2022 Wheelwright Finalists Marina Otero, Curry J. Hackett, Summer Islam, Feifei Zhou
courtesy Harvard GSD 2022 Wheelwright Finalists Marina Otero, Curry J. Hackett, Summer Islam, Feifei Zhou

The following is a press release from the Harvard Graduate School of Design announcing the shortlist for its 2022 Wheelwright Prize. You can read more about the winner of the 2021 Wheelwright Prize, Germane Barnes, here.

Harvard University Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD) has announced four shortlisted architects for the 2022 Wheelwright Prize. Now in its tenth cycle, the Wheelwright Prize supports innovative design research, crossing both cultural and architectural boundaries, with a $100,000 grant intended to support two years of study. Previous winners have presented diverse research proposals, including studies of kitchen typologies around the world; the architecture and culture of greenhouses; and the potential of seaweed, shellfish, and the intertidal zone to advance architectural knowledge and material futures; and how spaces have been transformed through the material contributions of the African Diaspora.

The 2022 Wheelwright Prize drew a wide international pool of applicants. A first-phase jury deliberation was conducted in April; a winner is planned to be announced in June.

The 2022 Wheelwright Prize is juried by: Will Hunter, 2022 Harvard GSD Loeb Fellow and Founder and Chief Executive of London School of Architecture; Adrian Lahoud; Dean of the School of Architecture at Royal College of Art; Mark Lee, Chair of the Department of Architecture at Harvard GSD; Irene Sunwoo, John H. Bryan Chair and Curator, Architecture and Design at Art Institute of Chicago; Shirley Surya, Curator of Design and Architecture at M+; and Sarah M. Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture at Harvard GSD.

The four finalists for the 2022 Wheelwright Prize, and their proposals, are:

Curry J. Hackett: “Drylongso: Sociospatial Tropes of the African Diaspora”

Curry J. Hackett is a Lecturer and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and core organizer of the anti-racist design justice school, Dark Matter University. His practice, Wayside Studio primarily based in Washington, D.C., collaborates with communities and organizations to engage matters pertaining to culture, infrastructure, ecology, and the public realm. Hackett earned a B.Arch. from Howard University in 2013. Noteworthy work includes Howard Theatre Walk of Fame, Swept Yard, King Park, the D.C. High Water Mark system, and D.C. Clean Rivers Project.

Through his research, Hackett explores the relationships between blackness and land, particularly in the culturally hybridized region of the American Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Borrowing the Black term “Drylongso,” meaning “ordinary” or “same old,” Hackett calls for architecture discipline to advance a more ethnographic mode of practice which celebrates informality and honors institutional memory. Hackett’s “Drylongso: Sociospatial Tropes of the African Diaspora” proposal involves a critical study of diasporically linked regions, including South Carolina, Trinidad and Tobago, and Senegal, to shed light on trans-Atlantic vernacular. With his 2021 solo exhibition, Drylongso: An Ode to the Southern Black Landscape, displayed at theTwelve gallery located at Union Street Market in Washington DC, Curry brought forth a personal testament of family, identity, and place, and documents his family experiences growing up on generational farmland in Prospect, Virginia.

Hackett’s Wheelwright Prize proposal stems from his solo exhibition and would provide future resources to investigate other Black sociospatial tropes that continue to be excluded by the traditional canons in the disciplines of architecture and landscape design. Hackett proposes travel to diasporically related regions in Mexico and Central America, the Caribbean, and West Africa that would yield a multimedia representation of customary relationships with these lands, including a suite of drawings, installations, publications, archival oral histories, and a short film.

Summer Islam: “Groundwork”

Summer Islam is an ARB registered architect, researcher, and activist who works at the intersection of architectural design, engineering, systems thinking, digital technologies, and material science. She is a founding Director of Material Cultures, a non-profit organization which brings together design, research, and action towards a post carbon- built environment. She has taught at University of the Arts London, Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, London Metropolitan University, Architectural Association, and University of Cambridge. Islam earned her BArch from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara (2008), and RIBA part 1 (2011) and RIBA part 2 (2014) from Architectural Association School of Architecture, London.

