Coast
Matthew Johnson & Michael Kubo, University of Houston

An aerial view shows a curving water source with infrastructure on either side, and a city in the distance

Much of contemporary carbon culture and its environmental consequences can be traced back, forensically or circumstantially, to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The extraction of fossil fuels has made the Texas-Louisiana coastline a global center of oil production, sprawling along the bayous and wetlands of Beaumont, Galveston, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, and Houston.

While the products of carbon have fueled the mega-region’s expansion, the sprawling oil industry has produced structural inequities in its built environment. Racially segregated “fenceline” communities sit in uneasy proximity to petrochemical plants, subject to the environmental impacts of polluted soil, air, groundwater, and aquifers. Toxic clouds, spills, and other disasters are common in these areas, particularly during extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. In this context, an examination of the relationship between architecture, urbanism, climate, and environmental justice is urgently needed.

The proposed “superstudio” (a combined research studio and seminar) deals with the history and speculative futures of petro-culture’s long century and its aftermath. We will engage the wicked problems facing individual communities along the Texas-Louisiana coast, from flooding and pollution to toxic development patterns, and propose methods for repairing the discriminatory effects of petro-culture on the broader environment of the Gulf.

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Hazard Mitigation + Race + Architecture
Mahsan Mohsenin, Reginald Ellis & Andrew Chin, Florida A&M University

A map displaying the flood zones around Tallahassee, with four zones ranging from 500 year to 100 year floodway

“Hazard Mitigation + Race + Architecture” is a cross-disciplinary collaboration that brings together faculty from two departments at the Florida A&M University: architecture and African-American history. The goal is to provide a cross-disciplinary approach to climate change and recognize Florida’s challenges as ethical and political issues, rather than purely environmental or physical in nature. Every year, Florida is one of the states that is most impacted by climate change through flooding, hurricanes, etc. According to a 2016 US Environmental Protection Agency report, the Florida peninsula has warmed more than one degree during the last century. The sea is rising about one inch every decade and heavy rainstorms are becoming more severe. This is of special concern to minority and underserved communities; specifically, African-Americans, who are often impacted the most by climate change. But as architecture students learn about sustainability, the intersection of race and architecture adaptations are not widely discussed. Architectural responses to climate change include floating or amphibious structures, design for lateral forces, and merging hazard mitigation with architectural design. The goal of this course is to introduce segregation and planning inequities in the discussions of architectural responses to hazard mitigations.

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High-Performance, Low-Tech
Liz McCormick, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

A diagram showing different parts of a machine including:  a fan attachment, an unconditioned chamber, and a membrane
(Ana Sandoval and Michelle Barrett)

The global increase of atmospheric temperature rise, combined with the rapid growth of previously underdeveloped climate zones, presents a growing need for low-cost solutions that serve those without access to advanced technologies. Within the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, high-performance buildings are often associated with expensive, high-tech strategies that rely heavily on complex mechanical systems. New technologies may change the way that one designs, but they cannot replace the basic climate-specific principles celebrated by vernacular architecture. In response, students will explore the vernacular strategies associated with rapidly urbanizing regions in order to translate their character, physical qualities, and thermal capabilities to a commercial scale, reducing the reliance on energy-intensive mechanical systems while developing a new, climate and culture-specific urban identity.

This course mixes historical referencing with physical experimentation to demonstrate performance metrics and explore the ways building systems could engage and empower the occupant. Integrated as dynamic systems, buildings could better react to fluctuating environmental conditions. By combining students from across the campus, this interdisciplinary course strives to bridge the gap between design, performance, and building analytics. In the spirit of affordable, low-tech and climate-specific enclosure systems, this class will employ accessible physical testing methods to make building technology innovation more accessible.

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Just Play
Karla Sierralta, Cathi Ho Schar, Prisma Das & Phoebe White, University of Hawaii at Manoa

A close-up image of a large-scale game made of wooden pieces, a chalkboard, and an arm extends from the right side of the image with a piece of green chalk in hand

“Just Play” is a set of coordinated courses in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban and regional planning at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa that will focus on climate change and design justice. The objective is to explore learning through teaching, and teaching through play. Students will conduct research and design place-based, equity-focused educational games for a five-week course, which will be offered to 12 participating high schools through the Mānoa Academy program, led by the College of Social Sciences. University students will work in partnership with the Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency (OCCSR), to build on their 2020-21 Climate Change Open Houses and talk stories. These open houses gather information that will enable the OCCSR to develop equity initiatives for Honolulu’s Climate Adaptation Strategy. Students will integrate the OCCSR’s community input with research to design interactive games that cultivate citizenship skills such as empathy, negotiation, decision-making, and collective action to foster resilient island communities. “Just Play” seeks to engage climate change from an equity standpoint, focusing on social action, empowerment, scenario-planning, systems-understanding, design, and education, reaching beyond technological solutions. It represents a multi-departmental effort to expand our reach as educators and advocates.

