The Right to Infrastructure

The methods and effects of emergency management, especially regarding its relationship to race, invite further analysis in a broader infrastructural context. Considering questions around incorporation, debt, and infrastructural access—whether it be of a small Freedmen’s town on the edge of Houston, or an entire island such as Puerto Rico—brings to light issues of access, discrimination, and financialization, requiring an overall conceptual framework that explains parallel events as more than aberration. “The Right to Infrastructure” seeks to elucidate some of these cases, and develop strategies so that they might be more effectively addressed.

In this project, Danielle Purifoy and Louise Seamster identify and examine a pattern of racialized extractive practices and predatory governance in black towns. They define black towns as communities comprised of a majority-black population with black leadership, regardless of municipal incorporation or demographic history. According to this pattern, the consequences of chronic dispossession through practices such as the seizure of water rights, the denial of eligible public funding, and the imposition of exorbitant and discriminatory tax rates are reframed as deficiencies of black towns themselves, or simply curious anomalies. Charges of failed leadership, incompetence, and even fraudulence, are frequently leveled against local black officials, particularly during intergovernmental disputes over resource access.

The fight for basic services is replicated in black towns of all types across the U.S., from unincorporated black towns in the South to majority-black industrial centers in the North. Most journalistic coverage of these black towns, however, treats each one as a surprising, special occurrence. In each supposedly isolated instance, the black town’s failure to get basic services—a clear indicator of structural racism—is framed in the public sphere as a case of “lack of leadership,” “incompetence,” “non-compliance,” or even “negligence.”

To understand black towns requires understanding white towns, cities, and unincorporated places as raced spaces. In order to answer commonly asked questions about black towns, Purifoy and Seamster plan to delve deep into ordinary structures of governance: infrastructure, taxation, incorporation and annexation, loan and grant agreements, etc. They investigate processes of erasing and rebuilding—dynamic processes that produce the illusion of stability. How do government arrangements shape land outcomes and resources? How do those disparities, in turn, predict the re-shaping of governance?

Currently, Purifoy and Seamster are developing a conceptual framework for understanding black towns within extractive white space, highlighting questions of citizenship, extraction, and exclusion as we focus on how legal, spatial, racial, and economic systems structure black spaces’ access to infrastructure and facilitate environmental violence. In their framework, Purifoy and Seamster draw on several theoretical principles that nest black towns in a larger sociopolitical, economic, and visionary context. First, in the realm of politics, they apply Charles Mills’ “racial contract”1 on a local level, looking at how the rules that constitute both black and white towns (and the spaces between them) are far from the neutral, stable structure usually imagined. Second, they take a relational approach to these black and white towns, describing an intimate bondage between them, forged through plantation power structures but reproduced today through a material and affective dependency. Third, they foreground physical space by examining how black towns have enacted black spatial imaginaries2 and served as crucial sites for the envisioning and practicing of alternative modes of governance.

Purifoy and Seamster build this conceptual framework because they can’t understand how infrastructural access is racialized without it. They focus on the social, political and economic mechanisms that map resources, exclusion, and racial inequalities onto physical spaces. The study of environmental racism has shown a broad array of adverse impacts on communities of color, from siting environmental hazards to the quality of land allocated to black communities, and lack of access to clean water. These effects are compounding—for example, environmental ruination from pesticide use to industrial pollution made Flint’s river corrosive, while state and county–level political machinations led to Flint’s use of corrosive water, and racialized assumptions about credibility and deservingness led officials charged with ensuring clean water access to ignore and mock residents’ complaints. Effects range from lead poisoning to property value destruction (which in turn structures the city’s ability to pay for future improvements). Similarly, the black towns of Sandbranch and Tamina, Texas need a municipal water supply because extractive gravel factories and oil fields sited along their borders have rendered their well water undrinkable.

Purifoy and Seamster combine an environmental focus with data and frameworks from urban studies, fiscal sociology, geography, and law to show how these harms are not the result of discrete “racist” acts, but are written into the law itself, and are central to the functioning of racial capitalism.3


  • 1Charles Mills, The Racial Contract (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997).
  • 2Katharine McKittrick and Clyde Woods, Black Geographies and the Politics of Place (Boston, MA: South End Press, 2007); George Lipsitz, How Racism Takes Place (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2011); Clyde Woods, Development Arrested: Race, Power, and the Blues in Mississippi (New York: Verso Books, 2017 [1998]).
  • 3Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000 [1983]); Mills 1997; Laura Pulido, "Geographies of Race and Ethnicity Ii: Environmental Racism, Racial Capitalism and State-Sanctioned Violence." Progress in Human Geography, 41, no. 4 (2017): 524-533.
Two signs are shown along the side of the highway. One reads "Taylortown, City Limit" and the other reads "Citywide Speed Limit 35; Unless Otherwise Posted; State Maintenance Ends"

State maintenance ends outside of Taylortown, NC (Danielle Purifoy)

Glass door shown with typewritten sign, taped to the inside of the door, reading "Water Clerk will be back shortly." Silhouette of photographer shown in reflection.

