SOM Announces the 2011 SOM Prize Winner

SOM Announces the 2011 SOM Prize Winner

The SOM Foundation has announced the 2011 SOM Prize Winner and Runner-up.   Brandon Clifford, a recent graduate of the Master of Architecture’s program at Princeton University, was selected as the winner of the prestigious SOM Prize, a $50,000 Research and Travel Fellowship.  Clifford will visit multiple countries on four continents in carrying out his research topic, “Volume: Researching Past Methods of Stereotomy.”

SOM, one of the first major modern American architectural firms to promote a corporate face, has continued to be a ‘massive and dynamically creative commercial force’ designing the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa in Dubai, their commission for a new green district, Green Tech City, in Hanoi, Vietnam, and SOM was selected to design New York City’s (and the State’s) first Net Zero Energy school building, PS 62 located in Staten Island.

In 2009 SOM was recognized for just that when they were included in Fast Company’s annual list of “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies” ranked (the only AEC company on the ranking), amongst companies such as Google and Apple. And they were also rated (by Fast Company) as number one on its list of the 10 most innovative architecture firms.

In this 30th year of Foundation Awards, the Fellowships continue to offer recent graduates the rare opportunity to travel in connection with carrying out in-depth research, collaborate with other professionals and pursue independent study outside the realm of established patterns. To date, the Foundation has awarded more than $1,000,000 to architecture, design and engineering students who have gone on to distinguish themselves in professional and academic careers.  It has been said that,”the SOM Prize is one of the primary tools that our profession has to bridge the gap between the academy and the real world.”

The official press release from SOM following the break.

CHICAGO, IL – The Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Foundation has announced this week that Brandon Clifford, who completed his Master of Architecture degree at Princeton University in May 2011, has been selected as the Recipient of the prestigious 2011 SOM Prize, a $50,000 Research and Travel Fellowship. The SOM Prize will enable Mr. Clifford to visit countries on four continents in carrying out his research topic, “Volume: Researching Past Methods of Stereotomy.” As Brandon explained, “We have lost the ability to work with Volume. So much of the discussion surrounding digital design has focused on surface… This research is intended to mine the lost knowledge of stereotomy (the art of cutting solids, most typically stone) as a way to inform our contemporary methods of making with the dimension of volume.”

Masoud Akbarzadeh, M. Arch, June 2011, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will receive a $20,000 Research and Travel Fellowship as the Runner-up for the 2011 SOM Prize. Masoud’s Masters Thesis has provided the first step to further study on his research topic, “ Hydro Power Cities: Generative Form Potentials of River Hydrology and Urbanization.“ His research will engage architectural design, computation, and civil engineering to explore new relationships between traditional water-based infrastructure and emergent urban form along river way sites in China, Brazil and Africa. Modern hydropower megaprojects have caused widespread social, cultural and environmental damage. Masoud’s research will focus on the creation of multiple, smaller scale hydro power stations which support local environments and populations through the design of new forms of urbanism and energy extraction in a living river system.

The SOM Prize is awarded annually through a national competition. In July 2011, the SOM Foundation received 105 portfolio submissions from students at 45 US schools having accredited programs in architecture, design and urban design. The submissions were judged on the quality of the design portfolios, research proposals and travel itineraries.

Meeting in New York this year, the 2011 Jury was comprised of some of the city’s most distinguished architects and design professionals, Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA , Senior Principal, Hargreaves Associates; Frank Lupo, FAIA; and Thomas Phifer FAIA, Thomas Phifer and Partners, and was chaired by Gary Haney AIA, Partner, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP. As observed by a past Juror in commenting on the Jury experience,

“The SOM Prize is one of the primary tools that our profession has to bridge the gap between the academy and the real world. The proposals submitted represent the diversity of concerns that we are pondering in our practices, from exploring the opportunities at the intersection of material and technology to urban issues stemming from global warming and sustainability. It is clear from the topics proposed that our profession has gone global. Travel itineraries often connected the world’s fastest growing or most endangered cities. Maybe this reflects a lack of opportunity on our own shores. More likely, it reflects the abundance of real and pressing issues affecting all nations, each of which implicates architecture and design in some way. It is heartening to witness some of our brightest young minds challenging themselves to tackle them. It is even more heartening that the best of these proposals do so without forsaking form, beauty or delight.”

The SOM Foundation

The mission of the SOM Foundation Travelling Fellowship Program is to assist young architects, designers and engineers in expanding their professional education through the observations of culture, history, building and design that can only be achieved through travel. Prior Fellows have travelled to Asia, North Africa, and South America, as well as Europe and the United States.

In addition to the SOM Prize, the Foundation also offers a $10,000 Structural Engineering Fellowship, sponsors two $2,500 Travel Fellowships, administered through the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to two students of architecture in the United Kingdom, and funds a $10,000 China Prize, bringing the total value of awards and travel fellowships to a total of $100,000 annually.

The programs of the SOM Foundation are funded through an endowment established by the partners of the architectural firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM). The Foundation’s activities are wholly separate from those of the firm.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering and urban planning firms in the world, with a 75 year reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since its inception, SOM has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with more than 1,400 awards for quality, innovation and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award – in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Abu Dhabi.

About this author
Cite: Kelly Minner. "SOM Announces the 2011 SOM Prize Winner" 21 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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