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Professional Practice 3: Future Practice
Megan Groth, Woodbury University

A photograph from an airplane showing part of a plane wing and land below

The direct relationship of the global climate crisis to the built environment—the realm of the architect—means that architects are uniquely positioned to respond to the climate emergency in and through their work.  Unfortunately, the architect’s lack of agency, in part due to the traditional architecture business model, the profession’s codes of conduct, value system, and lack of ethical framework, does not make it possible for architects to act to the degree and with the speed that is required. “Future Practice” asks students to situate architecture practice in the larger context of our communities, cities, countries, and planet and ask: How do we value what we do as architects? What do we need to achieve in practice in order to pursue climate justice? How then do we create new, implementable value systems by which to restructure our work in order to align it with those goals? Using readings from a variety of different cross-disciplinary sources and thinkers, students will be encouraged to think beyond what practice is and into the radical realms of what practice could become in the future.

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Living by Water
Amee Carmines & Carmina Sanchez-del-Valle, Hampton University

A collage of colorful topographic images with black silhouettes of people holding hands along the bottom of the frame

English Literature and Community Design Issues Joint Micro Seminars on Place and Community

The joint micro-seminars in “Living by Water” focus on the interaction between place and community, particularly at times of crisis. Architecture students in a course on community design collaborate with students in a course on the novel to visualize literary works to create an environment that promotes a critical dialogue, crossing invisible and implied disciplinary boundaries. In the texts, the landscape of communities built and destroyed around constructions of racial hierarchy link to the construction of the narrative. This collaborative inquiry reveals the structures, physical and social limitations, and strategies needed to shelter human beings in ways that enrich cultural expression; and shows how knowledgeable and skilled local communities are about their built environment.

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Spaces of Coal
Pep Avilés, Penn State University

A grid of twelve photographs, mostly black and white, showing scenes related to 19th century coal production

Space of Coal + Anthracite Culture

The industrialization of modern states following the Enlightenment ran parallel to the increasing extraction and production of soft coal and anthracite. Coal became the leading source of energy during the nineteenth century as a replacement both for other combustibles (wood) and power sources (water and wind) and contributed in turn to the rapid development of transportation, industry, and—eventually—the modern urban experience. Coal-based capitalism was a global environmental project from the very beginning, affecting the morphology of modern cities as a consequence of iron and steel construction and of the alteration of natural landscapes to accommodate the new infrastructures that industries demanded. Regrettably, economic development triggered climate change and global warming. Although the heyday of coal production in the US occurred around the beginning of the twentieth century—consumption declined steadily following World War II, once oil proved to be a more effective and profitable source of energy—the global impact of past coal mining on the environment has not been reversed: currently, coal still remains at the origin of the majority of global CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, contributing dramatically to global warming.

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The Built Environment
Hyon K. Rah, University of the District of Columbia

A web diagram indicating a spectrum of vulnerable to resilient, with points of supplier and receiver

Climate change, increasingly frequent and devastating disasters, and the built environment are inextricably linked. This calls for a fundamental shift in how we design, plan, and manage the built environment – from self-referential and siloed to more contextualized and systems-based. This introductory course, required for all undergraduate architecture majors and cross-listed within the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability & Environmental Sciences, takes a holistic look at different scales and disciplines contributing to the built environment along with the social, economic, and environmental interdependencies and influences. Various design, technical, financial, and policy tools and strategies are explored. The goal is to better prepare our students for increasingly complex and challenging conditions and the role of interdisciplinary facilitator architects are required to play.

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Adaptation to Sea Level Rise
Mason Andrews, Hampton University 


A two semester cross-disciplinary course focusing on adapting to the impacts of sea level rise in existing urban neighborhoods in sadly soggy southeastern Virginia has been in place since 2014. In the first semester, students of architecture, engineering, and, intermittently, of pure and social sciences, hear lectures from subject matter experts on soils and hydrology, preservation, urban design, public policy, social justice, and more. Simultaneously, community engagement with stakeholders begins, as does a series of design initiatives in which the architecture students and faculty model the processes of studio-based learning. The latter is the subject of a current NSF program study by ethnographers. While student work has been the basis for a $115,000,000 HUD NDRC implementation grant, it is also true that, as in efforts outside academia, disciplinary silos keep professions ill-equipped to work successfully together. In a subject as vast as the planning of adaptation strategies, however, the only path forward is bringing the expertise of a wide array of knowledge types together; there is inadequate time for sequential disciplinary speculation. Next year area professionals will join the design studio as well. It is hoped a new community of practice will emerge modeling effective transdisciplinarity.


