The GSD Announces Finalists for the 2024 Wheelwright Prize

A grid of four portraits of the architects who are finalists for the 2024 wheelwright prize.

Top: Meriem Chabani, Nathan Friedman; Bottom: Thandi Loewenson, Ryan Roark.

Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) is pleased to announce four shortlisted architects for the 2024 Wheelwright Prize: Meriem Chabani, Nathan Friedman, Thandi Loewenson, and Ryan Roark.

The Wheelwright Prize is an international competition for early-career architects. Winners receive a $100,000 fellowship to foster innovative architectural research that is informed by cross-cultural engagement and can make a significant impact on architectural discourse. Winning research proposal topics in recent years have included the environmental and social impacts of sand mining; the potential of seaweed, shellfish, and the intertidal zone to advance architectural knowledge; and new paradigms for digital infrastructure.

The 2024 Wheelwright Prize drew a wide pool of international applicants. A winner will be announced later in June.

Jurors for the 2024 prize include: Chris Cornelius professor and chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning; K. Michael Hays, Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory and co-director of the Master in Design Studies program at the GSD; Jennifer Newsom, co-founder of Dream the Combine and assistant professor at Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning; John Peterson, Curator of the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard GSD; Noura Al-Sayeh, Head of Architectural Affairs for the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities; and Sarah M. Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture at Harvard GSD.

The shortlisted architects are:

Meriem Chabani

Algeria-born, Paris-based Chabani is the founder and principal of NEW SOUTH, an award-winning architecture, urban planning, and anthropology practice prioritizing spaces for vulnerable bodies in contested territories. Her work on complex sites includes the Taungdwingyi cultural center in Myanmar, the Globe Aroma refugee art center in Brussels, and the upcoming Mosque Zero in Paris. She currently teaches at ENSA Paris Malaquais and the Royal College of Arts. In 2020 Chabani won the Europe 40 under 40 award. She is a recipient of the Graham Foundation Grant and was named one of the leading young female architects in France by AMC in 2023.

Chabani’s proposal is titled “On Sacred Grounds: Sanctuaries in the Secularocene”:

I wish to investigate ways in which sacred practices of the built environment may provide a new sustainable approach to architecture and city making. Metrics such as material cultures and carbon footprint are essential, yet architectural discourse should expand to encompass the emotional and spiritual dimensions that drive humans to care for their physical environment. In times of deep climate crisis, there is a pressing need to foster a renewed vision of an aspirational modernity. In a sense, we need a “Sacred” Green New Deal. By examining sacred spatial practices and rituals, my research will bring architecture to reckon with the “Secularocene,” and question what may lie beyond.

Nathan Friedman

Friedman is co-founder of the Mexico City–based design office Departamento del Distrito and a Professor in the Practice at the Rice University School of Architecture. His office was an official contributor to the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial and received the 2022 Architectural League of New York Prize, recognized for a diverse body of work that operates at the intersection of politics, identity, and the built environment. Friedman holds an MS from the Department of History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art at MIT and a BArch from Cornell University.

Friedman’s project is titled “Sovereign Systems: Resource Management in Latin America”:

A new discourse on sovereignty has emerged since the 1990s that is actively reshaping the world—from the productive rooftops and backyards of individuals to the pipelines, energy fields, and futuristic city projects of nation-states. Postcolonial countries and their populations in Latin America are experiencing an intense moment of political action and construction in this regard, exploring novel ways to manage resources, gain financial independence, and achieve self-determination. Sovereign Systems documents and tests the limits of these emerging approaches to sovereignty, seeking new models for architecture and territory that look beyond traditional notions of the nation-state.

Thandi Loewenson

Born in Harare, Loewenson is an architectural designer/researcher who mobilizes design, fiction, and performance to stoke embers of emancipatory political thought and fires of collective action, and to feel for the contours of other, possible worlds. Using fiction as a design tool and tactic, and operating in the overlapping realms of the weird, the tender, the earthly and the airborne, Loewenson engages in projects which provoke questioning of the status-quo, whilst working with communities, policy makers, unions, artists and architects to act on those provocations.

Loewenson’s proposal is titled “Black Papers: Beyond the Politics of Land, Towards African Policies of Earth & Air”:

The research establishes a new field in architectural research and practice which contends with the entanglement of earth and air in the construction of social and spatial relations, with a focus on seven African countries. Through analyses of Outer Space infrastructures, technology, metals and digital dispossession, I examine how systems of racialization, dispossession, and exploitation established by colonialism and racial capitalism are co-constituted across multiple, entangled earthly and airborne terrains. In doing so, through a series of “Black Papers” this work explores strategies and methods for the radical reimagination of forms of spatial and political liberation: how we get free.

Ryan Roark

Roark, PhD, AIA, is an architect, writer, biochemist, and Assistant Professor of Architecture at IIT in Chicago, where her research focuses on radical adaptive reuse and its role in urban development. At IIT, she directs the second-year undergraduate studio, on housing, and runs a lab where she develops novel biomaterials for use in retrofits. Her writing on the history of preservation, reuse, and urbanism has been published in JSAHStudies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, and the book Ruskin’s Ecologies, among other publications. She has previously taught at Georgia Tech and Rice. She has her MArch from Princeton and her PhD in Oncology from Cambridge University.

Roark’s proposed project is titled “Biomaterial Protocols: From Waste to Walls”:

As architects search for ways to mitigate their role in the climate crisis, fabrication with biologically based materials has become increasingly attractive. However, interest often wanes when it becomes apparent that these materials will not replace structure or cladding as we currently think of them. I am developing a range of materials from seafood waste and biochar for retrofitting existing buildings. As the development of biological materials for architectural purposes is still in its infancy, she seeks to connect with an international network of makers to catalog a range of techniques, currently poorly documented, and the associated material flows.