Essay Competition

How successful is contemporary architectural practice at engaging the general public? Do architects have a responsibility to do so? What roles can young professionals play in communicating the value of architecture and design? How might the public understanding of architects and architecture change as a result?

The ArchVoices Essay Competition encourages, promotes, and rewards critical thinking and writing--two traditionally under-emphasized areas of architectural education and training. Interns, non-registered architects, current graduate students in architecture, undergraduate students in their final year of architecture school, and other architecture school graduates are eligible to participate.

First and Second Prize

"Engaging the Everyday"
An essay by Hannah Teicher - Vancouver, BC

"If carefully crafted design were to infiltrate large and small pieces of the built fabric, popping up in the ageing subdivision, the gas station, and the freeway off-ramp, the architectural profession might find itself operating on a scale unprecedented in North America. Architects have no absolute responsibility to engage the general public, but in so doing they might first and foremost fulfill a responsibility to themselves, addressing an innate desire to expand their opportunity to practice. Architects espousing vastly divergent ideologies might be able to commonly support an architectural version of the Hippocratic Oath, which charges thoughtful design with supplanting rudimentary building to the greatest extent possible."

"Foundations of Understanding"
An essay by Melissa Woehr - Boston, MA

"An image that greatly disturbed me recently appeared in my email inbox. Forcing itself against the borders of the snapshot was a 'stunning Tudor-inspired colonial with contemporary flair,' which my cousin hoped to purchase. The house was a suburban McMansion in all its hyper-scaled and ornamented glory. What I saw in the realtor's photo was a green lawn that would leach poison down the asphalt cul-de-sac, a stranded mother with only her SUV and miles of highway to connect her to the outside world, and a cut-and-paste mishap of a facade. I lamented the loss of another family member to the dark side. I shared the picture, its flamboyant caption, and giggles of agony with my coworkers. I avoided writing to my dear cousin."

Honorable Mentions

"A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party"
An essay by Sevra Davis - London, UK

Creativity will not survive, let alone flourish, in a vacuum. Creativity thrives on experimentation and multiplicity. Architects, who rely on creativity and innovation for their spirit, must commit themselves to a design process that values public engagement. The next generation of architects will not subscribe to the cult of the individual, but to the vigor of collaboration; and the next generation of the public will add value and insight to new forms and ideas in architecture. Expanded knowledge and public engagement will not be the end of architecture, but its future.

"Listening to Learn, Learning to Lead"
An essay by Crystal Bowman - Leachville, AR

We must learn to talk to our clients in a language that communicates our passion and enthusiasm for affecting lasting change in our own communities. We must also learn to listen carefully to what our clients are really saying without injecting our own preconceptions. Only when our clients know we understand and respect what they are telling us, can we open up a dialogue that will give us an opportunity to demonstrate our ability to meet their needs and expectations.

Essay Group 1

"Don?t Just Settle for Utopia: Making the Case for the Common Good"
An essay by Adam Hermanson - Henderson, CO

"In Civic Defense ? Enriching Architecture"
An essay by Aimee Goodwin - Woonsocket, RI

"Value and Relevance"
An essay by Alex Gilliam - Charlottesville, VA

Essay Group 2

"Everything in order tends to disorder, the role of architecture in the process of cause and effect"
An essay by Ana Maria Lopez - Los Angeles, CA

"Reality Architecture"
An essay by David Barry - San Jose, CA

"What is Architecture?"
An essay by Dwight Yee - Pittsburgh, PA

Essay Group 3

"Using a Michael Graves Toilet Brush (A Design Aware General Public)"
An essay by Gavin Myers - Ashburn, VA

"What does an architect want to be?"
An essay by Jennifer Hendrich - Richmond, VA

"Bridging the Disconnect: Realigning the practice of architecture with worldly concerns"
An essay by Sanjit Roy - Baltimore, MD

Essay Group 4

"Architecture and Citizenship"
An essay by Scott Cryer - Charlotte, NC

"Challenging Assumptions"
An essay by Steven Feast - Perth, Australia

"Band-Aids and Bomb Shelters: questioning the everydayness of architecture"
An essay by Zachary Benedict - Muncie, IN

Committee Discussion

Discussion and analysis of the 2005 ArchVoices Essay Competition by members of the competition planning committee.