The Annual International Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence
Berkeley Prize 2024


Social Factors at the College of Environmental Design

An Exhibit prepared by University of California, Berkeley’s Environmental Design Archives  

March 1 - May 20, 2016

This is a major historical document about the development of the idea of the social art of architecture and its influence on teaching at the College.  The reflections of the various participants are particularly interesting as they trace what happened and why.  The BERKELEY PRIZE is one of the outgrowths of all this activity, but it is only one of a series of responses to the study of architecture with a new focus.  The section on “Research and Projects” is particularly interesting in this regard.   Although this is primarily a story from the United States, it has lessons for schools of architecture worldwide.  Today, it is more important than ever to trace the roots of this movement, so that its widespread application is seen as part of an ongoing dialogue, rather than a unique, one-time phenomena.

(From the Introduction)
The College of Environmental Design at U.C. Berkeley was the first in the United States to combine under one college the departments of architecture, landscape architecture and city planning, and to incorporate the concept of social and cultural factors into the curriculum of its architecture department. A product of the 1960s widespread protests of the “failure of the institution,” social factors in environmental design was a “response to a number of serious social problems as manifested in the physical design of our major institutions.”

The Social Factors program at Berkeley introduced social science methods to teach the design of buildings and environments more responsive to human needs. Previous curricula and teaching focused on the aesthetic and technical aspects of architecture and landscape architecture.

This exhibit explores the innovative approaches to design education that allowed students to translate socio-cultural values into physical forms. While highlighting the fertile years of the Social Factors program in the 1960s-1980s, the exhibit also conveys its long-term impact on scholars, designers, and students at (and beyond) Berkeley today. 

The documentation of the exhibit continues at:

 A House for Someone Unlike Me

This is a half-hour film produced and directed by Bruce W. Bassett in 1984 about a pioneering course that Ray Lifechz developed at U.C. Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design.  The course was one of the first that asked what Universal Design was all about and how to make it part of the general education for all architecture students. 

It is available for free viewing on at 

Virtual Lecture, School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Bhopal, India

(July 2020)

“Architecture to Make People Matter: Lessons from the Berkeley Prize”

Written and presented by Benjamin Clavan, Ph.D., Architect, BERKELEY PRIZE coordinator and website editor.

See virtual lecture and transcript available below: 

SPA BHOPAL Virtual Lecture, July 2020.docx


Proceedings from the 2015 international UIA-PHG+GUPHA Annual Conference, Dalian, China.

(May 2015)

The International Union of Architects’ Public Health Group and the Global University Program in Healthcare Architecture (UIA-PHG+GUPHA) met for its annual seminar in Dalian, China in May, 2015. The overall theme of the Conference was: ”Health for All: Cultural, Populational, Operational, and Technological Influences.” 

Benjamin Clavan, BERKELEY PRIZE coordinator and website editor, played an active role in the Conference.  With the assistance of the 2014 BERKELEY PRIZE Teaching Fellows, who spent the 2014-2015 academic year teaching “Healthful Architecture”, he contributed and presented a paper to the seminar describing the work of the Fellows and the lessons learned from their teaching and their students. 

The PowerPoint slide show for the Conference presentation is available below.

Conference Presentation (.PPTX) 12.2 MB

Conference Presentation (.PDF) 3.57

The paper, published in the Proceedings of the Conference, can be linked to as shown below.

“DESIGNING FOR HEALTH: Teaching the Social Art of Architecture”

Proceedings from the 5th International Conference for Universal Design in Fukushima and Tokyo, Japan.

