The Seventeenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2015
Berkeley Prize 2015


Central Europe, July - August 2015




"As architects we have a responsibility to society, we have a social responsibility and that gives us a role as architects which is more than just answering how to made with the client but also to answer the society as a whole”

(Richard Rogers)


Photo in Salzburg – The beggar and the statue of beggar



In the first instance I want to thank  Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence chaired by Professor Raymond Lifchez for the  for the outstanding opportunity that was offered to me.    It was an immensely enriching experience that helped me a lot to outline more clearly the direction that I want to follow in my future architectural career.  I owe to this award my growing inters that now I have in the field of social architecture.

Summary of my Travel Plan

My travel plan was structured in three parts, one of them referring to a volunteer stage while the others aim to deepen the problem of poverty in Europe from an academic point of view.

  1. Phase I:    Summer School on New Development Cooperation: Breaking the Chains of Poverty. July 4 - 11 , 2015, Prague
  2. Phase II:    Volunteer for Adopt a House in Rosia Montana Programme, July 14-26 ,2015
  3. Phase  III:  Absolute Poverty in Europe Conference in Salzburg, between August 27 and 28, 2015

Phase 1:  Multidimensional Poverty

Most countries of the world define poverty as a lack of money. Focusing on one factor alone, such as income, is not enough to capture the true reality of poverty.  Yet poor people experience of poverty is much more broadly and from a multidimensional point of view this should be defined as the correlation of many factors and policies.  Prague Summer School was for me the introductory stage in the theory of poverty as it is studied in schools of politics and economics. Coming from an outward field these information were extremely relevant and useful. Understanding notions as Development Cooperation, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that basically defines the international fighting targets and strategies against poverty was the chance to comprehend the problem at a global scale and fill all my  gaps. I recommend to all the architects that are involved in humanitarian actions or act in social field of architecture to pursue  with several studies in these areas which essentially architecture depends on.

During two weeks of courses and guest lectures we had the chance to meet extraordinary people.

The conference with Dan Ogola, the founder and director of the Matibabu Foundation,( an organization in Eastern Africa creating jobs and opportunity through healthcare)  have been inspiring in many ways, telling us with patience about the whole process which the hospital had been built. Founded in 2006, Matibabu has offered health services to over 60,000 Kenyans.

In a  guest lectures with Simon Panek, director of  People in Need I had the chance to ask him which would be his advice for young enthusiastics (as we are now) in terms of helping people and coordinating a NGO. His advice was that the future of humanitarian campaigns in is no longer opening a new NGO (it is difficult now to find and  cover unexplored niches) but the joining of several branches to create strong structures that will get financing easily. People in Need (PIN) is  a Czech nonprofit, non-governmental organization that implements humanitarian relief and long term development projects, educational programs, and human rights programs in crisis regions all over the world. People in Need provided assistance to victims of humanitarian crises in more than 40 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Brand Africa, an inspiring workshop with Penelope Muzanenhamo a girl from Zimbabwe, introduced the idea of Social Entrepreneurship and how human capacity in relation to judicious exploitation of local resources can reduce poverty.

Prague Summer School experience taught me that poverty is a process, not a static given. We should seek to address the root drivers both in global and domestic spheres. Therefore, providing a shelter is just a step of the route, and architecture will never succeed to solve the problem by itself unless it creates intimate collaborations.

Lectures in Prague


Me with Penelope Muzanenhamo


Phase 2: Adopting a House

Activities in Adopt a House Programme were focused on both direct intervention in heritage buildings but also in informing, educating and mobilizing the general public. Fixing buildings with my own hands made me experience a special feeling. I made an investment in the deepest way possible, becoming involved in a process , renouncing therefore at  the role of spectator and choosing to utilize my individual skills and motivation to benefit a cause.

I worked for finishing, repairing, and  remanufacturing carpentry at Traditional farmhouse (19th cent.), ?arina no. 1248 and at the Unitarian Parish House (18th cent., 1933), Ro?ia Montan? no. 391  I worked for interior plastering and repairing joinery. In the second week I worked at surveying a church from Abrud, a village near Rosia Montana. We had presentations and study trips throughout the neighborhood.

For the restoration works we used only traditional, regional materials and techniques and we strived to work with remaining local craftsmen. The shingles, lime and wood were purchased also from local suppliers to encourage the local industry. This year, around 100 volunteers attended the program.

Photos in Rosia Montana



Phase 3: Academics Stand Against Poverty

Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP) is an international association focused on helping researchers and teachers enhance their impact on poverty and pursue applied research, projects and campaigns on specific related issues. Together with University of Salzburg they organized the event to discuss about Poverty in Europe addressing specific situations as refugees, migrant beggars, homeless people, and street children. Papers were presented from scholars with diverse backgrounds in the humanities, social and political sciences, economics, architecture and also from practitioners.

Poverty has been described by some attendees as the inability to flourish, invisibility (lack of recognition), difficulty to reach aspiration (homeless), indebtedness (loss of control of own life) while by others as a complex conjunction of dimensions.  My paper named “Architecture and The Self-Esteem” focused on the relationship between architecture, poverty and the feeling of shame that results from the build environment condition. I presented my ideas submitted in this competition proposal, highlighting how a community can be recharged through architectural interventions and raise its self-esteem, a concept which, in time, will lead to eliminating the poor living conditions.  My paper was in agreement with Robert Walker (Oxford University)  closing keynote. He  approached  the same theme of study but from a social and political perspective. He claimed that shame lies at the absolutist core of poverty. People in poverty typically feel deep shame as a consequence of being unable to live up to their own aspirations and to societal expectations for reasons of limited income. They are additionally shamed on a daily basis by the people they meet, in their dealings with officialdom and through the fall-out of political and media discourse. Shame, recognised by psychologists as the most invidious of the social emotions, undermines self-esteem and causes people to retreat socially, thereby lessening their social capital while reducing their sense of agency and personal efficacy.



Architects are those who conceive new kinds of living in the world and new worlds to live in. This is the definition we like to share about us and our profession. From my volunteering stage I learned that rather than working against the problem is working with the problem. Global evidence suggests that what counts as poverty in terms of dimension and level is shaped by stage of national economic development and by social expectations, political ideology and power structures. On the other hand, from an architectural point of view – the issue should be always specifically addressed, rather than in politics or economics, where the problem can share global parameters. 

I learned that we ( the architects  who want to address this problem)  must look not just from a single dimensional angle but to deepen also  the prospects of other auxiliary areas.

I encourage all students interested in social architecture to start on this path of understanding multidimensional poverty. I acknowledge that Berkeley Prize Experience was invaluable for my formation in this direction.



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