The Tenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2008
Berkeley Prize 2008

Stage 2: Semifinalists

We are happy to announce that 26 contestants have advanced to the Semifinalist round (Stage Two) of the Berkeley Prize 2008 competition. Architecture students from 18 countries entered this year's competition, including Kuwait, Uruguay, the Philippines, Switzerland, Nigeria, China and others. Semifinalists are invited to submit a 2500-word essay based on their 500-word Proposal. The top five to seven essays will be selected for final judging by the Berkeley Prize Jury. 


Opeyemi Adewale, Federal University of Technology, Nigeria

Elham Alavizadeh and Seid Hassan Alavizadeh, Islamic Azad University of Tehran and Islamic Art University of Tabriz, Iran

Patrick Allen, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA

Brad Bailey, Oklahoma State University, USA

Ruwan Fernando, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Nicole Graycar, Carnegie Mellon University, USA

Matthew Hague, University of Waterloo, Canada

Hila Hayout, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Israel

Oliver Hulland and Anna Finneran, Washington University in St. Louis, USA

Faizan Jawed, Rizvi College of Architecture, India

Eslam Khalil, Savannah College of Art and Design, USA

Julie Knorr, Washington University in St. Louis, USA

Yoshiyuki Minagwa, Oklahoma State University, USA

Anusha Narayanan and Avikal Somvanshi, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, India

Jason Pooley, Dalhousie University, Canada

Mina Rafiee, University of Tehran, Iran

Sonya Redman, University of New South Wales, Australia

Ghazal Refalian, Art University, Iran

Nazneen Saifuddin, American University of Sharjah, Kuwait

Laura Schlifer and Daniel Carlson, University of Minnesota, USA

Jesse Stephenson, Iowa State University, USA

Sam Stewart-Halevy and Ian Mactavish, Princeton University and Columbia University, USA

Saurabh Tewar, Sushant School of Art and Architecture, India

Matthew Watson, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Petrina Yeap, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Yoav Zilberdik and Gilad Reichenberg, Bezalel Academy of Art & Design, Israel


We compliment all of the Semifinalists on the extraordinary diversity of ideas and approaches in response to this year’s Question. Such responses indicate the depth of interest and concern for Architecture as a Social Art. As an essay competition, the Berkeley Prize encourages the translation of these interests and concerns into a format for communication both to those within the profession and the wider public.

The Berkeley Prize Committee encourages Semifinalists to improve the crafting of their 2,500 word essays. As such, a few general suggestions seem appropriate. Remember: In answering this year’s Question, the Berkeley Prize Committee is particularly interested in responses that speak to the general public. If social architecture is to become the norm, rather then the exception, the PUBLIC must be persuaded of the value of design that reflects human worth. If social architecture is to be built, rather than simply discussed, the PUBLIC must be persuaded that there is added value to constructing buildings much different than most of the architecture being built today.

Remember: This is an essay competition and that you are presenting an argument about a certain question and you are attempting to convince the reader that this argument has merit. At the same time, you want your essay to be meaningful to the widest possible audience. This means selecting a voice that is both your own and one that is accessible to serious readers. Avoid jargon. Avoid assumptions about to the level of knowledge of your reader. Have fun. Essays by their very nature are somewhat formal, but the best are also a pleasure to read.


In Stage Two, you are to expand upon your chosen topic in 2,500 words.  Your general task here is two-fold:  1) More fully describe and convince those reading that the social issue your proposed competition addresses is both important and pertinent; and 2) Provide those reading your essay a full understanding of exactly what the competition is and how it might work.

This year, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the BERKELEY PRIZE, the top essayists will be offered the opportunity in a third competition:  The BERKELEY PRIZE Architectural Design Competition.  You, in association with your school, may have the opportunity to actually hold your winning competition, based on your Proposal and Essay.  Details for this third competition will be provided when the Finalists are announced.

In anticipation of this third competition, here is how we suggest you frame your essay:

Your proposal for the Social Art of Architecture Design Competition for has been selected as one of the Semifinalists.  Now, design the Design Competition:

(1) What is the title of the competition? 
(2) What is important about the social issue to be addressed and why? (2,000 words)
(3) Is the competition an essay; a sketch or design problem; a combination of the two; or something entirely different? 
(4) How many hours/days/weeks will students have to complete the competition?
(5) Will students work alone or in teams? Explain your decision.
(7) Will drawings be allowed?  If so, how many? Models? Will students be allowed to use computers or will you accept only hand drawings?  How will you insure that all graphic submissions will be the same size, etc. for all students.
(8) If you could invite 4 jurors who are not on the faculty of your school, who would you invite and why?.
(9)  What should be the criteria for evaluating the entries?
(10)  What should be the schedule for the competition?
(11)  Finally, what steps could you take to make your proposed Social Art of Architecture Design Competition have real impact on your community, rather then only be a theoretical exercise?

As part of your submittal, please provide The BERKELEY PRIZE Committee with the name and contact information of a faculty member at your school who would be interested and available to act, along with yourself, as a coordinator for your Design Competition if your school is offered this opportunity.

A few suggestions: 

Tell us specifically about the social issue you have selected.  Is there data available supporting your assumptions?  Have you faced these specific challenges yourself?  Are these challenges recognized by the general population and, if not, why do you think they should be?  What makes these challenges particularly relevant not only to all of us as humans, but also to all of us in our chosen role as architects.

The social issues that your Competition hopes to address might be very large or very specific.  Whichever, try not to over-reach:  Although competitions by their very nature ask us to imagine the unknown, they also ask us to imagine actually creating the unknown.  Give us a sense that the results of your competition would be doable.

Similarly, specifically state the terms of the proposed Competition.  Again, many Proposals talked about very general competitions that covered seemingly vast areas of intellectual pursuit.  A suggestion:  Start by writing a Question, much as the BERKELEY PRIZE does each year, that succinctly in a few lines addresses the problem you have selected.  Once you have done that, imagine yourself having to answer the Question.  How would you do it?  What kinds of responses would you like to receive?  What kinds of parameters, if any, should be placed on respondents?

Do not get bogged down in the small details of running the Competition – these can be worked out if and when your Competition is selected and your school is interested in sponsoring the Competition.  Do, however, propose a framework for your Competition that is achievable with reasonable resources.


Before you begin to write the 2,500 word essay, it is essential that you carefully consider the Reviewers’ comments about your Proposal for the essay. These comments are meant to help you write a winning essay. Please read your Reviewer comments in your Author Portfolio.

You have almost six weeks to produce your essay in final form. Use at least four of these weeks creatively to improve your writing abilities in English. Read some good prose written in English. Novels, poetry and architectural writing are great teachers. 

Use the websites listed below to improve your vocabulary and syntax. Check your spelling and vocabulary when in doubt.

William Strunk, Jr. The Elements of Style 

Guide to Grammar and Writing (Capital Community College)

Finally, try out your ideas on others before sending your essay. Ask a friend to read your essay before submitting it. Better yet, show it to two friends: one, a fellow architecture student; the second, a person not familiar with the discipline or profession. Use their input and if you can prevail on them, ask them to read your revised draft. 

Additional Help and Information

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Datai Hotel, Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia; Aga Khan Award 2001
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