How does infrastructure shape our individual and collective environments?
That’s the question posed by the 2018 James Harrison Steedman Fellowship in Architecture. The biennial research competition challenges early-career architects to investigate the fundamental systems, facilities and services that enable, sustain and enhance societal living conditions.
The fellowship is organized by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, in concert with AIA St. Louis. The winning proposal will receive $50,000 to support up to a year of international travel and research.
“Infrastructure can be almost anything that is systemically constructed,” said Steedman Governing Committee member David Polzin, design principal of CannonDesign, St. Louis. “There are urban-scale infrastructures, building-scale infrastructures, technological infrastructures. How do social media infrastructures impact the ways people interact? How does that influence the construction of physical space?
“We want applicants to grapple with the idea of infrastructure in the broadest terms possible.”
Established in 1926, the Steedman Fellowship is one of the oldest and most prestigious architectural awards in the United States. Seeking to promote both creative design thinking and cross-cultural exchange, the fellowship is open to practicing architects worldwide — not just those affiliated with the Sam Fox School — who have received an accredited degree in architecture within the past eight years.
“For architects, the topic of infrastructure raises a lot of interesting questions,” said committee member Patty Heyda, associate professor of architecture and urban design in the Sam Fox School. “Who designs infrastructure, and for whom? How is the building process organized? How is it initiated or instrumentalized politically?
“Infrastructure can mean highways and bridges,” Heyda added. “But it can also be a way of thinking about building systems, social structures and even nature itself.”