Architect Gia Wolff Wins First Harvard Wheelwright Prize

Wheelwright Prize winner, Gia Wolff. (Courtesy Gia Wolff)

Wheelwright Prize winner, Gia Wolff. (Courtesy Gia Wolff)

Yesterday, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design officially announced the winner of the first Wheelwright Prize, a $100,000 traveling fellowship aimed at cultivating new forms of architectural research through cultural exchange. The jury awarded the fellowship to Gia Wolff, a Harvard graduate and Brooklyn-based architect, for her original proposal Floating City: The Community-Based Architecture of Parade Floats. The young architect and professor, who currently leads her own practice, uniquely explored the cultural significance and design of the traditional parade float, which frequently transforms cities and brings people together during carnival festivals all throughout the world. The competition generated 231 submissions from 45 countries

“The Wheelright Prize is about putting a voyage together in order to discover, and learn from, a particular architectural production somewhere distant in the world. Gia, whose work is all about imagination, has identified the parade float—in such cities as Rio de Janeiro, Nice, and Goa— as an ephemeral form of architecture both laden with cultural exuberance and remarkable for the communitarian organization it requires,” commented jury member Farès el-Dahdah in a statement.

Applicants were asked to submit a portfolio of their work, a research proposal, as well as a detailed travel itinerary specifying exactly where, how, and what they intend to achieve with the $100,000 grant, which will fund 2 years of research.

The competition stems from the Arthur Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship, established in 1935, exclusively open to Harvard graduates, and awarded to distinguished architects like I.M Pei and Elliot Noyes. In keeping with the school’s commitment to the sharing and exchanging of ideas between countries, cultures, themes, and issues, the Wheelwright Prize was opened to early-career architects practicing all over the world.

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