Students’ ‘late entries’ to 1913 design competition earn national honor

An architecture studio conceived as a response to a century-old design competition on the urban grid has garnered national attention as a recipient of Architect Magazine’s inaugural Studio Prize for excellence in studio curricula.

Directed by Gregory Delaney, clinical assistant professor of architecture, the “Good Grids” studio drew inspiration from a 1913 Chicago City Club ideas competition which sought to rethink — and re-energize — an urban grid that had grown formulaic in a rapidly growing turn-of-the-century America.

Photograph of an urban grid.

Greg Delaney’s award- winning studio, “Good Grids,” drew upon students’ first-hand experiences with the urban grid on a grand tour of 37 American cities across 19 states. Photo by Mahan Mehrvarz 

“Good Grids” was one of six studio projects to receive the Architect Magazine award, selected from a pool of 152 entries made by faculty from over 80 architecture and design programs across the U.S. Organized to recognize excellence in the studio course as “the bedrock of architecture education,” the Studio Prize “provides a glimpse into the formation of ideas that will de ne architecture in the coming decades,” according to Architect Magazine.

Part studio, part traveling classroom, “Good Grids” began with a ve-week U.S. tour in summer 2015 to examine the diversity of the grid across 37 cities and 19 states, and concluded with the assembly and exhibition of student proposals to the 1913 competition.

Some of the students’ plans contort Chicago’s grid with curves and so angles — adding an element of discovery or surprise in walking the grid. Another integrates the conventional elements of city and suburb — residential towers, perimeter blocks, cul-de-sacs, and megastructures — into concentric layers that dissolve the urban-suburban boundary. The award featured work from ve students — David Lin, Asuka Fujita, Nicholas Traverse, Rachel Chen, and Patrick Niedzwiecki.

“All too often...the grid is admired solely for its rationality,” says Delaney. “These ‘late entries’ to the competition promote a reinvestigation of gridded urban form—one that’s driven not only by efficiency and economy, but by artistic principles and spatial experience as a return to the generation of urban ideas over formulas.”