A photograph of Wheelwright Prize winner Germane Barnes. Germane is wearing a blue shirt and standing on a bridge overlooking a river

Harvard GSD names Germane Barnes winner of the 2021 Wheelwright Prize

May 10, 2021 — Harvard University Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD) is pleased to name Germane Barnes the winner of the 2021 Wheelwright Prize, a grant to support investigative approaches to contemporary architecture, with an emphasis on globally minded research. With his winning proposal Anatomical Transformations in Classical Architecture, Barnes will examine Roman and Italian architecture through the lens of non-white constructors, studying how spaces have been transformed through the material contributions of the African Diaspora while creating new architectural possibilities that emerge within investigations of Blackness. As with past Wheelwright winners, the 100,000 USD prize is intended to fund two years of Barnes’s research and travel.

Barnes will commence his research project this summer, with archival research geared toward generating an index of the portico typology throughout Italy and Northern Africa, as well as maps that show the spatial mobility of the porch and the portico across continents and cultures. Central to Barnes’s proposal is the idea that porch-as-portico may offer a new frame on the spatial and conceptual terrain through which one finds inventions of race, identity, and the built environment.

To be selected as the winner of this year’s Wheelwright Prize provides credibility that Blackness is a viable and critical discourse, and strengthens my resolve and confidence in my professional trajectory.

Germane Barnes

“The past year has shown the world that marginalized communities offer more than a cursory look, but a thorough excavation of their contributions and legacies,” Barnes says. “As a Black architect I have struggled with the absence of my identity in the profession, and there have been moments where I have questioned my talent and ideologies because they failed to gain recognition in prominent architecture circles. To believe that the only way to measure success is acceptance was a thought I had to exterminate. I am fortunate to have a support system that challenges these systems of exclusion because it gives importance and agency to Black spatial investigations. To be selected as the winner of this year’s Wheelwright Prize provides credibility that Blackness is a viable and critical discourse, and strengthens my resolve and confidence in my professional trajectory. My hope is that my win and the work that follows it will be a necessary accelerant to provide more opportunities and exposure to Black practitioners and researchers.”

“Harvard GSD is proud and honored to award the 2021 Wheelwright Prize to Germane Barnes for a research proposal that is at once sweeping and nuanced,” says Sarah M. Whiting, Harvard GSD’s Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture. “His focus on the classical origins of a familiar type—the porch—is both potently precise and generously speculative. Importantly, Barnes positions his research in terms of overlooked or underacknowledged connections and contributions, focusing upon a specific architectural question and, from there, suggesting a constellation of revelations. Barnes delivers the specificity, the technical skill, the innovation, and the passion that promise to make his project significant both for architecture as a discipline and for architectural culture writ large.”

Previous Work

A photograph of an installation by Germane Barnes, titled "Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears a Crown." The photograph shows a series of chairs that Barnes designed, offering a celebration of Black hair and Black architecture, and a reflection on the porch as a distinctly Black architectural aesthetic

Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears a Crown

Barnes’s Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears a Crown (2020) offers a celebration of Black hair and Black architecture, and a reflection on the porch as a distinctly Black architectural aesthetic.

Outdoor exhibition with woman sitting inside pavilion.

Pop-Up Porch

Germane Barnes’s “Pop-Up Porch” (2019) is a converted 8’ x 20’ container with motor operated panels that allow spatial occupation.

Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America

A scene from Barnes’s work in the MoMA exhibition “Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America.” Image courtesy MoMA.

Architecture exhibition with building models on a table.

Dark Mode

Germane Barnes’s “Dark Mode” (2018) is an exhibition that proposes multiple scenarios of Black production at varying scales by subverting the relationship of the figure and the figure ground. Traditional Black rituals are rendered white, situated within a site-specific landscape, rendered Black, providing new opportunities for legibility. A catalogue of terms, henceforth referred to as gestures, in conjunction with locations throughout Miami, henceforth referred to as positions, reveal glimpses of architecture’s social and political influence. Photo by Blair Reid.

2021 Wheelwright Prize: Jury and Finalists

The 2021 Wheelwright Prize is juried by: David Brown, Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Architecture; David Hartt, Carrafiell Assistant Professor in Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design; Mark Lee, Chair of the Department of Architecture at Harvard GSD; Megan Panzano, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Program Director of Undergraduate Architecture Studies at Harvard GSD; Sumayya Vally, founder and principal of Counterspace Studio; and Sarah M. Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture at Harvard GSD.

Barnes was among four remarkable finalists selected from more than 150 applicants, hailing from 45 countries. The 2021 Wheelwright Prize jury commends finalists Luis Berríos-Negrón, Iulia Statica, and Catty Dan Zhang for their promising research proposals and presentations.

Left to right: Germane Barnes, Luis Berríos-Negrón, Iulia Statica, and Catty Dan Zhang.


Barnes follows 2020 Wheelwright Prize winner Daniel Fernández Pascual, whose Wheelwright project Being Shellfish: The Architecture of Intertidal Cohabitation is in its travel-research phase.

Now in its ninth cycle, the Wheelwright Prize is an open international competition that awards 100,000 USD to a talented early-career architect to support expansive, intensive design research. The annual prize is dedicated to fostering innovative, boundary-driving architectural research that is informed by cross-cultural engagement, and that shows potential to make a significant impact on architectural discourse. Previous winners have presented diverse research proposals, including studies of kitchen typologies around the world; the architecture and culture of greenhouses; and the potential of seaweed, shellfish, and the intertidal zone to advance architectural knowledge and material futures.