Chilean architect Samuel Bravo has been named as the 2017 winner of the Wheelwright Prize by the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). He is the fifth awardee of the open international competition that supports research proposals with a travel grant being given to the winner.
Bravo will take home a $100,000 grant to aid his design- and travel-based research. His proposal Projectless: Architecture of Informal Settlements studies traditional architecture and informal settlements, touching up Bernard Rudofsky’s notion of “architecture without architects,” which the artist put forward in his 1964 Museum of Modern Art exhibition.
The Chilean architect, according to a press release, plans to visit South America, Asia, and Africa, as he intends to unearth the architectural vernacular of visited sites and work out how to amalgamate these with contemporary approaches to design.
Formal architecture only caters for the minority, Bravo argues. The rest live in the informal built environment. The idea of such an environment has been considered before: “There is no such thing as bad architecture; only good architecture and non-architecture,” stated Ernesto Nathan Rogers (yes, Richard Rogers’ father) and that notion was later echoed by Reyner Banham. In his 1964 exhibition, Ruodofsky said the essentially non-architectural projects featured are “not produced by the specialist but by the spontaneous and continuing activity of a whole people with a common heritage, acting under a community of experience.”
In light of this, Bravo will look into how project-less environments exist and how formal architecture can inhabit and operate within such confines. In his proposal, Bravo also referenced how design must be sensitive to the potential “cultural frictions” associated with restructuring problematic settlements.
The 2017 Wheelwright Prize jury consisted of Gordon Gill, Mariana Ibañez, Gia Wolff, and standing Wheelwright Prize Committee members Mohsen Mostafavi and K. Michael Hays.
“Samuel is a sophisticated designer and a mature thinker, qualities that make him an ideal candidate for this year’s Wheelwright Prize,” said Mohsen Mostafavi, dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design at Harvard GSD in a press release. “His work on its own is striking, and the participatory design-build process he has refined over time is additionally compelling. In resurrecting ideas about so-called ‘non-pedigreed’ architecture and expanding the scope of his research and practice internationally, Samuel’s project opens up new and exciting paths for the next generation of architects.”