Cuéllar Awarded 2023 SOM Foundation Research Prize To Pursue Adapting Housing Strategies

The SOM Foundation announces Taubman College Assistant Professor of Architecture Gabriel Cuéllar as one of its 2023 Research Prize winners. He and his collaborator will receive a $40,000 prize to conduct original research contributing to this year’s topic, “Adapting Housing Strategies to Respond to New Realities.”

Cuéllar and De Peter Yi (University of Cincinnati, College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning) won with their proposal “Block by Block: Advancing New American Dreams and Housing Justice by Aligning Design with Zoning Reform.” The project seeks to design more just and desirable housing models by engaging the scale of the block. The team will study blocks through top-down policies and ground-up efforts to reshape their futures, focusing on neighborhoods in Metro Detroit and Cincinnati as starting points.

The project builds on design research developed during Cuéllar’s 2018–2019 fellowship at Taubman College. In the Winter 2019 fellows exhibition, he presented several proposals demonstrating how designing at the scale of urban blocks, rather than individual lots, can advance social, urban, and environmental goals.

Through research and dialogue with residents, policymakers, and developers in these two cities, Cuéllar and Yi will create design proposals for blocks that interweave social and environmental justice with desirable and attainable housing designs. The project will begin in May 2024 and end in April 2025.

The Research Prize was created in 2018 to cultivate new ideas and meaningful research that addresses the critical issues of our time.

In announcing Cuéllar and Yi as a winning team, juror Carlos Bedoya, co-founder, PRODUCTORA, and founding partner, LIGA, Space for Architecture, Mexico City, commented, “The proposal ‘Block by Block’ to reconsider housing, involving the scale of the block as a catalyst for a collective architecture that goes beyond the individual housing unit, provides an excellent opportunity to reflect upon and more broadly question contemporary issues related to housing, such as its dimension, the application of new mixed-used zoning programs, ecological impact, and cost.”

SOM Foundation Executive Director Iker Gil led this year’s jury, which included Carlos Bedoya (Cofounder, PRODUCTORA; Founding partner, LIGA, Space for Architecture, Mexico City), Johanna Hurme (Cofounder, 5468796 Architecture, Winnipeg), Lorcan O’Herlihy (Founding Principal and Creative Director, Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects [LOHA], Los Angeles and Detroit), and Irene Sunwoo (John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago).

Research Prize recipients collaborate with students, faculty, and leaders from various disciplines to pursue their research topics. They must document their findings and develop suggestions for applying them to professional practice. The SOM Foundation will share research outcomes on its website and through other mediums identified by the winning teams.