2018/2019 Steedman Fellowship: Infrastructure



Winner: “Collective Clutter,” installation view, Princeton University. (Photo: Courtesy of Lily Zhang)



When one thinks of infrastructure, it’s usually about roads, rails, bridges, airports, canals, pipelines, and any- and everything about getting from one place to another. But leave it to the Steedman competition to stimulate designers to view things from a different point of view.


In the 2016/17 Steedman competition, won by Pedro Pitarch of Spain, the winner explored the theme, “Adaptation,” and convinced the jury with his proposal, Disguised Metropolitanisms: Unveiling the Masquerade of Urban Domesticity. Pitarch’s point of departure? “There has been a migration from the right of property to the right of access and use,” argued Pedro Pitarch. “Spaces are no longer used according to their architectural program, but according to their protocols, their accessibility, and their possibilities of empowerment.”


2016/2017 Winning entry by Pedro Pitarch


In the 2018/2019 competition, winner Lily Zhang looked at how the accumulation of stuff by individuals in our society has had a major impact on how we live our lives. According to Zhang, “storage” allows architecture to maintain order. “We keep our active inhabitable areas free of clutter and the appearance of overindulgence, while banishing unused and unwanted items to the basement, the warehouse, the broom cupboard, or the mechanical room. Yet rather than dismissing these spaces as passive and inert, what we stash away and where we hide them are as revealing as what we display, if not more.”


In the words of jury chair, Andrea Leers, “The notion of identifying systems of storage as infrastructure is wholly original, revealing both the ubiquity of our ever-expanding stuff and its spatial impact,” Leers said. “Members of the jury were impressed with the investigation at multiple scales, and look forward to seeing the outcome in terms of drawings and photos, full-size installations and public workshops.”


Zhang, who prevailed over 80 submissions from around the world, will use her $50,000 fellowship stipend to spend six months to a year, examining unseen storage and support infrastructure across Italy, England, France, Switzerland, the U.S. and Japan. In addition to Leers, the all-female jury consisted of Marion Weiss, co-founder of WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism in New York; Lisa Iwamoto, a founding partner of IwamotoScott Architecture in San Francisco; Linda C. Samuels, associate professor of urban design in the Sam Fox School; and Anna B. F. Ives, managing partner of patterhn ives, St. Louis and lecturer in the Sam Fox School.


Winner Lily Zhang (Image: Courtesy Lily Zhang)


For those who wish to learn more about the Steedman Fellowship, organized under the aegis of Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Architecture, and its history:





Winner, Lily Zhang: “Collective Clutter”

Image: Courtesy Lily Zhang



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Russian Open Competition for Alternative Layout Design in Standard Housing

1st category prize entry by AKVS (Image courtesy STRELKA-KB, © AKVS Architecture)



Of all the nations that had been part of the Soviet Bloc after World War II, only the Russian Federation itself has lagged behind most of its neighbors in the design and construction of affordable housing. During that post-Cold War period, housing construction in cities such as Moscow struggled to keep up with demand. The result of this has been some of the most crowded urban conditions in Europe. Privacy has been an issue, whereby more than one family has oftentimes occupied a small apartment, possibly only separated by a curtain. Thus, in this housing competition, where the focus was primarily on layout design, it was not unusual to see how the various competitors addressed this issue.



According to the competition brief, the aim of the competition was “to create comfortable living environments for Russian citizens. It challenged contestants to design planning layouts for five apartments of a medium size and five apartments of a large size, for three out of four proposed building types.”


Image courtesy STRELKA-KB


Here it is worth noting that the anticipated size of a studio apartment for the purposes of this competition was between 225-270 sq ft, whereas the average studio (one-room) apartment in the U.S. is between 500-600 sq ft. Thus, all of the other models were also smaller than one would find in the West. But everything being relative, apartments based on these models would be a marked improvement in many respects for the average Russian consumer.


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