SOM Prize and Travel Fellowship Awards in Architecture, Design & Urban Design

The SOM Foundation Research Prize


The SOM Foundation’s goal is to advance the design profession’s ability to address the key topics of
our time through the support of groups and individuals with the highest design aspirations to undertake rigorous interdisciplinary research and design exploration.


The SOM Foundation Research Prize is awarded to a faculty-led interdisciplinary design research proposal with active student participation that addresses a topic identified each year by the Foundation Board. Recipients are provided with an award of $40,000 to support research which provides a deeper understanding of the topic and proposes solutions with the potential to advance the practice of architecture, structures, urban design and related design disciplines.


The SOM Research Prize is an evolution of the former SOM Prize and SOM Travel Fellowship programs. View submissions and final reports of past SOM Prize and SOM Traveling Fellowship Recipients.


SOM Research Prize 2018 Topic:

Humanizing High Density


Humanity is undergoing the greatest mass migration in history as people across the world move into urban areas. There has been significant effort to draw attention to the estimates that as of 2009 more than half the world’s population lived in cities. This number is expected to rise to nearly 70% in approximately the next 30 years. According to a 2014 United Nations Study, 1 in 4 people live in a city of over 1 million people and importantly, nearly 1 in 8 (453 million people) live in one of 28 megacities with populations of over 10 million. The result has been a global demand for high-density structures and urban environments that support places to live, to work and to socialize. 


Grant Proposals


Grant proposals should address the challenge facing design professionals to create a built environment that optimizes urban density while simultaneously best supporting human comfort and need for renewal, human performance and strong social networks that bind communities while also advancing approaches to sustainability and resiliency.


To advance viable solutions it is crucial that design professionals develop a deeper more rigorous understanding of human psychological and physiological responses to our physical environment, and how we can best shape the human experience within these high density urban environments. Submission proposals should focus on research that draws from other disciplines that seek to scientifically understand these topics.




Faculty applicants will be expected to work in a collaborative manner with other faculty or practice leaders from other disciplines to pursue a research question inspired by the SOM Foundation Research Brief. The SOM Foundation Research Prize is intended to provide support to a group of faculty and students in the development of a robust basis of literature or database of the latest knowledge on the research topic, further investigations into the topic as well as a design studio structured to further investigate the subject.


During the research period, the Foundation Advisory Board is anticipated to have interim interactions for the purpose of providing feedback and focus to maintain a high level of excellence throughout the research effort.


The recipient will be required to thoroughly document the research findings and develop conclusions or suggestions for application to professional practice. Faculty will be responsible for self-publishing final product in forums such as a conference paper and an associated PowerPoint presentation, a white paper and web video, or journal articles. Final product should advance thinking and be visually compelling. The faculty and student teams will be responsible for seeking out additional opportunities to disseminate research findings at relevant professional, public and civic events, such as the AIA Convention,

AIA and APA local chapters, Urban Land Institute events, etc.




A Jury, composed of leading professionals, academics and/or public advocates, and SOM Foundation Directors, will be responsible for selecting a submission most suited to the topic profiled in the SOM Foundation Research Brief.



  • Applicants currently teaching at a U.S. school with accredited degree programs (BArch, MArch, MDes, BA, BS, MA, MS, PhD) in Architecture, Design or Urban Design.
  • Applicants for the 2018 Awards must include a faculty member who will lead an advanced level studio course as a part of the research.


Evaluation Criteria

  • Proposal relevance to goals and objectives.
  • Research program innovation and rigorousness.
  • Transferability of research outcomes to practice.
  • Qualifications, prior achievements, expertise, track record of performance.
  • Capacity to administer, including contract and budget management.
  • Content and quality of supporting documentation.
  • Content and quality of letters of reference.


Application: Proposal for Consideration


Title Page:

  • Title of Research Project
  • Name(s) and institutional affiliation of principal investigator(s)
  • Keywords
  • Date of submission


Abstract: Maximum 250-word abstract summarizing the topic of the proposed research. Specifically, the problems or the conditions that demonstrate the need for the research; the research question that will be addressed; the scope and proposed methodology of the work and the expected outcomes of the project.


Description: 500-word expository description of the area of focus, scope, and outcomes of the proposed work. Include the institutional context of the of the research (e.g. team composition, travel, facilities, institutional support)


Work Plan: Identify project partners, a schedule, key milestones, preliminary budget, final products, and a draft syllabus.


Preliminary Budget: Itemized use of the grant funds (e.g. research assistance, travel, equipment, software, supplies, etc.). Matching funds, if any, provided by other funding sources.


Supporting Documentation:

  • CV(s) of principal investigators
  • Examples of student studio work produced under the instruction of Studio Faculty lead. Examples from multiple students in a single studio are preferred.
  • Letter of support from the applicants’ supervising department head or chief academic officer of the department, college, university, or company as applicable.


Supplemental Documentation: Maximum of 20 pages of additional documentation directly related to the proposed research program (e.g. copies of completed or speculative creative work or building designs, relevant writings or other documents that establish unique qualifications)


All proposals submitted should be:

8.5" x 11" page size, 35 page maximum,

with a file size not to exceed 150MB


2018 Deadline

August 31, 2018 – Upload digital submission to:



Please contact the SOM Foundation.


Recipients of an SOM Research Prize will receive specific rules governing ownership and use of the work product generated under the grant (the “Materials”).  These rules will set forth the respective rights of prize recipients, the SOM Foundation, and the public to use the Materials.  Unsuccessful prize applications, which are deemed works for hire belonging to the submitting institution, may also be used for purposes consistent with the goals of the prize.