The Thirteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2011
Berkeley Prize 2011

Stage 2: Semifinalists

This year, because of the large number of submittals and their high quality, we are happy to announce that we have expanded the number of Semifinalists.  Architecture students from 21 countries entered this year's competition.  Thirty-three authors from 12 countries have advanced to the Semifinalist round (Stage Two) of the BERKELEY PRIZE 2011 competition.   Semifinalists are invited to submit a 2500-word Essay based on their 500-word Proposal. The top five to seven essays will be selected for final judging by this year’s  BERKELEY PRIZE Jury.

All authors, whether promoted to Semifinalist status or not, can login to view the Readers’ comments regarding your Proposals.  New instructions for this year’s Semifinalists are included below.

Semifinalist Winners

Fatema Al Zeera, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Joseph Audeh, New York University, USA

Acellam Benard, Makarere University, Uganda

Carson Booth, Montana State University, USA

Edward Couper, University of Melbourne, Australia

Rebecca David, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Israel

Sapan Gajjar, CEPT University, India

Carrie Gammell and Seth Goodman, Rice University, USA

Hriday Gami, CEPT University, India

Richa Girdhar and Dhruv Batra, Birla Institute of TechnologyIndia

Rachel Haugen, Montana State University, USA

Britni Jeziorski, Montana State University, USA

Milenka Jirasko, Montana State University, USA

Simon Lussier, McGill University, Canada

Diana Alexandra Mihai, Ion Mincu University, Romania

Christina Monzer and Randa Tarabay, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Asha N M, R.V. College of Engineering, India

Davis Owen, Washington University in St. Louis, USA

Rushil Palavajjhala, CEPT University, India

Matthew Pinyan, North Carolina State University, USA

Iswarya Ramachandran, Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, India

Henry Richardson and Nicola Stathers, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Nourah Said, Auburn University, Kuwait

Marina Sapunova, Vladimir State University, Russia

Yara Saqfalhait, Birzeit University, Palestinian Territories

Holly Simon, Dalhousie University, Canada

Kari Summers, Texas Tech University, USA

Nirmal Sylvester, Thiagarajar College of Engineering, India

Chris Taleff, Montana State University, USA

Preeti Talwai, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Emma Tome and John Carroll, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Iina Valkeisenmäki, Aalto University, Finland

Ng Qian Zhi and Pek Ling Yong, National University of Singapore, Singapore

General Information

We compliment all of the Semifinalists on the extraordinary diversity of ideas and approaches in response to this year’s Question. Such responses indicate the depth of interest in and concern for Architecture as a Social Art.  As an essay competition, the BERKELEY PRIZE encourages the translation of these interests and concerns into a format for communication both to those within the profession and the wider public.

In Stage Two, you are to expand upon your chosen topic in 2,500 words. The BERKELEY PRIZE Committee encourages Semifinalists to improve the crafting of their ideas. A few suggestions seem appropriate:

  • Before you begin to write the 2,500 word essay, it is essential that you carefully consider the Readers' comments about your Proposal for the essay. These comments are meant to help you write a winning essay. Please read your reviewer comments in your Author Portfolio. 
  • An essay is different from a Proposal.  Your Proposal was selected because the Committee believed that it was a good outline that had the potential to be developed into an even better essay on the social art of architecture.  You want to do more – much more - than simply re-state your argument.  Explore and expand your ideas, the reasons for them, and the conclusions you have reached because of them.  Substantiate these thoughts with specific examples.
  • Remember:  the Question asks not only what building place in your community you believe to be sacred and why, but also, HOW such places are to be preserved, including any architectural intervention you believe would help in this process.  While we do not expect you to provide intricate or technical details, we do hope that you will give us a sense of a possible path that could be followed.
  • In answering the Question, the BERKELEY PRIZE Committee is particularly interested in responses that speak to the general public. If social architecture is to become the norm, rather then the exception, the public must be persuaded of the value of design that reflects human worth. If social ideas are to be realized, rather then simply discussed, the public must be persuaded that there is added value to initiating your idea as opposed to doing nothing. This means selecting a voice that is both your own, and one that is accessible to both serious readers and those who read only the "lead" points.
  • Ask a friend to read your essay before submitting it. Better yet, show it to two friends: one, a fellow architecture student; the second, a person not familiar with the discipline or profession. Use their input to revise your draft. If you can prevail on them, ask them to read your revised draft.  Ask them how your argument can be made clearer – it always can be.


This year, we are asking that you include four (4) digital photographs of your selected place with your essay.  One of these photos can be the image you already posted with your Proposal, but it needs to be re-posted.  The photograph should be no larger then 1 MB, and be in ,jpeg format.  No more then four photographs will be accepted.  You can use a digital camera, a film camera (and scan the printed image), or even capture the image on a cell phone and transfer it to your document.  There is space provided at the end of the submittal form to upload the images.  Space is also provided to number and caption each image.  

In selecting these four images, imagine that a publisher or editor of an online blog, or a newspaper, or a magazine have accepted your essay for publication.   One of their requirements is that you supply  four illustrations that help describe and explain the points made in your essay.  What illustrations would you provide that not only provided the basic information about your topic, but also help further your written arguments?  As part of this process, refer to these illustrations at the appropriate spots within your essay.

Remember, however, one of the primary purposes of the essay format is to test your skill in describing a place or building in words, rather then pictures or drawings.  So, do not assume that just because you have posted the photographs that your responsibility to carefully describe your selected place is reduced.   To the contrary: use the illustrations to support and strengthen your writing.

Improving Your Writing

You have almost six weeks to produce your essay in final form.  Use as much of this time as possible to attempt to actively improve your writing abilities, particularly if English is not your first language.  Read some good prose written in English, especially essays, whether from the field of architecture or from other disciplines.  In architecture, search for articles written by architectural journalists and popular architectural historians who write for a general audience online, in newspapers, and in widely circulated magazines. Think about how they present arguments and describe buildings and places.  Use  websites, such as,  to improve your English vocabulary, syntax, and spelling.

Avoid the use of professional language unfamiliar to many of your intended readers, except where absolutely necessary. Above all, avoid jargon.  In describing your subject matter you might want to use this “trick”:  Imagine that you are describing the building or place to a person who, unfortunately, lost their sight after years of being able to see.  How would you describe this new building or place to them using only their memories of how other places looked? 

Whether or not English is your first, second, or fifth language, again, do not hesitate to review your essay with an experienced English language-speaker and writer.  Use their suggestions as how to make your argument as clear and precise as possible.  


Proposals due anytime before midnight, GMT, February 1, 2011

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