Public Issues, Climate Justice, and Architecture 
Bradford Grant, Howard University 


Science, empirical evidence, and some technical solutions about global climate change are well documented and generally known to our upper division architecture students who have taken the required “Sustainability” course. While our students may understand that the world’s warming climate is warming as an existential and profound threat for the future of our environment, we see that our thinking and action on climate change are influenced not only by the science, but by an array of social, and political dynamics. How can architects help the client, the profession, and the public’s understanding of the climate crisis influence changes in policies for environmental equity and propose a climate change response? This is the question of this course. Its goal is to shape students’ understanding of their role as future professionals in the public processes of climate change design policies, environmental justice, and calls for action.

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Unthinking Oil: Public Architecture and the Post-Carbon Imaginary
Gabriel Fuentes, Daniela Shebitz, and Julia Nevarez, Kean University


Unthinking Oil: Public Architecture and the Post-Carbon Imaginary is a cross-disciplinary course to be taught in collaboration between Kean University’s School of Public Architecture, School of Environmental and Sustainability Studies, School of Social Sciences, and the Human Rights Institute (HRI). Its aim is to intersect architecture with the emerging field of energy humanities in order to speculate openly and collectively on the broad political and aesthetic dimensions of climate change. Its guiding premise is that climate change is symptomatic of a deeper crisis of thought that requires transdisciplinary modes of critical analysis to unmask. Our fossil-fueled, petrocultural reality, is not a mere techno-economic problem to be solved by mere techno-economic solutions; rather, it is a deep cultural problem that entwines our social practices and energy uses with politically motivated representations and narratives about nature, modernity, and the environment. Petroculture operates in plain sight—post-industrial society is an oil society through and through. Climate change, then, is a symptom of a global carbon regime that permeates all aspects of our physical, material, intellectual, and affective lives. Change can only come by unthinking this regime and its infrastructures, by constructing new imaginaries of a post-carbon world. Paradoxically, unthinking requires deep thought.

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Design Based on Estimating Ripple Effects of Carbon Footprint
Jeanne Homer, Khaled Mansy, John Phillips, and Tom Spector, Oklahoma State University


We are a group of faculty seeking the integration of the climate action goal of decarbonization into the design studio. We co-teach our school’s comprehensive design studio (required 4th-year studio), in which performance is emphasized as a principal driving force for design development. Students are challenged with the task of making their buildings as resource-efficient as possible. Students are required to seek evidence-based feedbacks to improve the performance of their design, i.e., the structural, energy, and financial performance. Our endeavor is to redefine the educational goals of studio to integrate carbon footprint as the primary measure of performance, which should open the door for students’ creativity in finding innovative ways to minimize carbon emissions due to both operational and embodied energy. The current content and scope of studio enable students to develop the understanding and ability to generate all of the evidence-based data required to evaluate building performance, but this data stops short of estimating the building’s carbon footprint. The next step is to explore ways to develop the studio further, pushing the envelope towards making it possible to estimate the ripple effects of carbon footprint and the (direct and indirect) impact of buildings on climate change.

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"Exist, Flourish, Evolve" — Territorial Care and the Upper Misi-Ziibi
Gabriel Cuéllar, University of Minnesota 


This studio is concerned with imagining how architecture, as a discipline, practice, and material reality, can help uphold the “Rights of Nature.” Exploring this emerging paradigm—codified in the phrase, “to exist, flourish, and evolve”—the studio will define concrete expressions of the ethics of care embodied in the recognition of rights for other-than-human entities. Our subject will be the Mississippi Headwaters watershed, whose ecological communities and dynamics will figure as protagonists in our studio. We will study how the ‘Great River’ propelled Minnesota’s productivity and explore what role it, as a potential rights-bearing entity, might play in reshaping ecological and spatial relations. We will seek to account for biogeochemical interactions irreducible to human agency, while identifying approaches to guide architectural intelligence within present environmental predicaments. We will rely on our discipline’s sensibility for mobilizing documents and precedents, identifying spatial relations, forming systems of coherence, and analyzing material characteristics and form. In parallel, we will chart out architectural efforts and effects embedded in situational contingencies that transpire over time, interact with other forces, and thrive as strictly infrastructural. Acknowledging that “Rights of Nature” are, presently, written aspirations, our goal will be to articulate the architectural dimensions that could support them.

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Changing Minds for a Changing Climate
Sara Stevens, Adam Rysanek, and Kees Lokman, University of British Columbia


Co-taught by a historian, a landscape architect, and a building scientist, this course proposes that design thinking has the potential to reframe the wicked problem of climate change. Weekly structured debates will pose provocations based on a set of historical and contemporary episodes in contested landscapes that position the designer in relation to societal change. Students’ assignments (Debate, Review, Conceive, and Impact) will analyze case studies in order to reimagine the relationship between design and climate change. Divided into modules that highlight different perspectives, the class will include lectures, workshops, and collective assignments intended to produce a small exhibition.

