Millennials have held our attention for so long that it might seem hard to look past them. Yet the cohort that follows, Generation Z, is poised to supplant Millennials in numbers and, quite possibly, in influence. Gen Z now accounts for about a quarter of the total U.S. population, and the oldest turn 21 this year. These kids—who increasingly aren’t kids—have already started college. Soon, they’ll be entering graduate architecture programs and internships, as bona fide contributors to the discipline.
So what can we expect of Gen Z? Answering that question is one motivation for ARCHITECT’s new award program, the Studio Prize, which celebrates excellence in studio curricula and in the student work that results. Think of it as a kind of crystal ball, offering glimpses of architecture’s future.
Like the Millennials before them, there’s no end of data or speculation about Gen Z. Market researchers are hungrily profiling the group, which by 2020 will account for 40 percent of consumers. The generational archetype has a super-short attention span (8 seconds, on average); worries about money (having grown up during the Great Recession); and rejects conventions of race, career, faith, sexuality, and gender (74 percent support equal rights for transgender people).
More to our point, the numbers indicate that they are entrepreneurial (72 percent want to start a business) and care about the environment (76 percent are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet). They habitually communicate with images (e.g., Instagram, Snapchat) and symbols (emoticons, emojis); they think in four dimensions (gaming, 360-degree video); and, of course, they are true digital natives, having never really known a world without social media, streaming media, and smartphones.
Given these characteristics, it’s fascinating to imagine the kind of architecture Gen Z will create. The Studio Prize provides a platform for their ideas. Given that studio courses are collaborative, multigenerational efforts, the Studio Prize also is designed to recognize their professors and schools, to spread best practices from university to university, and to propel innovations from the academy into practice.
Here’s how it will work: ARCHITECT invites faculty and administrators at NAAB-accredited programs to submit studio courses for judging. The entries must include the project brief, underlying research, and representative examples of student work. Once the jury has convened and made its decisions, ARCHITECT will feature the winners in the September 2016 issue, online, and in social media.
As an added incentive, the program’s sponsor, Sloan, is generously making available $20,000 in prize money. The jury will bestow the money, at its discretion, to students whose work appears as part of the submissions for winning studio courses. There will be an additional $5,000 purse for the Studio Prize’s Sloan Award, which recognizes those studios with a focus on sustainability and water conservation.
The inaugural Studio Prize jury comprises Jeanne Gang, FAIA, Jimenez Lai and Bernard Tschumi, FAIA. The entry deadline is June 17 [Update: The deadline has been extended to June 24], the registration fee $45. If you teach a studio, submit it at studioprize.com. If you don’t teach, please help spread the word. The future will be here before we know it.
To register, and for more details about the Studio Prize, visit www.studioprize.com.