The Annual International Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2020
Berkeley Prize 2020

Essay Question











This year’s topic focuses on how civic architecture provides for the health, safety, education, intellectual life and well-being of the community.  Decide which of these services interests you the most.  Go out into the city in which your school is located with a team member from another academic discipline and find two public buildings that you feel are especially successful for the type of service you have selected.  Use these buildings as the basis for your answer to the Question.  

In your research, you should particularly think about what exactly it is about the design of these buildings that make them so successful and the ways in which collaboration with other disciplines has contributed to their success.  An architect cannot make this happen alone. Some ideas you might want to explore:

Why exactly is the building important to the community?

How can/does the design of the buildings enhance their social, political and practical significance for the people it serves?

Why was the specific site selected for each of the buildings by the city?

Was there anything special about the design process that contributes to the buildings’ success?

How do neighbors feel about the buildings? How do the staff feel about the buildings? How do the users feel about the buildings?

What are the lessons to be learned from these examples that you can apply to future similar civic building projects? 

Special Team Requirements This Year:  BP2020 requires that undergraduate architecture students team up with another undergraduate student from outside of architecture studies in researching and writing the Proposal and Essay.  To do this, you need to identify what kind of information you might need as an architect to help make “your” civic building work and search out students in other disciplines who can become a team member in making this happen.  This might include students from programs in:

  • Urban Studies, City (and Regional) Planning, or Urban Design;
  • The Social Sciences: Anthropology, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, Sociology, and Psychology, and all of their branches (for instance Social Psychology);
  • Human Services; Management;
  • Other disciplines for which you and your partner can make a good case for its importance to your research.

You can team with an undergraduate student from your school or another school in the community where you are studying.  Long-distance – for instance, internet-based teams - will not be accepted. The issue is to work together, face-to-face, on both the on-site research and writing. 

Without specifically identifying yourselves, please add up to 50 words at the beginning of your Proposal as a “Preface” explaining why the two of you have teamed to research this topic and the special value of this association in answering the Question.




The BERKELEY PRIZE is proud to highlight a book, PALACES FOR THE PEOPLE: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, written by Eric Klinenberg, one of this year’s BERKELEY PRIZE Jurors. The book’s thesis is, in fact, the basis for this year’s PRIZE topic.  It has received an avalanche of attention and positive reviews from a wide variety of sources.  The New York Times Book Review below, written by Pete Buttigieg, a Rhodes Scholar, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, U.S.A., and Democratic U.S. Presidential nominee-hopeful, is a both a summary of the book’s contents and a serious reflection on its argument.  It is an apt starting point for approaching this year’s topic and Question.


By Pete Buttigieg
September 14, 2018

"The Key to Happiness Might Be as Simple as a Library or a Park"

How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life 

By Eric Klinenberg
277 pp. Crown. $28.

This time of year, my wooden desktop in the Office of the Mayor looks very similar to my computer desktop: covered in spreadsheets. It’s budget season in South Bend, Ind. — the annual reckoning. Priorities jostle against one another, and sometimes it feels as if we must choose between investing in places (fire stations, streetscapes) and investing in people (after-school programs, job training). We do some of both, of course, but the process forces us to balance two concepts of what a city is: a place and a population.

In “Palaces for the People,” Eric Klinenberg offers a new perspective on what people and places have to do with each other, by looking at the social side of our physical spaces. He is not the first to use the term “social infrastructure,” but he gives it a new and useful definition as “the physical conditions that determine whether social capital develops,” whether, that is, human connection and relationships are fostered. Then he presents examples intended to prove that social infrastructure represents the key to safety and prosperity in 21st-century urban America.

Continue Reading >>



The following lists contain suggested resources that should be seen as a general gateway to this year’s topic.  All are recommended to open your eyes to the community experience that civic buildings create.  As such, they should be useful in your research agenda.  If so, do not hesitate to refer to them in your Proposal and Essay. They are divided into the following categories: 







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