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Architecture and Environmental Orientalism in the Arab World
Faysal Tabbarah, American University of Sharjah


The course investigates the relationship between architectural and environmental imaginaries in the development of post-colonial architecture in the Arab world. The course integrates readings and discussions around Orientalism, environmental Orientalism, environmental history, and colonial/post-colonial architecture in the region. Integrating environmental history methodologies into architectural discourse reveals the relationship between architecture, environmentalism, and colonialism. This framework raises the following questions: What do colonial legacies have to do with environmentalism, and how does this shape Arab architecture? How do contemporary ideologies and practices of environmentalism impact Arab architecture? And finally, what are non-Western designers to do in the face of ongoing Orientalism and the climate crisis?

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A Global Warming History of Architecture Since 1800
Hans Ibelings, University of Toronto


In the last decades, histories of architecture have made a global turn. Now is the moment for architectural history’s global warming turn. If modern architecture is normally understood to have originated in Europe, so does global warming, with the Industrial Revolution igniting both. This lecture course is a reading of the history of architecture since 1800 through the lens of humankind’s increasing ecological footprint.

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Course Development Prize in Architecture, Climate Change, and Society

Design by This is our work

An aerial view shows a curving water source with infrastructure on either side, and a city in the distance

2021 Winner: Matthew Johnson & Michael Kubo (University of Houston), "Gulf: Architecture, Ecology, and Precarity on the Gulf Coast"

A map displaying the flood zones around Tallahassee, with four zones ranging from 500 year to 100 year floodway

2021 Winner: Mahsan Mohsenin, Reginald Ellis & Andrew Chin (Florida A&M University), "Hazard Mitigation + Race + Architecture"

A diagram showing different parts of a machine including:  a fan attachment, an unconditioned chamber, and a membrane

2021 Winner: Liz McCormick (University of North Carolina at Charlotte), "High-Performance, Low-Tech"

A close-up image of a large-scale game made of wooden pieces, a chalkboard, and an arm extends from the right side of the image with a piece of green chalk in hand

2021 Winner: Karla Sierralta, Cathi HoSchar, Prisma Das & Phoebe White (University of Hawaii at Manoa), "Just Play"

A photograph from an airplane showing part of a plane wing and land below

2021 Winner: Megan Groth (Woodbury University), "Professional Practice 3: Future Practice"

A collage of colorful topographic images with black silhouettes of people holding hands along the bottom of the frame

2021 Honorable Mention: Amee Carmines & Carmina Sanchez-del-Valle (Hampton University), "Living by Water"

A grid of twelve photographs, mostly black and white, showing scenes related to 19th century coal production

2021 Honorable Mention: Pep Avilés (Penn State University), "Spaces of Coal"

A web diagram indicating a spectrum of vulnerable to resilient, with points of supplier and receiver

2021 Honorable Mention: Hyon K. Rah (University of the District of Columbia), "The Built Environment"

Three people on a kayak passing a for sale real estate sign in flooded area in southeastern Virginia.

2020 Winner: Mason Andrews (Hampton University), "Adaptation to Sea Level Rise"

Group of protesters some holding signs about money for education not war

2020 Winner: Bradford Grant (Howard University), "Public Issues, Climate Justice, and Architecture"

"I don't believe in Global Warming" written in spray paint reflected in flooded groundwater

2020 Winner: Gabriel Fuentes, Daniela Shebitz, and Julia Nevarez (Kean University), "Unthinking Oil: Public Architecture and the Post-Carbon Imaginary"

Various images and renderings including a circulation diagram and a section detail

2020 Winner: Jeanne Homer, Khaled Mansy, John Phillips, and Tom Spector (Oklahoma State University), "Design Based on Estimating Ripple Effects of Carbon Footprint"

Normalized Difference Moisture Index for the Mississippi Headwaters watershed area calculated from multi-spectral remote sensing data. Wetlands and moist areas are shown in blue and dry areas appear brown and yellow.

2020 Winner: Gabriel Cuéllar (University of Minnesota), "'Exist, Flourish, Evolve'—Territorial Care and the Upper Misi-Ziibi

A student writing on a blackboard that has a ven diagram with the categories "Anthro" and "Nature." Students brainstorm behind her.

2020 Honorable Mention: Sara Stevens, Adam Rysanek, and Kees Lokman (University of British Columbia), "Changing Minds for a Changing Climate"

Archival photo from library of congress of two men sawing a log. One man stands on top of the log that is propped up, the other is on the ground. From Kamar ed Din Series: Hand-sawing of Logs into Planks, 1938.

2020 Honorable Mention: Faysal Tabbarah (American University of Sharjah), "Architecture and Environmental Orientalism in the Arab World"

Drawing of steelworks from Tony Garnie

2020 Honorable Mention: Hans Ibelings (University of Toronto), "A Global Warming History of Architecture Since 1800"