International architecture firm Rafael Viñoly Architects (RVA) recently announced the recipients of four independent research fellowships for 2009, part of the firm's Architectural Training and Research Programs. Each of the four international research teams will explore architecture's social impacts to determine how the profession can better address the needs of communities under various types of stress.

As part of the grant awards, RVA is providing $160,000 in cash stipends and in-kind support that includes design, engineering, graphic, and modeling services. Each team is comprised of academics, as well as practitioners, who will employ environmental psychology, anthropology, documentary photography, architecture, and urban planning research methods in analyzing the performance of buildings and urban projects under real-world conditions. When complete, research teams will develop and propose practical real-world solutions.

"These four projects get at the essence of the question behind this year's grant round: How can architecture promote livable settlements in the face of environmental stress, global poverty, and social turbulence?" program director Ned Kaufman said in the project selection announcement.

The 2009 research projects and fellows are:

  • The Transformation of Squatter Settlements Into Urban Neighborhoods—Researchers from Mexico: Richard De Pirro with Ana Rita García Lascuráin, co-founders of Mexico City-based De Pirro and García Lascuráin Architects (DGL); Mayra Gamboa and Juan Carlos Zavala, also of DGL.

  • Investigation of Relief Efforts After the 2004 Tsunami in the Worst-Hit Region of Aceh, Indonesia, and Propose Guidelines for Future Efforts—Researchers from Melbourne, Australia: David O'Brien, design and construction lecturer, University of Melbourne department of Architecture, Building, and Planning; and K. Iftekhar Ahmed.

  • A Critique of the Performance of Large-Scale Urban Projects in Bogotá, Colombia—Researchers from Grenoble, France: Nicolas Tixier, faculty member of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture and researcher at the National Sound Space and Urban Environment Research Center; with Ida Assefa, Ricardo Atienza, Camilo Cifuentes,and Celine Rouchy.

  • Housing in China, Exploring Steps Toward a Solution—Researchers: Architect and photographer Hai Zhang of New York City; with Marcel Baumler, a Shanghai-based planner and architect Guochuan Feng of Shenzhen, China. Research fellows will visit RVA's New York City office to exchange ideas as their projects proceed. RVA will publish each team's work in 2010 in a book and also will host a conference highlighting the results of the projects. To read complete descriptions of each team's research project visit Select team member biographies are available as well.