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Kofi Akakpo (MArch ’21), Cynthia Deng (MArch/MUP ’21), and De Qian Huang (MArch ’22) awarded 2021 KPF Fellowships

Each year, the Kohn Pedersen Fox Foundation sponsors a series of fellowships to support emerging designers and advance international research. Two recent Harvard Graduate School of Design graduates and one current student are recipients of 2021 fellowships. Cynthia Deng (MArch/MUP ’21) and Kofi Akakpo (MArch ’21) were awarded the Paul Katz Fellowship, an internationally recognized award that honors the life and work of former KPF principal Paul Katz, while De Qian Huang (MArch ’22) received the Kohn Pedersen Fox Traveling Fellowship, established to broaden the education of a design student in their last year of school through a summer of travel and exploration.

The Paul Katz Fellowship is awarded to international students studying issues of global urbanism and is open to students enrolled in a masters of architecture program at five East Coast universities at which Katz studied or taught: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania. KPF focuses each annual iteration of the Paul Katz Fellowship on a different global city. This year’s fellowship is tied to Cape Town; previous cities include Mexico City, Tel Aviv, Sydney, London, and Tokyo. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, KPF has announced that they will pause any travel requirements, and will distribute $15,000 of the $25,000 travel stipend as a financial award to each of the winners.

De Qian Huang and George Zhang's “Living with Food: Food as Catalyst for Urban Housing.” Part of a portfolio of work submitted by Huang for the Kohn Pedersen Fox Traveling Fellowship.

The Traveling Fellowship is given to students from one of the 27 design schools with which KPF has partnered to fund summer research on “far-reaching topics that push the boundaries of critical thinking and architectural design.” KPF has paused travel for the Traveling Fellowship also, and has awarded a scholarship to each winner to fund a “Journey of the Mind.” Huang is one of five winners of the 2021 cycle. Tiange Wang (MArch I ’22) received an Honorable Mention.

For the Paul Katz Fellowship, Deng submitted a research proposal—“Joints, Junctions, Patches, and Sutures: Spatial Repair of Past and Future”—that connects spatial reparations and adaptive reuse in the context of Cape Town’s legacies of apartheid. “The proposal was influenced by some of the research that went into by my joint thesis, ‘Care Agency: a 10-Year Choreography of Architectural Repair,’ completed with Elif Erez (MArch I/MDes HPDM ’22) and advised by Lisa Haber-Thomson and Lily Song,” says Deng. “I also spent time thinking about what Mabel Wilson has said and written about the idea of radical repair and found inspiration from the work of Euneika Rogers-Sipp (Loeb ’16), including her Digging Du Bois project journey and her thinking on reparations ecologies.”

In her proposal Deng asks, “Can the physical repair joints paired with oral histories speak to larger and more transformative repairing forward—such as repairing a Eurocentric architectural discourse in which African ingenuity is largely missing; repairing persistent segregation and lingering trauma bourne of apartheid; repairing ecological relationships ‘where clouds gather’ (the indigenous Khoe translation for the area known as Cape Town)?”

Image from Cynthia Deng and Elif Erez's thesis “Care Agency: a 10-Year Choreography of Architectural Repair.”

Akakpo’s research proposal, “Reclaiming Beauty in African Architecture,” addresses the need to recover and properly define an African architecture that is independent of Eurocentric standards and colonialism. “Born in Ghana, West Africa, I am intrigued by the way in which people imagine and dream beyond their means,” Akakpo writes in his project brief. “I will focus my documentation and analysis on how public and private spaces are created, how spatial territories are navigated, and how difficult spaces are humanized, personalized and made livable through design.”

Computer rendering of Kofi's thesis represented as a gold collection of buildings that tower over the monotone and uniform urban fabric.
Image from Kofi Akakpo's thesis “‘Functional Follies’ for an Urban Slum,” which proposes the erection of a series of “functional follies” in Agbogbloshie, an urban slum in Accra, Ghana.

This year’s recipients follow a legacy of GSD students who have been honored with KPF fellowships, including Paul Katz Fellowship winners Yotam Ben Hur (MArch ’20) in 2020, Miriam Alexandroff (MArch ’19) and Peteris Lazovskis (MArch ’20) in 2019, and Sonny Xu (MArch/MLA ’18) in 2018, and KPF Traveling Fellowship winner Eduardo Martínez-Mediero Rubio (MArch ’19) in 2018.

Learn more about the fellowships, lectureships, and education-focused programs the KPF Foundation organizes each year.