Win a Total Prize of $35,000 in the Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Design Excellence Essay Competition 2022

Are you a current full-time registered student in an undergraduate architecture degree program or undergraduate majoring in architecture in accredited schools of architecture worldwide?

Then submit an essay entry in the Berkeley Undergraduate Prize to Design Excellence Essay Competition 2022 for a chance at a cash prize of $35,000.

Application Deadline: November 1 2021


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  • here is a total prize of 35,000USD, minimum 8,500USD first prize.  The remaining purse is to be allocated at the discretion of the Jury.


Eligibility / Teams

  • The competition is open to all current full-time registered students in an undergraduate architecture degree program or undergraduates majoring in architecture in accredited schools of architecture worldwide. Diploma in Architecture students who have not yet completed their Diploma are also eligible.
  • This year’s special team opportunity urges and recommends that you team with a full-time undergraduate social sciences student at your college or university or equally-accredited college or university in your local community in which you reside. Two students maximum may collaborate. Both of their names must appear on their Proposal and potential Essay.  If awarded a prize, the prize is to be equally shared. 
  • If you are an undergraduate architecture student who wishes to submit a Proposal and potential Essay without the equal work of a social science team member, you are permitted to do so and submit as an individual.  This year, however, you are not permitted to team with another architecture student.
  • Essays must be submitted in English.
  • 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 you were an undergraduate student on September 15, 2021, but graduate before the awards are scheduled to be given.

Free Worksheet and Checklist

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Application Instructions

Steps to Enter

  • Meet the Eligibility Requirements.
  • Write a 500-word Proposal for a potential Essay on this year’s Essay Question, as posted.
  • Provide two photographs as described below.
  • Submit the Proposal and photographs online.

Photograph Requirements

This year you are asked to include TWO digital photographs that you have copied from any of this year’s posted topic Resources or similar resources that have influenced your Proposal. One of the photographs should help support the argument you make in your Proposal as to an issue you believe needs to be addressed in providing housing for the disadvantaged. The other photograph should help support the argument you make for the proposed response. A brief caption – 50 words maximum – should accompany the photograph telling us what the photo represents and the source of the photograph.  Please post the photograph at a minimum 500 pixels wide, and in .jpg format. No more than two photographs will be accepted.


NOTE: The Readers are instructed not to add or detract points from their evaluation because of the quality of the photograph itself, nor whether it is the students’ work or an archival photograph. The Readers, however, will evaluate how the photographs help support the argument you have made in your Proposal.

You (and your teammate if you have one) will be asked to complete a short registration form which will not be seen by members of the Berkeley Prize Committee or Jury.

Register Here

About the Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Design Excellence Essay Competition

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. 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.  Qualified students may also team up with undergraduates from allied arts and social sciences programs and submit proposals in teams of two.

From the pool of essay proposals received, approximately 25-28 are selected by the Prize Committee as particularly promising. The selected student teams become Semifinalists. These Semifinalists are invited to submit a 2,500-word essay, again in English, expanding on their proposals. A group of readers, composed of the Prize Committee members selects five-to-eight of the best essays and sends these Finalist essays to a jury of international academics and architects to select the winners.

At the conclusion of the Essay Competition submittals, all Semifinalists are also invited to submit a proposal for a BERKELEY PRIZE summer Fellowship. This year, the opportunity is a Community Service Fellowship. Details for this Fellowship, now in its second year, will be announced in early 2022.

Discover more opportunities from the University of California.

Key Dates and Order of Program


  • September 15, 2021 Launch of 2022 Essay Competition.
  • November 1, 2021 (Stage One) 500-word essay proposal due.
  • Mid-December, 2021 Essay Semifinalists announced.
  • February 1, 2022 (Stage Two) Essay Semifinalists’ 2,500-word essays due.
  • February 8, 2022 Launch of Community Service Fellowship Competition for Essay Semifinalists.
  • Early-March, 2022 Essay Finalists announced.
  • March 12, 2022 Community Service Fellowship proposals due.
  • Mid-April, 2022 Essay winners and Community Service Fellowship winners announced.

Judging Criteria

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:

  • Does the Proposal address the Question?
  • How creative, or creatively developed, is the Proposal?
  • Would the Proposal be clear to a broad audience?
  • How does the Proposal rank in terms of writing style?
  • How socially significant is the Proposal?
  • 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 approximately 25-28 top-scoring Proposals become Semifinalists, who will be offered the opportunity to write a 2500-word Essay based on the Proposal..


You have been asked to design a housing project for the disadvantaged in your  local community. What do you need to know to ensure that your design will both reflect the lives and aspirations of those for whom you design and for the project to be a proud, long-term addition to the fabric of your community?

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