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, China, 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.

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:

2021 – Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa, Ensamble Studio
2019 – Tatiana Bilbao
2017 – Jeanne Gang
2015 – Joshua Ramus
2013 – Sou Fujimoto
2011 – Diébédo Francis Kéré
2010 – Alejandro Aravena
2007 – Frank Barkow, Barkow Leibinger
2005 – Winy Maas, MVRDV