Nicholas Coates is the recipient of the prestigious 2015 SOM Prize, a $50,000 travel and research fellowship.
He received a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech in May 2015, where he was awarded the Phi Kappa Phi Medallion for being the top graduating senior from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. He was also the recipient of the Henry Adams AIA Medal and Certificate for his academic achievement, the Alpha Rho Chi Medal for outstanding leadership, and was a finalist for the highly competitive Pella Thesis Prize.
Growing up in southwest Virginia, Nick is from a small town in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. He is an avid pursuer of architecture, completing a semester of studies at the Center for European Studies and Architecture in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. Domestically, Nick spent a semester in Chicago in the office of von Weise Associates as part of the Chicago Studio, an interdisciplinary group of Virginia Tech students embedded within firms in the city, striking a balance between practice and academia.
Teaching has always been central to his own understanding of architecture, utilizing every opportunity possible to help others push their own ideas and knowledge. Nick has interned at Columbia University in their Summer High School Program, serving as a teaching assistant for an introductory architecture course as well as leading a team tasked with representing the multiple facets of the program through a variety of media types. Recently, Nick assisted in teaching Inside Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech, a program that introduces architecture and design to high school students through the act of making.
Nick will travel to regions on two continents, carrying out his winning research proposal on the topic, “The Corner: A Marker of the New, A Memory of the Past.” As Nick explains, “When articulated carefully, a corner forms an introduction to a new set of conditions: it expresses the dynamic moment, initiating a shift in perspective. Both from an urban spatial point of view and through the material of the building itself, an architect is always presented with an opportunity to direct a beautiful turn.” He became interested in this topic while visiting Brion Cemetery in Italy during his fourth year studies abroad and sees the fellowship as an opportunity to “tie together broader questions of movement, spatial sequencing, and memory.”
Nick plans to continue his studies in the future by attending graduate school, enabling him to develop and test ideas through a new lens.
Xiaoxi Chen Laurent is the recipient of the SOM Foundation 2015 Travel Research Fellowship. For her Research Topic, entitled, “Fortified Sustainability: A Critical Design Manual on New Intergovernmental Architecture, Xiaoxi will visit examples of historic and contemporary intergovernmental organization (IGO) buildings on four (4) continents, using sustainability as an “updated lens for a contemporary look at today’s spatial challenges to unlock the full potential of responsive and responsible design.”
Her research hypothesizes that sustainability and security are the top design criteria of new-build IGO architecture and will visit well-known IGO sites as a means to investigate the larger implications of current building trends. Architecture serves as the site of inquiry and is understood as the physical manifestation of accumulated political and material capital. In this context, sustainability and security are analyzed not only as technical and performative factors of architecture, but also as primary drivers of design and instruments of policy promotion.
Xiaoxi received her Master of Architecture Degree in May 2015 from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation where she was awarded the Total Design Prize for all-around outstanding performance in the design studio and seminar sequences. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology and completed her final year at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-La Villette.
Xiaoxi has worked in diverse and interdisciplinary offices and understands architecture as an inherently collaborative confluence of multiple fields, which allows for a more inventive and relevant process to address contemporary spatial issues. She believes that by pushing the limits of the architectural profession while successfully collaborating with other disciplines, architecture can provocate new social, political and aesthetic relationships in complex built environments.
She is based in New York City, where she is currently working with the office of 2x4.
Audrey Ryan is the recipient of the SOM Foundation 2015 Structural Engineering Travel Fellowship.
Having grown up in Wilmington, Delaware, Audrey was home schooled prior to attending Delaware Technical Community College where she took courses in engineering technology. She subsequently transferred into the accelerated BS/MS degree program at Drexel University, where she will receive, in June 2015, a BS in Architectural Engineering and an MS in Civil Engineering, both with a structural concentration. Audrey’s education has also included a semester abroad in Ireland in fall of 2012, where she studied Civil Engineering at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
A participant in the Honors Programs at Drexel, and under the mentorship of Dr. James Mitchell, Audrey has been involved in research projects which include finite element modeling for infrared non-destructive testing of structure (advisor: Dr Ivan Bartoli) and daylighting optimization for existing buildings (advisor: Dr. Eugenia Ellis). Audrey is also the engineering lead of a student-run startup that develops sustainable household systems.
Audrey received the SOM Foundation’s $20,000 2015 Travel Fellowship for her winning Essay, “Bioinspiration in Structures,” her research having been inspired by the words of Michael Pawlyn in his book, ”Biomimicry in Architecture,” wherein he states that, ”As the need for sustainability in the built environment becomes ever more evident, biometrics has emerged as a compelling approach to building design.” Audrey notes that in few domains are form and function so inextricably linked as they are in structural design, and nowhere is the relationship between the two so elegantly balanced as in nature. Audrey will travel extensively in Europe, Asia, and Australia / New Zealand to examine a variety of building and bridge structural systems, and to assess in each the characteristics of structural aesthetics, economic practicality, and environmental sustainability to determine how these characteristics contribute to a design which functions cohesively with nature.