(November 2014)

The International Association for Universal Design (IAUD) staged its fifth international conference in November, 2014 in two Japanese cities:  First in Koriyama, the largest city in the northern Fukushima Prefecture; and second in Tokyo. The overall theme of the Conference was “Glocalized Development for Universal Design.”  In Fukushima, the sub-theme was “Recovery and Rehabilitation in Fukushima”; in Tokyo, “Towards Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

BERKELEY PRIZE representatives played an active role in the Conference.  Three of the five 2014 BERKELEY  PRIZE Teaching Fellows contributed papers to the Conference, along with another paper from the BP2014 Associate Teaching Fellow.   In addition, the BP Coordinator contributed a fifth paper.   All of the peer-reviewed papers dealt with teaching Universal Design as part of an overall education goal of teaching the social art of architecture.  Three of the five authors also attended the Conference and presented a panel discussion revolving around the topic.

The PowerPoint slide show for the Conference presentation is available below. 

Conference Presentation (.PPTX) 12.2 MB

Conference Presentation (.PDF) 3.57 MB

The papers, published in the Proceedings of the Conference, can be linked to as shown below.

Alan Birabi, Ph.D.
2014 BERKELEY PRIZE Teaching Fellow

"Teaching Universal Design:  Experiences from Teaching at Makerere University Kampala, Uganda on the 2013-2014 BERKELEY PRIZE Teaching Fellowship."


Benjamin Clavan, Ph.D., AIA
Coordinator for the BERKELEY PRIZE and website editor:

“Teaching the Social Art of Architecture: The Transformation of the Studio from Object-Centered to Human-Centered Design”


Eve A. Edelstein, Ph.D., Associate AIA
2014 BERKELEY PRIZE Teaching Fellow

"Neuro-Universal Design: The Nexus of Neuroscience and Universal Design"


Ajay Khare, Ph.D
2014 BERKELEY PRIZE Teaching Fellow

"Glocalizing Universal Design Education for Cultural Interface in India"


Faiq Mari
2014 BERKELEY PRIZE Associate Teaching Fellow

"A Case Study in Teaching Universal Design: A Palestinian Perspective."

The Perspective of a Wheelchair User

Sophia Bannert

(, April 2013)

BERKELEY PRIZE 2013 Essay Prize winner Sophia Bannert's essay featured in

"A Day in the Life of a Wheelchair User: Navigating Lincoln"

The Berkeley Prize: Those Who Make it Work

Benjamin Clavan and Raymond Lifchez

(PLACES, Summer 2006)

Now in its ninth year, the international Berkeley Prize for Undergraduate Design Excellence promotes and explores the social art of architecture. Open to undergraduate architecture majors (or teams of students in allied studies led by architecture students), the prize annually consists of two parts: a highly structured essay competition based on a given question, and a more open-ended competition for a travel fellowship for semifinalists in the essay competition.

read the article »

Competing to Learn: The Berkeley Prize and the Social Art of Architecture

Raymond Lifchez and Benjamin Clavan

(PLACES, Spring 2005)

How do undergraduate architecture students today perceive the role of the architect in dealing with the issue of providing shelter for the displaced and disenfranchised? This is the question put to students throughout the world in the 2004 International Berkeley Prize for Undergraduate Design Excellence Essay Competition. The responses are wide-ranging, but when viewed as a whole put into focus the pressing need and desire for a new effort to integrate the teaching of the social art of architecture into design curricula. In this article, the authors discuss the history of the Berkeley Prize, the role of the competition to both teach and inform, and most importantly, the specific subject of shelter as a social question as seen through the eyes and words of the student competitors.

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The Clean Street Paradox

Thomas-Bernard Kenniff


Thomas-Bernard Kenniff is the 2002 BERKELEY PRIZE Essay Competition winner. His winning essay with subsequently added illustrations was accepted for publication in Architectural Research Quarterly (ARQ), published by the Cambridge Univeristy Press. In the words of the Press, "ARQ aims to act as an international forum for practitioners and academics by publishing cutting-edge work covering all aspects of architectural endeavour. Generously illustrated throughout, Architectural Research Quarterly is edited with busy practitioners and academics in mind. Contents include building design, urbanism, history, theory, environmental design, construction, materials, information technology, and practice. Reviews of significant buildings are published at a length and in a detail matched today by few other architectural journals."

read the article »

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