"Water Clerk Will Be Back Shortly" (Danielle Purifoy)

Plaque shown with a short biography of Demus Taylor, the founder of Taylortown and a former slave.

Sign showing the biography of Demus Taylor (Danielle Purifoy)

Tall grasses are shown in front of railroad tracks and a sign that reads "Tamina."

Tamina, TX was officially founded as a train stop in 1871, although local historians dated it decades earlier. Early on, Tamina was known for its lumber mills.

a train is shown passing through an intersection, side-view car mirror in foreground

One of two ways into Tamina, TX—literally across the railroad tracks. Residents had to ask repeatedly for a stop sign at this intersection.

A black and white illustration shows various components of "Blacktown" and "Whitetown."

Illustration by billy dee, originally published in Environmental Sociology

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 immediate applicability 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 prize in recognition of exemplary 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 calls 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


For all prizes after 2022, see the Buell Center website



Environmental Justice (EJ) + Health + Decarbonization
Nea Maloo, Howard University

A diagram of four drawn buildings, escalating from "Typical Building" to "EJ+Health+Decarbonized Building"
(Image Credit: BDLA, Stanford University, modified by Nea Maloo)

The Environmental Justice (EJ) + Health + Decarbonization will be a new inter-disciplinary course in the College of Engineering and Architecture, Howard University, for architects, engineers, and environmental studies major students. The course aims to put sustainable building practice at the center of environmental health, justice, and social equity. This course is intended to equip the students with the knowledge of building decarbonization and environmental justice, to be the future leaders in sustainability.

Globally, the embodied carbon emissions from the building sector alone produce 11% of global emissions and has huge impact on the environment. It is also evident that climate change has differing social, economic, health, and other adverse impacts on underprivileged populations. Under the broad umbrella of climate justice, the inter-disciplinary education will offer an overview of the use of technology tools, including the energy simulation modeling, collected data, healthy building material and design approaches in architectural design. Additionally, the students will learn theory and practice of building decarbonization as foundational approach to environmental justice. The goal is to design buildings with holistic strategies with Decarbonization and healthy building material which promotes the climate justice within the architecture profession to the broader local and global community.

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Decommodifying Ownership 
Janette Kim, Brendon Levitt, & James Graham, California College of the Arts

project diagram showing a block with multiple types of housing units
(Image Credit: Carlos Garcia and Yue Liu, project diagram for the Reframing Property studio taught by Janette Kim, fall 2021.)

Decommodifying Ownership is a proposed cluster of coordinated courses at the Architecture Division at California College of the Arts that bridges across design studio, building technology, and history and theory curriculum streams in the B.Arch, M.Arch and Master of Advanced Architectural Design programs. These three courses will reflect on colonial legacies of dispossession instituted by the enclosure of land and the dislocation of the byproducts of extractive economies. In response, they will ask how the decommodification and commoning of land and resources can recapture energy, water, materials, and nutrients—all to sustain regenerative economies in communities whose labor and knowledge have long been mined for the creation of wealth. These courses will highlight their own unique methodologies—with an emphatic belief that each curricular track is a site for both conceptual and pragmatic investigations—while identifying sites for cross-pollination. In this way, the goal is to model speculative, new techniques for interdisciplinary architectural practice that is ever-more critical in the face of climate change.

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Lindsey Krug, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Sarah Aziz, University of Colorado Denver

An aerial topographical photograph with red points, primarily clustered on the eastern half of the continent
(Image: Ana Sandoval and Michelle Barrett)

Mono-Poly-Dollar is an interdisciplinary research and design studio, operating at both the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and the University of Colorado Denver (CUD), that uses Dollar General Corp (DG), the largest and most influential of the American dollar store triumvirate – Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General – to examine the country’s environmental, economic, and racial fault lines, and highlight the understudied small-box vernacular typology as a weapon of discourse and agent of climate activism.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Denver, Colorado are geographically poised to document the distribution of Dollar General’s presence in the U.S. as they trisect the drastic gradient from the densely populated DG-landscape of the American East, Midwest and South, to the sparsely populated DG-landscape of the American West. The course requires students to address the subject matter neutrally and arrive at socio-spatial positions and projections by traveling to a cross-section of the 17,000+ DG stores and distribution centers across the country and see firsthand how the retail empire affects large-scale commercial practices and mom-and-pop-corner-shop small-scale domestic realities.

