A school’s broader mission of the creation of knowledge should also encompass the reflection of excellence in the profession, recognition of great work that elevates the discipline.

A school’s broader mission of the creation of knowledge should also encompass the reflection of excellence in the profession, recognition of great work that elevates the discipline.

While a number of prestigious awards exist that reward excellence over time, UWM was eager to create a program that identified nascent greatness and focused on experimentation rather than confirmation of past accomplishments. Thus, working with the Marcus Corporation Foundation, a long-time supporter of University programs, the international Marcus Prize was created, to award individuals or practices on the trajectory to greatness, and honor architects at the beginning of their celebrity rather than those at the other end of their spectrum, where more traditional award programs are focused.

The prize provides $100,000 every two years, $50,000 as an award to the Marcus Prize winner and a further $50,000 to create a studio in Milwaukee run by the recipients in partnership with the faculty of the school.

Inevitably, there is risk involved in prediction – lifetime achievement awards are a little more predictable – but through risk comes the unexpected, the new perspective and an exposure to promising individuals whose contributions to emergent fields within architecture enrich the curricula and profession alike.

This year, the Dutch firm of MVRDV was selected as the first Marcus Prize winner by an international group of jurors. They are currently working with Professor Grace La and a selected group of students who are creating a major stir within the school and the city. MVRDV principals have visited Milwaukee several times during the semester, and the studios traveled to their Rotterdam office in spring.

The Marcus Prize has captured the imagination of the region so much that a new biannual urban design prize has been established to celebrate excellence in the urban realm worldwide. The success and the excitement of bringing the world’s best to Milwaukee has inspired another group of city leaders to provide funding for the “Urban Edge Award,” a new $50,000 prize that recognizes excellence in urban design and the ability of some individuals to create major, positive change within the public realm.

The award is offered biannually and is funded by the Wisconsin Preservation Trust and the law firm of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, both long-term supporters of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. The award will be used to identify an internationally known, cutting edge design professional who brings fresh, innovative and effective thinking to the realm of urban design. The Urban Edge Prize Winner will regularly visit Milwaukee during the spring 2007 semester and work with studios and classes on a pre-selected theme affecting the urban environment, focusing on specific sites and challenges in the area. The results of the work will be brought together in a weeklong symposium and exhibition for practitioners, city officials and everyone interested in improving the quality of urban design in the city.

Both the Marcus Prize and Urban Edge Prize offer the opportunity to reflect upon emerging excellence and infuse the UWM program with increasing energy and intellectual rigor. By celebrating the best in architectural thinking worldwide, a powerful link between practice and academia is fostered.