Beijing-based architect Tiantian Xu has been awarded the 2023 Marcus Prize in Architecture, administered by the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The prize, which recognizes emerging global talents, is funded by the Marcus Corporation Foundation. It provides a $100,000 award – half to the winner and the other half to bring Xu to Milwaukee to teach a spring 2024 studio at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning that will focus on a specific topic affecting the city.
The Marcus Prize honors architects for their outstanding work to date as well as their promise of future greatness.
“I’m so thrilled for Tiantian Xu and UWM students and faculty for this great exchange of cultures and experience across oceans and great plains,” said juror Kai-Uwe Bergmann of the international firm Bjarke Ingels Group. “I’m hoping that the students and Tiantian Xu will create visions that will serve Milwaukee well as it looks towards its future.”
Beside Bergmann, the jury included David Marcus, chairman of the Marcus Corporation; Débora Mesa, principal at Ensamble Studio in Madrid and the 2021 Marcus Prize winner; Samantha Schuermann, UWM assistant professor of architecture; and Mo Zell, dean of UWM’s College of the Arts and Architecture.
Xu, the 10th Marcus Prize awardee since the award’s inception in 2005, is the founding principal of DnA _Design and Architecture. Her firm’s architectural projects have engaged in the economic revitalizing process in rural China, using a holistic approach described as “architectural acupuncture.”
Her designs are respectful of the landscapes they are built on, but also intend to revive under-populated locales that have a variety of topographies, cultures and climates.
For example, in southern China’s Jinyun County, years of mining natural stone on the semi-arid land has left over 3,000 small, abandoned quarries. To attract tourists to the area, Xu has carved dramatic, public-friendly spaces into the caverns nestled within rock formations, taking cues from indigenous knowledge during the process.
Growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, Xu experienced the transition of Chinese cities from traditional to modern. During that time, China’s rural populations began to pour into cities seeking new opportunities, leaving the countryside with unattended farmland and run-down houses. Xu was influenced by the desire to help these “left-behind” communities.
Xu earned her bachelor’s degree in architecture from Tsinghua University in Beijing and her master’s degree in architecture-urban design from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
She has received numerous awards including the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture 2023 and the Berlin Art Prize / Kunstpreis Berlin- Architecture 2023. In 2020, she was appointed an honorary fellow of American Institute of Architects.