Given its geographic scope, even a small shift in the invasive dollar store’s response to the climate crisis can have a large impact, and by critiquing the organization’s commercial, agricultural, and architectural strategies, students propose ways DG can provide an antidote to the silent crisis they contribute to.

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Deep Geologies: Material Encounters in Texas
Brittany Utting, Rice University

A photograph of a dry landscape and blue sky with clouds; in the distance are stacks of green pipes
Image Credit: Victoria Sambunaris – Untitled (Pipes), Monahans, Texas – 2012)

Geology is a conception of the planet’s surface as thick, resource-rich, and energy-latent, forming slowly in the “deep time” of the earth. Laced within its dense layers of rock and shifting plates, the crust contains the raw materials and carbon fuels of the technosphere: bands of iron ore, veins of mineral deposits, seams of coal, and vast fields of oil.

Our everyday worlds are sourced from these geologies—fracking, cracking, mining, drilling, processing, and burning—feeding a supply chain essential to the production and powering of the built environment. Critically, the materials themselves have specific qualities and attitudes, producing a complex infrastructure of capital, energy, and heat. Yet while these geologies constitute the substructure of carbon modernity—determining its urban scales, circulatory flows, and organizational forms—they also devastate landscapes, bodies, and climates.

Deploying spatial and material tactics to intercede in these extractive processes, this studio seeks to trouble the persistence and durability of the hydrocarbon toward a deeper conception of geology: a planetary assemblage of landscapes, ecologies, organisms, technologies, and atmospheres. Learning from Anna L. Tsing’s concept of the “liveliness” of materials, Deep Geologies looks to the entanglement of extraction and the built environment to imagine new architectures for terrestrial care. Working in the context of Texas, this studio imagines how architecture can participate in a just transition to a post-carbon future, asking how the built world can more radically engage with agendas for environmental justice and geological repair.

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Acclimatizing to Heat in a Legacy City: Urban Heat Islands, Segregation and Social Connections in Toledo, Ohio
Yong Huang & Andreas Luescher, Bowling Green State University
Sujata Shetty, University of Toledo

A series of maps and a graph that visualize changes in heat over time
(Image: Toledo Green Spaces and Heat Island Analysis)

Climate change in Toledo, Ohio once a thriving part of the constellation of cities supporting Detroit’s auto industry, is already noticeable through an increase in average air temperatures, with predictions that they will continue rising (City of Toledo, 2021). Region-wide, climate change is projected to increase the risk, intensity and duration of temperature extremes and that has certainly been true in the city as well (GCA, 2020). One major contributor to these prolonged high temperatures are Urban Heat Islands (UHIs), urban areas that are significantly warmer than their surroundings chiefly because of concentrated heat emitted from the built environment, vehicles, and industrial land uses. As in other old industrial cities, Toledo’s urban areas suffering from the heat island effect are expected to be most affected by heatwaves, putting the city’s low-income and elderly residents most at risk.

The proposed interdisciplinary seminar and studio will focus on the intersection between heat events and the structure of the City of Toledo, socio-economic and physical. The main question we ask is: how can heat mitigation architecture and planning interventions further social equity? Our aim is to examine the connection of nature to human experience, and to integrate the wellbeing of individuals with the design of healthy public spaces and neighborhood-wide environments. The joint venture will advance and bolster climate literacy in Northwest Ohio.

References: City of Toledo (2021) Climate change Vulnerability Assessment for Stormwater
GCA (2020) Global Center on Adaptation: Temperatures in the Great Lakes are rising and putting the vulnerable at risk

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Tourism as Environmental Disaster: Vulnerable Landscapes and Vulnerable Populations on the Atlantic Coast Barrier Islands
David Franco, Ulrike Heine, Andreea Mihalache and George Schafer, Clemson University

An aerial photograph showing islands off a coast
(Image: Tourism as Environment)

Barrier islands are vulnerable landforms critical for the protection of coastal ecosystems and communities, whose rich vegetation merges with water in marshlands and beaches. During the Jim Crow era, they were the safe havens of self-sustaining Gullah-Geechee communities from the Carolinas to South Florida, until when a massive invasion of vacation homes, hotels, and oversized tourist infrastructure began to displace them during the 1950s. Bringing together design, theory, and technology, this course addresses the abusive tourist practices that have shaped the Atlantic coast as we know it, through alternative approaches to tackle these landscapes’ social, environmental, and spatial challenges.

