Adare Brown wins Steedman Fellowship in Architecture

$75k grant, sponsored by Sam Fox School and AIA St. Louis, among largest such U.S. awards

Brown’s winning project, “Counter Planning from St. Louis,” will research the efforts of the Pruitt-Igoe Tenants Union, the Tandy Area Council and Teamsters Local 688 to protect and expand social housing. (Photo: Adare Brown’s scan from Bob Bussel’s “Fighting for Total Person Unionism”)

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based architectural worker and alum Adare Brown has been selected as winner of the 2023-24 James Harrison Steedman Memorial Fellowship in Architecture.

Established in 1926, the biannual Steedman Fellowship is organized by the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, in partnership with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) St. Louis. The $75,000 prize, which supports research through international travel, is awarded on the basis of applicant proposals. It is among the largest such fellowships in the United States.

Adare Brown (Courtesy photo)

This year’s theme, “Care,” was developed by internationally recognized architect and designer Tatiana Bilbao. It challenged participants to explore how architecture might tend not only to the needs of the body, in the sense of sheltering and protecting, but also to the health of society.

Brown’s submission, “Counter Planning from St. Louis,” foregrounds valiant efforts by tenant activists to preserve Pruitt-Igoe, the 57-acre housing project built just north of the city’s downtown in the early 1950s, then torn down two decades later.

“With its infamous demolition, the tenant organizing and trade unionists that fought for the right to maintain the complex have gone untold outside of labor history,” Brown explained. Though some scholars have viewed the destruction of Pruitt-Igoe as embodying the death of modernism, Brown argued, “that rhetorical gesture made care as an architectural act illegible. In this project, I will revisit and celebrate the architectures of care made possible by social housing.”

Brown’s research — which will extend to housing projects in Colombia, Italy and Thailand — will culminate in a publication and a public conversation in St. Louis with scholars on whose ethnographic and archival work Brown intends to build.

Brown’s research on the development of redistributive housing will bring St. Louis into conversation with projects in Colombia, Thailand and Italy. (Image: Adare Brown)

“Brown’s proposal engages a wider view of the profound effect housing has on community and health, providing evidence that housing can have a broader meaning of shelter and care,” said Bilbao, who chaired the selection jury. “The proposal was well articulated and displays the connection to the research, resulting in a universal theme that translates across geographical locations and can have a global impact on contemporary and historic themes of research surrounding social housing and care.”

Currently a project manager with STAT Architecture in New York, Brown works with community-based nonprofits building and restoring affordable housing. Brown earned bachelor’s degrees of design, in architecture, and of fine arts, in painting, from WashU in 2017. They earned their master’s in architecture from the Yale School of Architecture in 2022 and have served as a guest critic at Columbia University, Roger Williams University, Cornell University and The Cooper Union.

In their academic project “Many Roads to Follow,” Brown proposed new social housing in South Brooklyn along retired train lines. (Photo: Adare Brown)

Honorable mentions

In addition to selecting Brown, the jury selected two proposals for honorable mention.

Gabriela Suarez was recognized for “Kitchens as Centers for Communal Care: A Guideline Towards New Domestic Spaces,” which highlights the role of women in responding to economic and humanitarian crisis. Suarez earned a bachelor’s in architecture from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in 2023.

Julian Geltman was recognized for “Caring for the Vestiges: Reconstituting the Story of Operation Breakthrough,” which revisits an ambitious, if short-lived, effort by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to catalyze mass-production of prefabricated housing. Geltman earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Oberlin College in 2017 and a master’s in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2023.

Jury and organizers

In addition to Bilbao, the jury included: Elisa Iturbe, co-founder of Outside Development and assistant professor at The Cooper Union; Ethel Baraona Pohl, co-founder of dpr-barcelona; Kotchakorn Voraakhom, founding principal of Landprocess and designer-in-residence with the Sam Fox School and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation; and Michael Willis, founding principal of MWA Architects and a visiting professor at the Sam Fox School.

The 2023-24 fellowship was organized by the Steedman Governing Committee: Chandler Ahrens, an associate professor of architecture at the Sam Fox School; Mary Ann Lazarus, adjunct faculty in architecture and an architect with the Cameron MacAllister Group; Allison Mendez, a lecturer in architecture and vice president at Canon Design; and William Wischmeyer, a retired faculty member who was the 1973 Steedman Fellow.

Steedman Fellowship

The Steedman Fellowship is supported by an endowment given to the Sam Fox School’s College of Architecture in honor of James Harrison Steedman, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Washington University in 1889. A decorated veteran, he served as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy during World War I and died in 1921. The memorial was established by Steedman’s widow, Virginia Clark Weddell, and his brother, George Fox Steedman.

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