Following graduation, Audrey plans to commence her career as an architectural engineer, with long-term career aspirations focused on bridging aesthetic integrity with sustainable technology in the building industry.
On the occasion of the annual President’s Medals 2015, Benjamin Ferns of the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, received the SOM Foundation Traveling Fellowship. The award is given to a student who has completed the Part 2 Course of Study at a school of architecture in the United Kingdom. Benjamin received the award for his thesis project, “The Pontifical Academy of Sciences.”
“The Pontifical Academy of Sciences” was established in Rome in 1603, with Galileo as chair. In his thesis, Benjamin has proposed that the academy be relocated to the City of London, to provide a new education system to tackle the Square Mile’s lack of moral purpose. The Academy, as proposed by Benjamin, is a monochrome mass of libraries and ritualistic lecture spaces set in a landscape to induce wandering, meeting and reflection. The use of a monochrome palette within the academy increases capacity in the area of the human brain responsible for learning and perception. Although allegorical to the Vatican, the proposal goes beyond a religious or scientific typology and deliberately refuses an immediate reading.
In continuing his interest in Italian post-war architecture and the Italian Baroque, Benjamin will use the fellowship to travel to Italy to investigate the emerging narrative of a moral education.
Originally from Stoke on Trent – UK, Benjamin is currently employed at Hopkins Architects in London, where he previously completed his Part 1 year out. Benjamin’s professional aspirations include to eventually design a monumental ruin that harmonises the old and the new.
Ji Xin is the recipient of the SOM Foundation 2015 China Prize for Travel / Research. Having received his Master’s Degree in Architecture in January 2015 from Southeast University in his home town of Nanjing, Xin also holds a BArch degree in Architecture, received in June 2013 from Southeast University.
Xin's initial plan for his Travel / Research was to study the relationship between public urban space and economic urban diversity, which would go deep into the research of only two cities: Boston and New York, focusing on the community public spaces in Boston and with the High Line in New York. Realizing that this plan would require a lot of knowledge about the Boston neighborhoods and their history, it became apparent that a more suitable focus for a short-term research effort would be to visit public urban spaces in more cities to provide a broader picture about the urban situation. Xin’s Final Report is presented in five parts, in the sequence of travel :from: New York, to Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Each city is presented in a series of photographs, with Xin’s overall impression of each city visited described by three characteristics: New York – “Density, Void and Memory” ; Washington D.C. – “Order, Nature and Majesty” ; Chicago - Time, Space and Vitality” ; San Francisco – “Hill, Water and Life” ; and Los Angeles – “Car, Event and Flat City” .
Currently enrolled at Harvard University Graduate School of Design,( M Arch II 2017 ), Xin’s focus of study at the GSD is how to stimulate public participation by presenting valuable stories and experiences in public spaces. It is a multidisciplinary design effort which combines digital media, physical environment design and literature research. As Xin explains, “ This study will stand between the pure technology representation and the profound philosophic idea, trying to utilize the public space to express enlightening ideas. Based on the existing physical environment, the study will discover unseen reality by creating an event, an exhibition or an installation. The research based project will focus on one topic at a time and reflect the research through utilization of digital media and contemporary art.” Xin believes that creating memorable moments in public space is the way to enhance people’s awareness of the importance of public space to all of us.
Following completion of his architectural studies, Xin aspires to join an architectural firm in Boston or New York, and eventually set up his own firm.
Wang Jinhui is the recipient of the SOM Foundation 2015 China Prize for Travel/ Research. Jinhui was born and grew up in Handan, an ancient city which is approximately 290 miles southwest of Tianjin, northeastern China. He received his Bachelor of Architecture Degree in June 2015 from Tianjin University.
The Fellowship realized Jinhui's first travel abroad which was planned long before. He traveled to Japan and India for 27days, carrying out his proposed research topic “the Classical Spirit and Contemporary Architecture of Cities”. In Jinhui’s view, there is a continuation of classical spirit between the ancient and modern architecture in Japan and India. During his travel, Jinhui was particularly interested in the cities, and to observe how the local architects deal with the collisions between new buildings and classical aesthetics.
Since September 2015, Jinhui has been studying for a Master of Architecture degree at Tianjin University, where his tutor is Professor Cuikai, a well-known Chinese native architect. Concurrent with his study, Jinhui has begun his internship in Professor Cuikai’s studio, Land-based Rationalism Design and Research Center, which is a department of the China Architecture Design and Research Group in Beijing and famous for its social responsibility to nature and regional culture.
Following completion of his architectural studies, Jinhui aspires to continue his work in Professor Cuikai’s studio for several years, and eventually set up his own practice