Home Scholarships Berkeley Prize International Essay Competition 2021 for Undergraduate Architecture Students (USD25,000 Prize)

Berkeley Prize International Essay Competition 2021 for Undergraduate Architecture Students (USD25,000 Prize)



An essay contest in three stages open to all current full-time registered students in an undergraduate architecture degree program, undergraduates majoring in architecture, or diploma students in accredited schools of architecture worldwide. 25,000 USD purse.

Each year, the Berkeley PRIZE Committee selects a topic critical to the discussion of the social art of architecture and poses a Question based on that topic. Full-time undergraduate students enrolled in any architecture degree program or majoring in architecture throughout the world (or teams of two students, one of whom may be from another discipline) are invited to submit a 500-word Essay proposal responding to the Question.


About the Award: The core of the BERKELEY PRIZE is to require students to go out of their studios and into their immediate communities to talk to and learn from the people for whom they will one day design.  This year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, such research is obviously not practical or even totally possible.  At the same time, the PRIZE has produced 22 years of just such student research.  Nearly all of this research is available on the BERKELEY PRIZE website.  In addition, the subsequent professional work of many of the PRIZE winners has also been catalogued on the site.  This year, we will use this storehouse of information and experience – the BERKELEY PRIZE Community – as the basis for your Essay Competition responses.

Become familiar with the history of the BERKELEY PRIZE, its many years of submissions and the research these submissions represent by exploring www.BerkeleyPrize.org.  In particular, you are required to read the 20th Anniversary, BP2018 responses by some of the former PRIZE winners describing their then-current work and projects; current updates to this work; and accomplishments of other winners as found on social media.  All of that can be found here.

As a result of these readings, answer the Question using the following prompts to frame your response:

  1. What you think your community needs most in terms of architecture to make the environment hospitable to everyone no matter what their age, physical ability, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other distinguishing factor.
  2. How you think your architectural education enables you to provide such solutions.
  3. Why you think all of this is important.

The following Introduction provides you with further background to this year’s topic and provides additional perspectives on architects in service to the community.

Vishaan Chakrabarti was named this past summer as the new William W. Wurster Dean of the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley.  He is an American architect and professor and former New York City urban-planning official.  Founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, which is an architecture firm based in New York, he was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 2018.

He has published two books: A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America; and NYC 2040: Housing the Next One Million New Yorkers (co-author).  Vishaan has given two TED talks: “How we can design timeless cities for our collective future.” and “3 ways we can redesign cities for equity and inclusion.”  Both are also relevant to this year’s BP topic.

In addition, a recent in-depth New York Times article, “I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing,” centers on Vishaan’s ideas.


  1. The competition is open to all current full-time registered students in an undergraduate architecture degree program or undergraduates majoring in architecture in accredited schools of architecture worldwide. Diploma in Architecture students who have not yet completed their Diploma are also eligible.
  2. Essays must be submitted in English.
  3. Finalists will be required to provide proof of current registration in the form of copies of actual school transcripts. You are still eligible to compete if you were an undergraduate student on September 15, 2020, but graduate before the awards are scheduled to be given.

Selection Process:

  • From the pool of essay proposals received, approximately 25 are selected by the PRIZE Committee as particularly promising. The selected individual students, or student teams, become Semifinalists.
  • These Semifinalists are invited to submit a 2,500-word essay, again in English, expanding on their proposals. A group of readers, composed of Committee members and invited colleagues, selects five-to-eight of the best essays and sends these Finalist essays to a jury of international academics and architects to select the winners.

Judging Criteria: Judging for the Berkeley Prize essay competition is on a numeric system. The members of the BERKELEY PRIZE Committee are asked to evaluate each essay in terms of the following criteria:

  1. Does the Proposal address the Question?
  2. How creative, or creatively developed, is the Proposal?
  3. Would the Proposal be clear to a broad audience?
  4. How does the Proposal rank in terms of writing style?
  5. How socially significant is the Proposal?
  6. What is the potential for developing this Proposal into a strong essay?

Value of Award: At the conclusion of the Essay Competition submittals, all Semifinalists are also invited to submit a proposal for a BERKELEY PRIZE summer Fellowship. This year, the opportunity is a Community Service Fellowship. Details for this new Fellowship will be announced in early 2021.

Duration/Timeline of Program: 

September 15, 2020 Launch of 2021 Essay Competition.
November 1, 2020 (Stage One) 500-word essay proposal due.
Mid-December, 2020 Essay Semifinalists announced.
February 1, 2021 (Stage Two) Essay Semifinalists’ 2,500-word essays due.
February 8, 2021 Launch of Community Service Fellowship Competition for Essay Semifinalists.
Early-March, 2021 Essay Finalists announced.
March 12, 2021 Community Service Fellowship proposals due.
Mid-April, 2021 Essay winners and Community Service Fellowship winners announced.

Visit Award Webpage for more details before you apply.

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