With “Groundwork,” Islam explores how different industrial, social, cultural, and economic pressures interrelate with the land, while examining the potential new role of the architect in reconciling these demands, specifically, in the complex interdependencies that exist in the UK. Given the immediate challenges of climate change, the global housing crisis, and the toxic and destructive results of fossil fueled industries and raw material extraction, Islam aims to unite and educate stakeholders in efforts to persuade a new generation of architects, developers, planners, and citizens to reconsider how new methods of construction material are designed and produced.

The proposal assigns resources for research, publications, consultancy, and advocacy-all in effort to recalibrate a new model of regenerative land management across the UK and advise on the most ecologically advanced and sustainable practices for design policy, construction industry, and agriculture. Work site visits to innovative agroforestry and agriculture practices are a critical part of her proposal, including locations in Britain, Spain, France, and Italy. The “Groundwork” proposal also allocates funds for mapping ecosystems and morphologies, public programming, and a shortlist of sustainable materials to be shared widely as a research depository.

Marina Otero: “Future Storage: Architectures to host the Metaverse”

Marina Otero is an architect and researcher based in Rotterdam and Director of Research at Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI), the Dutch institute for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture. At HNI she leads initiatives such as “Automated Landscapes,” where she focuses on the emerging architectures of automated labor. Otero holds a MS in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture at Columbia University, The Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) in 2013 and completed her PhD at Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid (ETSAM) in 2016. Otero is a co-editor of Unmanned: Architecture and Security Series (2016); After Belonging: The Objects, Spaces, and Territories of the Ways We Stay In Transit (2016); Architecture of Appropriation (2019), More-than-Human (forthcoming, 2020); and editor of Work, Body, Leisure (2018).

With “Future Storage: Architectures to host the Metaverse,” Otero examines new architecture paradigms for storing data and how reimagining digital infrastructures could meet the unprecedented demands facing the world today- questioning the functionality, efficiency, and sustainability of the colossal data storage centers and facilities managed across the globe. This research explores innovations in data storing architectures attuned to social and ecological challenges, land availability, the growing energy price, and changing data. The research proposal analyzes historical and contemporary cases and engages with experts, local communities, and ecosystems. Otero has already conducted fieldwork in France, the Netherlands, and the U.K. The Wheelwright Prize would expand research visits to include Singapore, Australia, Nigeria, California, Iceland, Sweden, and Chile. The fieldwork, data collection, and prototype development, among additional research, will all result in the first manual for global data center architecture design containing examples of ecological, circular, and egalitarian data storage models. This manual will ultimately inform an open-source design course syllabus and a series of public programs bringing designers and service providers together.

Feifei Zhou: “Between Land and Water: Architecture of Porosity”

Feifei Zhou is a Chinese-born artist and architect who works between China and London. She holds a BArch from University of Sheffield, UK (2014) and a MArch from Royal College of Art in London (2018). Her work explores spatial, cultural, and ecological impacts of the industrialized built environment. She co-edited the digital publication Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene (2020). Zhou is currently an Associate Lecturer at the Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

With “Between Land and Water,” Zhou investigates the future of coastal architecture, specifically architecture that allows porosity at the land-water interface, and its potential in combating coastal natural disasters and participating in human and nonhuman livelihoods. Zhou’s research brings her to Southeast Asia’s coastlines where rapid urbanization is only compounded by the social and ecological tensions in the region. This proposal also takes a critical look at social and ecological tensions of the simultaneous decline of Southeast Asia’s small-scale farming and the vernacular stilt houses, as well as the growing dependence on large-scale infrastructures. “Between Land and Water” aims to combine academic research with local-based practice and explore the potential of architecture as the contemporary answer of coastal environmental challenges through allowing more-than-human cohabitation.

For the Wheelwright Prize, Zhou plans to create and produce visual essays that will be exhibited together as a series, accompanied by other produced work such as photographs, publications, and material studies. As a holistic body of work, Zhou proposes that each drawing represents site-specific social and environmental complexities facing Southeast Asia, but together offers a matrix of connections and comparisons of inter-regional coastal built environments.