2020 International Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Design Excellence

Deadline: November 1, 2019.

The Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Design Excellence endowment was established in the Department of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design to promote the investigation of architecture as a social art. 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.

The Committee poses a Question on this website related to the topic. Typically, students enrolled in any accredited undergraduate architecture program or diploma in architecture program throughout the world are invited to submit a 500-word essay proposal in English responding to the Question.  This year, architecture students must team up with undergraduates from allied arts and social sciences programs and submit proposals in teams of two.



  1. All proposals must be submitted by a two-member team.
  2. Essays must be submitted in English.
  3. Both finalists will be required to provide proof of current registration in the form of copies of actual school transcripts. You are still eligible to compete if both of you were an undergraduate student on September 15, 2019, but one or both of you graduate before the awards are scheduled to be given.



There is a total prize of 35,000USD, minimum 9,000USD first prize.



1. One member of the team must be a current full-time registered student in an undergraduate architecture degree program or an undergraduate majoring in architecture in an accredited school of architecture worldwide.

2. Diploma in Architecture students who have not yet completed their Diploma are also eligible.

3. The other member of the team must be a current full-time registered student in a non-architecture undergraduate degree program and majoring in that program in an accredited school worldwide.  This could include urban studies, the social sciences, engineering, etc.

4. Both students names must appear on their proposal and essay and if awarded a prize, the prize is to be equally shared.



1. You are asked to include digital photographs of your two selected buildings with your essay.

2. The photographs should be at a minimum 500 pixels wide, and in .jpg format. No more than two photographs will be accepted.

3. The photographs must have been taken by one member of the team.

4. Photographs sourced on the internet will disqualify your entire submittal.

5. You are encouraged to include people in your photographs to indicate the building in use. The Readers are instructed NOT to add or detract points from their evaluation because of the quality of the photograph itself. To the contrary, one of the primary purposes of the essay format is to test your skill in describing a place or building in words, rather then pictures or drawings.

6. Use the photographs to continually review how good a job you have done in describing your selected building(s) in words. The Readers will do the same.



Judging for the essay competition is on a numeric system. The members of the BERKELEY PRIZE Committee are asked to evaluate each essay in terms of the following criteria:

  1. Does the Proposal address the Question?
  2. How creative, or creatively developed, is the Proposal?
  3. Would the Proposal be clear to a broad audience?
  4. How does the Proposal rank in terms of writing style?
  5. How socially significant is the Proposal?
  6. What is the potential for developing this Proposal into a strong essay?

Each criterion is given a score of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest). The top approximately 25 scoring Proposals become Semifinalists.




Click here to apply

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