Today the 2020 RAMSA Travel Fellowship jury selected a winning entry after a videoconference deliberation session. The winner, Yaxuan Liu, a Master of Architecture candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, will be awarded $10,000 to travel along the west coast of Taiwan to document and analyze the historic Qilou building type, which has persisted through waves of cultural influences over nearly three centuries.
Qilou in the western port cities and towns of Taiwan date to the arrival of merchants from southern China, bringing with them a type of shop-house with colonnades supporting projecting eaves or floors above sidewalks that create a collective public space of shopfronts in balance with private courtyard living. "Walking down a bustling arcade in commercial districts such as Dadaocheng in Taipei today is like traversing through time, with Taiwanese history—from the Qing Dynasty to the Empire of Japan to the Kuomintang—crystallized in these buildings," explained Mr. Liu in his submission Qilou: Where Freedom Takes Shape. "Flexibly absorbing political, cultural, and economic forces, evident in plan, section, and decoration, Qilou offer a thread of spatial continuity across time—a place where Taiwanese people formed distinct cultural customs and traditions that flourish to this day. Thanks to their adaptability, Qilou have become a living embodiment of Taiwan's free-spirited culture, filled with the color and chaos of urban life as shopkeepers and residents make each arcade their own."
The jurors, who judge the entries without knowing the identities of the authors or their school affiliations, said, "We were very impressed with Yaxuan Liu's submission—its concise, clear, and convincing language and its immediately comprehensible graphic presentation—as well as the focused range of travel proposed, which seems to us eminently achievable. Mr. Liu's proposal grows naturally out of the mission of the Fellowship, setting up a sort of controlled experiment to trace how a succession of cultural influences transformed a single typology in one region over time. The submission was accompanied by an excellent portfolio of student work that displayed interests consistent with the proposed research."
The jury also commends this year's finalists:
- Jonah Coe-Scharff (Princeton University), The Divided Dwelling.
- Sean Yang (Yale University), Remembering the Dragon: Cultural Rediscovery in Heritage Villages of China.
This year the jury recognizes that summer travel may be postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions; in the event that safe travel to the proposed location is not feasible in 2020, RAMSA will work with the Fellow to determine an alternate proposal.
About the RAMSA Travel Fellowship
The RAMSA Travel Fellowship is a $10,000 prize awarded annually by Robert A.M. Stern Architects for travel and research. The Fellowship seeks to promote investigations into the perpetuation of tradition through invention—key to the firm’s own work—and is given to an individual who has proven insight and interest in the profession and its future, as well as the ability to carry forth in-depth research. The Fellows complete their travel in the summer following the announcement of the award—though this year the jury recognizes that summer travel may be postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions—and present their research to RAMSA’s office in New York City in the spring.
The RAMSA Travel Fellowship is open to graduate students in their penultimate year of a professional or post-professional degree program in architecture at one of the 21 participating schools in the United States and Canada. These schools are: Columbia University; Cornell University; Harvard University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; McGill University; The Ohio State University; Pratt Institute; Princeton University; Rhode Island School of Design; Rice University; Syracuse University; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Miami; University of Michigan; University of Minnesota; University of Notre Dame; University of Pennsylvania; University of Texas at Austin; University of Virginia; and Yale University. To learn more about the fellowship, please visit this link.
About Robert A.M. Stern Architects
Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP, is a 250-person firm of architects, interior designers, and supporting staff. Over its forty-nine-year history, the firm has established an international reputation as a leading design firm with wide experience in residential, commercial, and institutional work. As the firm’s practice has diversified, its geographical scope has widened to include projects in Europe, Asia, South America, and throughout the United States. The firm maintains an attention to detail and commitment to design quality which has earned international recognition, numerous awards and citations for design excellence, including National Honor Awards of the American Institute of Architects, and a lengthening list of repeat clients.