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Energy Collectives: Towards a Self-Sustaining Neighborhood
Lawrence Blough, Pratt Institute
Simone Giostra, Politecnico di Milano

3-dimensional multi-colored renderings of building shapes
(Image: City block housing proposals mapping yearly solar radiation – IDC funded studios. Blough & Giostra, 2019-21)

Our proposal calls for radical new models of inhabitation, production, and protection of vital ecosystems by pairing objective environmental analysis with speculative architectural scenarios. A model for a self-sufficient settlement located on the city’s periphery will integrate overlapping scales of production and conservation. Animated by new modes of co-living, working and shared resources, it will provide a roadmap for future growth of the city and its environs. Energy performance in buildings is form dependent—addressing resource scarcity and environmental degradation demands a new design aesthetic and formal approach based on ecological inputs and necessity. The four vital infrastructures of Food, Energy, Water and Waste (FEW2) will be investigated for their design agency through a paired research seminar and design studio in order to effectively tackle the climate and energy crisis.

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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

A diagram of four drawn buildings, escalating from "Typical Building" to "EJ+Health+Decarbonized Building"

2022 Winner: Nea Maloo (Howard University), "Environmental Justice (EJ) + Health + Decarbonization"

project diagram showing a block with multiple types of housing units

2022 Winner: Janette Kim, Brendon Levitt, & James Graham (California College of the Arts), "Decommodifying Ownership"

An aerial topographical photograph with red points, primarily clustered on the eastern half of the continent

2022 Winner: Lindsey Krug (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee); Sarah Aziz (University of Colorado Denver), "Mono-Poly-Dollar"

A photograph of a dry landscape and blue sky with clouds; in the distance are stacks of green pipes

2022 Winner: Brittany Utting (Rice University), "Deep Geologies: Material Encounters in Texas"

A series of maps and a graph that visualize changes in heat over time

2022 Winner: Yong Huang & Andreas Luescher (Bowling Green State University); Sujata Shetty (University of Toledo), "Acclimatizing to Heat in a Legacy City: Urban Heat Islands, Segregation and Social Connections in Toledo, Ohio"

An aerial photograph showing islands off a coast

2022 Honorable Mention: David Franco, Ulrike Heine, Andreea Mihalache and George Schafer (Clemson University), "Tourism as Environmental Disaster: Vulnerable Landscapes and Vulnerable Populations on the Atlantic Coast Barrier Islands"

3-dimensional multi-colored renderings of building shapes

2022 Honorable Mention: Lawrence Blough (Pratt Institute); Simone Giostra (Politecnico di Milano), "Energy Collectives: Towards a Self-Sustaining Neighborhood"

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"

Everyday Emergencies

Tracking Emergency Interventions in the United States, 1998–2008


The world is in crisis. Today, society faces a growing and intensifying array of potential dangers and disruptions, including ecological and climate change disasters, infrastructural and technological failures, fiscal and financial crises, and geopolitical conflict (inter alia). As a result, emergency-based techniques of governance also appear to be on the rise. In times of real or perceived crisis, public and quasi-public agencies may invoke what are often referred to as “emergency powers,” in order to allow for a more expeditious, bold, and nimble governmental response. Indeed, a “state of emergency” is an exceptional period in which democratic rule and constitutional order are suspended on the grounds that necessitas non habet legem (“necessity knows no law”). Thus, while emergency intervention is arguably a vital tool for addressing current and future crises, it is also fundamentally undemocratic and, hence, exceedingly dangerous.

While emergency-based governance in the United States has largely flown under the radar of public and scholarly discourse, two recent events have drawn considerable attention to the issue. First, the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled an untold number of U.S. governmental officials to declare a state of emergency in their respective jurisdictions: from multiple presidents to numerous governors, to an unknown number of local public and quasi-public officials. Notably, while many crises are acute events necessitating only brief emergency intervention, the indefinite nature of the pandemic has led officials (especially at state, county, and local levels) to declare public health emergencies for lengthy or indeterminate periods of time.  

A second factor that has increased the salience of the issue was the immoderate deployment of emergency measures by the presidential administration of Donald Trump. From immigration at the southern border, to the opioid crisis, to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump utilized the national emergency designation in an often bellicose and politically brazen manner. But it would be a mistake to believe that the aggressive deployment of emergency-based techniques was unique to the Trump administration or that future administrations (of either party) will be more circumspect in how they utilize this powerful tool. To the contrary, the new Biden administration seems similarly poised to use emergency measures in an expansive manner, in order to address concerns such as climate change and gun violence. 

And yet, despite the constitutional gravity of emergency measures, and despite the fact that such measures seem to be emerging as the de rigueur response to local, regional, and national problems of all sorts, the practice has largely evaded serious and sustained investigation. A vast array of governmental officials are currently empowered to invoke a wide variety of extra-democratic emergency powers, yet there is no centralized oversight of the practice or even simple repository in which all emergency declarations are recorded. “Everyday Emergencies” begins to fill this critical gap in our knowledge by developing a dataset of all states of emergency declared in the United States, at all scales of governance, over the past two decades. Once this information is collected, we can begin asking basic yet crucial questions, such as: How often are emergency measures invoked? By whom? For what purpose? And to what effects?

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

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