Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) announced the winner of its 2015 Wheelwright Prize today. Erik L’Heureux, AIA, has won the $100,000 traveling fellowship for his proposal, Hot and Wet: The Equatorial City and the Architectures of Atmosphere, which focuses on five dense cities in the equatorial zone: Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Pondicherry, India; Lagos, Nigeria; and São Paulo. The Wheelwright Prize jury found plenty to praise about L’Heureux’s proposal and its urban-scaled modes of atmospheric calibration. The three finalists, L’Heureux, Malkit Shoshan, and Quynh Vantu, presented their proposals at the GSD on Apr. 16.

“We commend L’Heureux, Shoshan, and Vantu, who are each working impressively to broaden the definition and possibilities of architectural practice,” jury chair K. Michael Hays, associate dean of academic affairs at the Harvard GSD, said in a release. “L’Heureux is an example of an architect with a strong practice who has developed a serious intellectual project that relates organically to his own work. His proposal is not just about technology and efficiency, but deals with the politicization of ecologies and economies in a complicated region and architecture’s complicity in much larger issues.”

A Simple Factory Building, Singapore, 2009-2012. Detail of lightweight "Deep Veil" and awning window wall behind, designed by Erik L'Heureux, AIA.
A Simple Factory Building, Singapore, 2009-2012. Detail of lightweight "Deep Veil" and awning window wall behind, designed by Erik L'Heureux, AIA.

L’Heureux received a B.A. in architecture from Washington University, and his M.Arch. from Princeton University, before founding his firm, Pencil Office, which is based in Singapore. The Wheelwright Prize grant will fund L’Heureux’s travel and studies in the equatorial zones over the next two years. L’Heureux joins past winners Gia Wolff (2013) and Jose Ahedo (2014) as a Wheelwright Prize winner in its new format as a worldwide open competition. Jose Ahedo won the 2014 Wheelwright Prize with a proposal aimed at studying agricultural architecture. Gia Wolff won the inaugural Wheelwright Prize in 2013, and will also showcase the results of her research in an exhibition titled Floating City: The Community-Based Architecture of Parade Floats at the April 16 presentation. 

“We have learned that architecture is at its most didactic and revelatory when it is confronting extreme conditions," jury member Preston Scott Cohen said. "Extremes prompt us to invent, to be innovative. They demand ingenuity. And this is the territory that Erik L’Heureux is interested in. The extremes that are the focus of his study are not just some esoteric exception or abstract anomaly, but they constitute a big swath of the world that is developing rapidly today, with far-reaching consequences.”

“L’Heureux’s research proposal possessed a specificity that shows his profound knowledge of his subject as well as a refreshing anticipation of new discoveries," jury member Sarah Herda said. "I hope that the Wheelwright experience will allow him to venture far, and encounter unexpected conditions and ideas that will help him shape this timely research proposal and introduce it to practice, where we believe it will have a significant impact.”

This year’s jury was led by K. Michael Hays, professor and associate dean of academic affairs at Harvard GSD, and included Craig Evan Barton, Assoc. AIA, director of the design school at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University; Preston Scott Cohen, professor and former chair of architecture at Harvard GSD; Elisa Silva, founder of Enlace Arquitectura as well as professor at the Simón Bolívar University in Venezuela; and Sarah Herda, director of Chicago's Graham Foundation for Advanced Study in the Fine Arts. The Wheelwright Prize organizing committee included Mohsen Mostafavi, Intl. Assoc. AIA, dean of Harvard GSD; Jorge Silvetti, a principal of Boston-based firm Machado and Silvetti Associates and professor at Harvard GSD; and Benjamin Prosky, assistant dean of communications at Harvard GSD. 

The Wheelwright Prize was established in 1935 as the Arthur C. Wheelwright Traveling Fellowship, and was open only to alumni of the Harvard GSD until 2013, when the grant was renamed and reformatted to become an international competition for early-career architects who have graduated from an professionally accredited architectural program within the last 15 years.

This post has been updated.