The Tenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2008
Berkeley Prize 2008

The 2008 Essay Prize Competition

An essay contest in Three stages open to all current full-time registered students in an undergraduate architecture degree program, undergraduates majoring in architecture, or diploma students in accredited schools of architecture worldwide. 7,500USD Purse.


The Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Design Excellence endowment was established in the Department of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley to promote architecture as a social art through research, writing, and criticism: traditionally under-represented aspects of the architecture curriculum. Each year, the Prize Committee selects a topic important to the understanding of the interaction of people and the built world that becomes the focus of the Essay Competition. This year the topic is: Competing to Serve. 

The Committee poses a Question on this website related to the topic.  Students enrolled in any undergraduate architecture program throughout the world are invited to submit a 500-word essay proposal responding to the Question.  Undergraduate architecture students may team up with undergraduates from Allied Arts and Social Sciences programs.  

From the pool of essay proposals received, approximately 25 are selected by the Prize Committee as particularly promising. The 25 selected individual students, or student teams, become Semifinalists

These Semifinalists are invited to submit a 2,500-word essay expanding on their proposals. A group of readers, composed of Committee members and invited colleagues, selects five-to-eight of the best essays and sends these Finalist essays to a jury of international academics and architects to select the winners. 

To celebrate the Tenth anniversary of THE BERKELEY PRIZE, we are this year sponsoring a third competition:  The BERKELEY PRIZE Social Art of Architecture Design Competition.   As an added incentive, not only will the top Semi Finalists be invited to compete for the 2008 BERKELEY PRIZE Travel Fellowship (to be announced soon), but, in addition, one school represented by one of the Semi Finalists will be offered the opportunity to actually hold the proposed competition.  You the student will decide what the Competition shall be and how it might be implemented.  The BERKELEY PRIZE Endowment will give the chosen school additional prize money to encourage students to compete in the selected Social Art of Architecture Design Competition. Details for the Design Competition will be announced in the Spring, 2008.
Architectural history, theory and practice are rich with ideas and actual buildings that exemplify the importance of architecture as a social art. In addressing the Question posed by the BERKELEY PRIZE 2008 Essay Competition, you will consider this legacy and its relevance to you as future architects.


The Aga Khan Award for Architecture

This year’s BERKELEY PRIZE is dedicated to one of the world’s most prestigious architectural awards program, the international Aga Khan Award for Architecture.   Established to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies in which Muslims have a significant presence, the awards program has helped reveal an architecture of humanism that transcends religion, race, or nationality.  

The Aga Khan Award selection process is unique in that it emphasizes a universal, social architecture that not only provides for people's physical and economic needs, but that also stimulates and responds to their cultural and spiritual expectations.  The selected projects are, as a result, models for students and practitioners throughout the world who aspire to do innovative design that has social significance.

The Aga Khan Awards for 2007 were announced in October.  Please view the a complete photographic record of the winning projects and read about what makes these ten projects significant here.

The awards recognize examples of architectural excellence that encompass contemporary design, social housing, community improvement and development, restoration, adaptive re-use, and area conservation, as well as landscaping and environmental issues.  Particular attention is given to building schemes that use local resources and appropriate technology in an innovative way, as examples likely to inspire similar efforts elsewhere.  

Established in 1977 by His Highness the Aga Khan, the Award for Architecture is organized on the basis of a three-year cycle and is governed by a Steering Committee chaired by the Aga Khan.  Prizes totaling up to 500,000 USD – constituting the largest architectural award in the world – are presented to projects selected by an independent Master Jury.   The Award for Architecture has now completed its tenth cycle of activity. 

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture also conducts International and Regional Seminars; an Archives program; and multiple publications.   In addition, the Aga Khan Development Network also sponsors the:

Historic Cities Support Programme focuses on the physical, social, and economic revitalization of historic sites in the Muslim world. 

Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture is dedicated to the study of Islamic architecture, visual arts, conservation, urban design and rehabilitation. It aims to improve the teaching of Islamic art and architecture, promote excellence in professional research, and enhance the understanding of Islamic architecture and urbanism in light of contemporary developmental issues., an on-line resource focusing on architecture, urban design, urban development, and related issues in the Muslim world (in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

To better understand why the BERKELEY PRIZE 2008 is dedicated to the Aga Khan Award for Architecture,  begin with the Aga Khan homepage and there find additional links to articles and books about the award available on the world wide web and in print.

Additional Help and Information

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University of Technology Petronas, Bandar Seri Iskandar, Malaysia; Aga Khan Award 2005-2007
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