Architecture undergraduates win Berkeley Prize

Architecture undergraduate students Laura Schlifer and Daniel Carlson won the first 2008 Berkeley Prize Architectural Design Fellowship in celebration of the Berkeley Prize's tenth anniversary. Schlifer and Carlson won for their project, entitled "Baby Boomers: A New Take on the Old." They were also finalists for the essay competition. The pair were awarded $1,250 each plus $3,500 to host a School of Architecture competition based on their entry.

The Berkeley Prize educates undergraduate architecture students through essay writing and a travel fellowship that "the smallest act of building has global implications: that design can and does play a major role in the social, cultural, and psychological life of both the individual and society at large."

Schlifer and Carlson's entry embeds a competition in the School of Architecture's curriculum, a strong factor in their winning the prize. The pair's proposal calls for re-envisioning the traditional senior center to better meet the needs of the baby boomer generation, focusing on the need for boomers to remain self-sufficient and continue to be contributing members of society. The competition -- which will take place during a semester-long studio course during the spring 2009 semester -- centers on reintegrating the generational divide of the Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis. The site, according to the Schlifer and Carlson proposal, "should be no larger than a quarter of a city block and should be within three blocks of Hennepin Avenue."

Schlifer and Carlson were shocked to learn they had won the fellowship. "We thought we might try it and learn from the experience since neither of us had entered a competition before," said Carlson. Schlifer echoed Carlson's sentiment and added, "Daniel and I thought we had a topic that isn't really discussed with people our age, and I think, I hope, that it will be a competition that produces fascinating results."

"I wholeheartedly embrace the Berkeley Prize agenda of empowering architecture students to wield their design skills to bring about positive social change," said faculty mentor and studio instructor Leslie Van Duzer (Architecture). Van Duzer is on the Berkeley Prize committee, a reader for the essay competition (although she was not involved in judging Schlifer and Carlson's essay), and was an international juror for the 2007 travel fellowship.

The following prizes will be awarded to winners of the studio course competition: $1,000 first place; $500 second place; and $250 third place. $1,000 will be used for honoraria for local expert visits to the studio course and $750 will be used for jury fees.

The competition will be judged at the end of the spring 2009 semester. Jurors will include Julia Robinson (Architecture), Lance Neckar (Landscape Architecture), Becky Yust (DHA), and Maude Lovelle, Uptown Association director.

The Berkeley Prize endowment was established in 1996 by Ray Lifchez in the Department of Architecture, College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley as the result of a gift from Lifchez's late wife, Judith Lee Stronach. Lifchez plans on visiting the design studio during the spring 2009 semester.

Each year, the prize committee selects a topic and poses a question based on that topic. Undergraduate architecture students are invited to submit a 500-word essay proposal responding to the question. The prize committee selects about 25 proposals as semi-finalists and the authors are asked to submit a 2,500-word essay expanding on their proposals. All of the semi-finalists are automatically eligible to apply for the Berkeley Prize Travel Fellowship. Five to eight of the best essays are selected as finalists.

In recent years the Berkeley Prize has been dedicated to various branches of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Center for World Heritage Studies, a research and outreach unit of the College of Design, provides technical assistance to a branch of UNESCO to preserve endangered World Heritage Sites in developing countries.

The Berkeley Prize Essay Competition 2008 question:

"Make a proposal for a Social Art of Architecture Design Competition for undergraduate students in your school and potentially, other undergraduate academic disciplines. As a general goal, this Design Competition will ask students to address the most important social issue in your country that should be addressed by architects. Tell us what you believe this social issue is and why. Then, tell us how exactly your design competition will help address this issue."

Students should watch the Berkeley Prize Web site for information about the 2009 essay competition that will probably be published sometime in October. The topic question will likely have something to do with sustainability. Questions should be directed to Leslie Van Duzer at