Brooklyn-based architect and Harvard GSD alumni Gia Wolff has been awarded the $100,000 Wheelwright Prize for her proposal Floating City: The Community-Based Architecture of Parade Floats. Now in its first edition, the Wheelwright Prize is a travel grant issued by Harvard University in an effort to foster new forms of architectural research led by cross-cultural engagement.
Mohsen Mostafavi: “The positive response to the Wheelwright Prize has been extraordinary. It is inspiring to see so many talented architects with clear agendas and visions. I am delighted for Gia Wolff, the winner of the prize. Her proposed investigations at the intersection of design, performance, and temporality will surely provide us with new insights and new directions for the future of architecture.”
At 35, Wolff has acquired an impressive list of credentials. Her past work with Acconci Studio, LOT-EK, Adjaye Associates, and Architecture Research Office (ARO) has guided her to establish an “innovative” and “multifaceted" practice that focuses on “performance and its use of space and objects to convey narrative, form, and emotion,” in her words.
Alongside her work, she is currently an assistant professor adjunct at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union and a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute. In addition, she has been collaborating with the Phantom Limb Company on set designs for productions.
Wolff’s winning proposal, Floating City: The Community-Based Architecture of Parade Floats, proposes the study of the tradition of parade floats - elaborate temporary and mobile constructions that are realized annually in carnival festivals in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Goa (India), Nice (France), Santa Cruze de Tenerife (Spain), and Viarreggio (Italy). As Wolff describes in her essay, “The float transforms the city. Its scale makes exterior streets into interior rooms of street theater… This research ties into contemporary interests in performance and architectural notions of mobility, temporality, spectacle, urban space, and community-based design.”
The jury was enthusiastic about the strong continuity between Wolff’s existing body of work and her proposed area of study. The following comments emerged during the final premiation: “Wolff embodies a new way to think about practice”; “Though her work deals with impermanence, it engages with contemporary architectural concerns with flexibility, modularity, mobility, art”; “With her interest in the community-based creative production of carnival floats, Wolff’s proposal has a social dimension that resonates with the current preoccupation with local fabrication and maker economies”; and “Her research promises to touch on ideas that will help the analysis of the city.”
The $100,000 grant will fund Wolff’s research over the next two years.
The Wheelwright Prize Jury - Harvard GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, Yung Ho Chang, Farès el-Dahdah, K. Michael Hays, Farshid Moussavi, Zoe Ryan, and Jorge Silvetti - selected Gia Wolff among 231 applicants from 45 countries.
via Harvard University, Wheelwright Prize