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David Fannon, Michelle Laboy, and Peter Wiederspahn (left to right).

David Fannon, Michelle Laboy, and Peter Wiederspahn (left to right).

We are pleased to announce the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) selected a team of faculty from Northeastern University’s School of Architecture to receive the 2017 Latrobe Prize, the premiere architectural research award in the United States. They were selected to further their research of “Future-Use Architecture,” which explores how to design buildings now so that they last long into the future. The team is comprised of three CAMD faculty members: Peter Wiederspahn AIA, Associate Professor of Architecture, and Principal of Wiederspahn Architecture, Somerville MA; Michelle Laboy PE, Assistant Professor of Architecture and co-founder of FieLDworkshop, Boston MA; and David Fannon AIA, Member ASHARE, LEED AP BD+C, Assistant Professor of Architecture and of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The Latrobe Prize is awarded biennially by the AIA College of Fellows to recognize and support a two-year program of research leading to significant advances in the architecture profession.

“Earning this prestigious national award is an honor, and of the utmost significance for Northeastern University, CAMD, and the School of Architecture,” explained the team. “We are excited to use this research to stitch together various threads of individual and group exploration related to the balance between flexible and fixed building systems that respond to unforeseeable contingencies while conserving the essential architectural design and performance.”

The award will enable the team to investigate and document the tectonic and performative attributes that facilitate long-term use and persistent change of buildings. They will travel across the world to conduct this research, identifying design attributes that contribute to future adaptability in a variety of cultural contexts and climates. They foresee three broad categories of attributes emerging, based on their prior research and teaching, particularly in ARCH-5120 Comprehensive Design Studio. First, physical attributes of the buildings’ material, structural, enclosure, and energy systems; second, attributes related to ordering the architectural dimension, configuration, and arrangement (such as aspect ratios, human modules, site organization and climate responsive design); and third, attributes related to the cultural and social significance of buildings.

Based on these attributes, the team will then describe and visually demonstrate the future-use design strategies, using a mix of words, graphics, and documents. Each strategy will have an in-depth performative rationale accompanied by extensive visual descriptions, architectural diagrams and built examples.

The last step of their research endeavor document several precedent buildings that exemplify future-use attributes. These precedents will include both historical buildings that have been successfully transformed and contemporary buildings that are designed with future transformability in mind.

“What is most intriguing and frankly provocative in the Future-Use Architecture proposal is the idea of developing a process that challenges program-centric schematic design,” says Bob Miklos FAIA, Principal at designLab Architects and a member of the School of Architecture Advisory Council. He went on, “The body of work and the tools proposed will help practitioners lead and shape the process of planning for the future, rather than simply reacting to market-driven forces.”  Commenting on the wider implications of the proposal, Matthias Ruth—Professor and Chair of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and the founding Director of Northeastern University’s Resilient Cities Laboratory—observed, “We know resilient cities demand resilient buildings, and that no building can be resilient unless the community around it is as well. I see Future-Use architecture as a particularly architectural contribution to building greater resilience in the built environment.”

Members of the 2017 Latrobe Prize jury include: Katherine Schwennsen, FAIA, Clemson University; Stephen T. Ayers, FAIA, Architect of the Capitol;  Frank M. Guillot, FAIA, Guilot-Vivian-Viehmann; Sylvia Kwan, FAIA, Kwan Hanmi Architecture/Planning; Lenore M. Lucey FAIA, Chancellor of College of Fellows; Jud Marquardt FAIA, LMN Architects; Raymond G. Post FAIA, Post Architects; Marilyn Jordan Taylor  FAIA, University of Pennsylvania.  In their comments, the Jury particularly noted the holistic quality of the proposal, and its real potential for advancing knowledge.

Learn more about the winning Northeastern University team:

David Fannon, jointly appointed to CAMD and the College of Engineering, researches and teaches the design and science of buildings in courses like Comprehensive Design Studio, Integrated Building Systems, Environmental Systems, and Introduction to Sustainable Technologies and Construction.

Michelle Laboy, an architect, engineer and urban planner, focuses her research on ecological thinking in architecture. She brings that perspective into collaborative design studios between architecture and landscape students, graduate seminars and various courses on Building Systems. She is co-founder of FieLDworkshop, a design research practice dedicated to making ecological phenomena legible in the everyday built environment.

Peter Wiederspahn focuses his research and teaching on architectural design, building technologies, and design research entrepreneurship. He has served as Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs, he was the inaugural director of the School of Architecture Berlin Program, and he is principal of an award winning architectural practice, Wiederspahn Architecture, LLC.

To read the AIA’s complete press release, click here.