The Thirteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2011
Berkeley Prize 2011


Notes on a competition

To say there is a disconnect between knowledge and practice is an understatement: as I learned in my first studio architecture class, historical and theoretical courses on the built environment are beneficial—these are our daily surroundings, after all—to the mind, but they can’t necessarily ensure a successful and executable idea on the table.  Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher once said, “much learning does not teach understanding”.  You could say that for the last four months since I discovered I would be applying my design proposal fellowship to my immediate community of New York University, I have attempted to figure out how a competition gets done by dint of advice, mistakes, gaffes, and a lot of enthusiasm.

My self-assigned tasks were, and still are daunting, even—in an exciting sort of way—beyond my own capacity.  A list of my homework for Tap City: getting permission to host the competition from Judson Memorial Church; many trips back to the Fales Archive at Bobst Library; acquiring copyright permission from photographers dead and alive for use of their photos of the fountain; ruminating over fundraising opportunities; begging my friends to help me; designing a poster; questioning the feasibility of my entire proposal; enlisting cinematographic assistance from film students; devising weird things to do with water bottles; writing a shorter, succinct brief for potential sponsors and contributors; and tons of administrative work.

Among my friends and professors who felt that yes, this historic drinking fountain is slipping away and its relevance needs to be addressed in a radical way, there seems to be an urgent motivation, ardor, and keenness roaming around, which makes me incredibly happy.  It’s nice when collective interest in a project begets collaboration; this collaboration, in turn, has generated wonderful ideas that I couldn’t have thought of on my own.

It’s September.  I’d say two-thirds of my homework has been completed (being a student has its limits, and it sometimes takes a leap of faith for sponsors to say, “okay, I trust that this will be worth my time”).  But the process has been overwhelmingly positive in a long-winded way, and we are this close (fingers squeezing closely together) to launching the website.  Meanwhile, a poster has been made, and the word is slowly creeping out that Tap City is under way.  My submission for the BERKELEY PRIZE design fellowship has become an exercise in marketing, being flexible, adapting, and negotiating with the Greenwich Village populace, which is something I haven’t known but also something that will leave an indelible mark on my experience.

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Mr. Joseph Audeh, New York University, New York United States
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