Architect Jason Mrdeza has won Washington University in St. Louis’ 2012 Steedman Fellowship in Architecture International Design Competition.
Sponsored by the College of Architecture and the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, the biennial competition is open to young architects from around the world and carries a $50,000 first place award to support study and research abroad — making it one of the largest competition prizes in the United States.
Mrdeza, an architect with Eggen Arkitekter in Trondheim, Norway, earned a bachelor of science in architecture from the University of Calgary in 2004 and a master of architecture in 2006 from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
His winning design was chosen from among 120 entrants representing more than 20 nations. He will use the award to study the relationship between landscape, architecture and sustainability practices at sites around the world, beginning in Japan and then traveling through Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and South America.
The 2012 program was created by Craig Dykers, co-founder of the international architecture, landscape architecture and interior design firm Snøhetta. In addition to serving as jury chair, Dykers spent much of the spring on campus as the Sam Fox School’s Ruth and Norman Moore Visiting Professor of Architecture.
Titled “Collaborative Vision: A Center for Interdisciplinary Design Education,” this year’s competition centered on designing a new, net-zero energy facility to house — and encourage interaction between — the Sam Fox School’s art, architecture and design graduate programs.
Participants also were required to integrate the new facility with five existing art and architecture buildings, and to strengthen connections between the school, the wider university and the community at large.
In his winning design, “Mediating Adjacencies: Inspiring Collaboration within Context,” Mrdeza proposes a large, three story-structure in which the primary divisions are not between subject areas, but between public and private functions.
“The project negotiates the need for internal reflection while catalyzing meetings between disciplines and individuals,” Mrdeza notes in his proposal. “Divisions between public and private are retained without hindering interdisciplinary and extra-institutional collaboration.”
Classrooms, workshops, galleries and other public and semi-public spaces would be grouped together on the lower level — which Mrdeza, alluding to the area’s Cahokian heritage, dubs “the mound.” A public pathway would run through the building’s center, drawing visitors but also connecting the entire Sam Fox School complex with the tree-lined lawn of Brookings Drive and, from there, to the rest of campus.
Conversely, the Brookings lawn would extend back into the new building, in the form of a green roof topping that first -floor mound. Upper levels, meanwhile, would be contained within a series of five large “lantern blocks,” each dedicated to a different discipline.
Clad in luminescent PVC panels and set at slight angles to one another, the lantern blocks would house faculty and administrative offices as well as studio spaces for each program.
“The jury recognized and applauded a well-researched understanding of the programmatic and physical context,” Dykers noted in the jury’s statement. “This resulted in a strong sense of scale in relation to the campus and its buildings.
“Movement through a clear hierarchy of public and private spaces was well considered, being both natural and intuitive,” Dykers added. “The interesting mix of these spaces for teaching and collaboration reflected an understanding of the Sam Fox School’s underlying pedagogy.”
Bruce Lindsey, dean of architecture and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Community Collaboration, states: “We are proud of our school’s long tradition of celebrating excellence in design among architects within their first eight years of practice through the Steedman Fellowship.”
In addition to the first place prize, three honorable mentions were awarded to:
Grant Gibson of Chicago. Currently founder and principal of CAMES/Gibson in Chicago, Gibson earned a master of architecture in 2004 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. The jury praised Gibson’s “very confident proposal,” which “reveals a clear and dynamic response to both the campus context and building program.”
Timothy Kunkel of Chicago, for “Loop/Link,” which the jury cited for its “intricate interaction of studio spaces.” Kunkel, currently with Cambridge Seven Associates in Cambridge, Mass., earned a bachelor of architecture degree from Rice University in 2010.
Christine Yogiaman of St. Louis, for “Contingent Gramophone.” The jury commended Yogiaman for her “thoughtful approach to connecting the building to its context” and for her “rigorous plan analysis of the existing buildings.” Currently an assistant professor of architecture in the Sam Fox School, Yogiaman earned her master of architecture in 2007 from Columbia University.
Jurors, in addition to Dykers, included Susannah Drake, principal of dlandstudio in Brooklyn, NY; and Sarah Dunn and Martin Felsen, principals of UrbanLab of Chicago.
Additionally David Polzin of Cannon Design (representing the St. Louis Chapter of the AIA); Ruth and Norman Moore Professor of Architecture Robert McCarter (representing the School); and senior lecturer Bill Wischmeyer (chair of the Steedman Committee) organized the competition.
Granted since 1925, the Steedman Fellowship is awarded biannually on the basis of an International Design Competition. The competition is supported by an endowment given to the Sam Fox School’s College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design in honor of James Harrison Steedman, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Washington University in 1889.
He was a decorated veteran of World War I, and passed away at the family’s home in Montecito, CA, in 1921. The memorial was established by Steedman’s widow, Mrs. Alexander Weddel, and his brother, George.
In addition, the Steedman Summer Travel Fellowship is awarded annually to a current architecture student to support travel and the investigation of an architectural topic of the student’s choosing.
The winners of the 2012 fellowship are Davis Owen and Joan Walbert. Owen, who graduated with a bachelor of art with a major in architecture, will travel to Helsinki, Finland, to research the implications of new technologies on craft.
Walbert, who is pursuing a master of architecture, will travel to the Republic of Georgia, where her research will focus specifically on the ways in which humans have used architecture and landscape architecture to retrofit the terrain in accordance with hydrological needs.
For more information about the Steedman Fellowship, visit steedmancompetition.com.