School of Architecture & Urban Planning awards 2021 Marcus Prize to innovative architectural duo

Ensamble Studio, with offices in Madrid and Boston, is the winner of the 2021 Marcus Prize, a renowned achievement in international architecture that includes a $100,000 award and a supported design studio for students in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at UW-Milwaukee. Architects Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa lead Ensamble Studio, which was founded in 2000 and focuses on embedding research and experimentation in every project.

Through the vision and support of the Marcus Corporation Foundation, the School of Architecture and Urban Planning accepts biennial nominations for the Marcus Prize. Ensamble Studio was selected from a pool of accomplished nominees from 19 countries and five continents.

“Ensamble’s name, processes and practice reflect the extraordinary times we’re living in,” said Lesley Lokko, 2021 Marcus Prize juror. “The combination of an outstanding firm and an outstanding prize bodes well for the future of all our built environment professions, not just architecture.”

García-Abril and Mesa will lead a sponsored studio for students at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning in fall 2022. “Our vision of architectural practice is one where enthusiasm meets perseverance, imagination meets rigor and leadership meets teamwork,” said García-Abril and Mesa. “This is what we offer to our collaborators, clients and students through our own example.” 

About the Marcus Prize

The Marcus Prize was established in 2005 as a biennial, international architecture award that honors emerging architects for their outstanding work to date, as well as recognizing the promise of their future contributions to the field of architecture.

The $100,000 prize provides $50,000 to the winner and a further $50,000 to lead a design studio in collaboration with faculty in the School of Architecture & Urban Planning. In addition to the award itself, the Marcus Corporation Foundation provides financial support to host the selection jury and to bring the awardees to Milwaukee for the studio.

“We at the Marcus Corporation Foundation are proud to support the important work of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture & Urban Planning through the Marcus Prize,” said David Marcus, chairman of the Marcus Corporation Foundation. “The opportunity to identify and bring in so many talented architects over the years to work with the students has been truly unique. The impact of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture & Urban Planning’s students on the architectural landscape in our city and region has been remarkable.”

The esteemed 2021 Marcus Prize jury included 2019 Marcus Prize recipient Tatiana Bilbao, founder of Mexico City-based Tatiana Bilbao Estudio. Bilbao was joined by David Brown, artistic director of the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial, and Lesley Lokko, founder and director of the African Futures Institute. David Marcus, chairman of the Marcus Corporation Foundation, and Robert Greenstreet, dean emeritus of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at UW-Milwaukee, also served as jurors.

Past Marcus Prize winners include:

  • 2019 – Tatiana Bilbao
  • 2017 – Jeanne Gang
  • 2015 – Joshua Ramus
  • 2013 – Sou Fujimoto
  • 2011 – Diébédo Francis Kéré
  • 2010 – Alejandro Aravena
  • 2007 – Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger, Barkow Leibinger
  • 2005 – Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries, MVRDV

About Ensamble Studio

Ensamble Studio is a cross-functional team founded in 2000 and led by architects Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa. Balancing imagination and reality, art and science, their work innovates typologies, technologies and methodologies to address issues as diverse as the construction of the landscape or the prefabrication of the house. From their early works – SGAE Headquarters, Hemeroscopium House or The Truffle in Spain – to their most recent – Ensamble Fabrica in Madrid and Ca’n Terra in Menorca, Spain – every project makes space for experimentation aiming to advance their field. 

Currently, through their startup WoHo, the duo is invested in increasing the quality of architecture while making it more affordable by integrating offsite technologies. Their new research and fabrication facility in Madrid, Ensamble Fabrica, has been built to support this endeavor. García-Abril and Mesa are committed to sharing ideas and cultivating synergies between professional and academic worlds through teaching, lecturing and researching. Mesa is the Ventulett Chair in Architectural Design at Georgia Tech, and García-Abril is a professor at MIT, where in 2012 they co-founded the POPlab – Prototypes of Prefabrication Laboratory.