Weitzman News

Posted September 21, 2021
  • MASS Design Group, African Leadership University, Kigali, Rwanda, 2021

    Photo: Iwan Baan courtesy MASS Design Group

  • MASS Design Group, The Gun Violence Memorial Project at National Building Museum, Washington, DC, 2021

    Photo: Elman Studio courtesy MASS Design Group

  • Community members mark a map with ideas to create and sustain a great city at a Minneapolis 2040 engagement event

    Photo: City of Minneapolis

  • Beikel José Rivas (MArch'22) and Xuezhu Zhao (MCP'22)

Weitzman to Honor MASS Design Group and the City of Minneapolis

As designers around the country confront climate change and social inequities in projects of every scale, Weitzman is recognizing two organizations who have embraced design as a vehicle for a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable environment. MASS Design Group, the nonprofit firm based in Boston and Kigali, Rwanda, that got its start building hospitals, will receive the 2021 Kanter Tritsch Medal in Architecture, and the City of Minneapolis will receive the 2021 Witte-Sakamoto Family Medal in City and Regional Planning for Minneapolis 2040, a comprehensive plan to guide the city’s growth. Two of only three professional honors bestowed by the School annually, they will be presented at a November 18 public celebration at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy. 

“MASS and Minneapolis 2040 remind us of the central role for design in overcoming seemingly intractable challenges like unequal access to jobs and housing, and mass incarceration,” says Frederick Steiner, dean and Paley Professor at Weitzman. “Our professions have a lot of work to do to see that entire communities aren’t left out of the design process.” 

The Kanter Tritsch Medal in Architecture was established in 2017 through a gift from Penn alumna Lori Kanter Tritsch (MArch’85), a member of the Board of Advisors at Weitzman, and her partner and fellow Penn alumnus William P. Lauder, who holds a bachelor of science in economics from the Wharton School and is a Penn trustee. The Medal honors an architect or firm that has changed the course of design history, with a particular focus on the areas of energy conservation, environmental quality, and/or diversity. 

“MASS is impressive for being a team of equals, a non-hierarchical group of architects who work as a nonprofit, which is rare in architecture,” says Winka Dubbeldam, Miller Professor and chair of architecture at Weitzman, founding partner at Archi-Tectonics, and chair of the jury. “However, their work in memorials, housing, and health facilities, to name a few, also stands out for design excellence, and their commitment to a climate-positive future is very inspirational.” 

“To receive the Kanter Tritsch award at this time, when the response from the design disciplines is crucial to enrich and elevate our daily lives is deeply moving, and deeply motivating,” says Michael P. Murphy, Jr. on behalf of MASS Design Group. “The spaces around us are infused with great power, they have the potential to dignify our lives, and yet can cause tremendous pain. To join a growing fellowship of others to ask how we can do more as designers, to improve the spaces we inhabit, to be accountable and creative in our profession, is where myself and my organization MASS have been hoping to collectively orient our futures. I have even more hope for this now. The Kanter Tritsch recognition is a fundamental way to help us achieve that broader collective vision and for that, I am deeply grateful.”

The Witte-Sakamoto Family Medal in City and Regional Planning was established by William Witte (C‘73, MCP‘75), an alumnus of the Weitzman School and member of the Board of Advisors at Weitzman, and his wife, Keiko Sakamoto, Esq. to recognize a firm, team, or professional for an exemplary plan that advances plan making in at least four of the following areas: social equity, environmental quality, design, public health, mobility, housing affordability, and economic development.

“The competition was really stiff this year. The jury looked at some terrific plans, and in the end, the Minneapolis 2040 plan resonated with all of us,” says Lisa Servon, the Kevin and Erica Penn Presidential Professor and chair of city and regional planning at Weitzman, and jury chair. “It ticked nearly all of the boxes and is well aligned with the values Bill and Keiko hope to highlight with this award.”

“We’re particularly honored that Penn elected to recognize the City’s work to highlight and address housing, climate, and transportation challenges in a manner that centers racial equity and justice,” says Andrea Brennan, director of community planning and economic development for the City of Minneapolis (CPED). “We’re excited by the opportunity this offers to broaden the discussion about race equity in the planning and design profession.”

Selected from a list of nominees submitted by Weitzman students, MASS Design Group and the City of Minneapolis join previous medalists Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (2018); A. Eugene Kohn (2019); Fourth Regional Plan, Regional Plan Association (2019); Peter Eisenman (2020); GreenPlan Philadelphia, City of Philadelphia (2020).

In concert with the professional medalists, the Weitzman School has selected two outstanding students entering their final year of study to receive a $50,000 scholarship each for the 2021-2022 Academic Year. The recipient of the 2021 Kanter Tritsch Prize in Energy and Architectural Innovation is Beikel José Rivas (MArch‘22). The recipient of the 2021 Witte-Sakamoto Family Prize in City and Regional Planning is Xuezhu Zhao (MCP‘22).

Additional jurors for the Weitzman awards were: For the Kanter Tritsch Prize: Winka Dubbeldam; Billie Faircloth, partner, KieranTimberlake, and adjunct professor, Weitzman; Vanessa Keith (MArch‘00), principal, Studio Teka, and lecturer, Weitzman; Brian Phillips (MArch‘96), principal, ISA - Interface Studio Architects LLC, and lecturer, Weitzman; Fritz Steiner; and Lori Kanter Tritsch. For the Kanter Tritsch Medal: Cynthia Davidson, executive director and editor, Anyone Corporation; Mark Gardner (MArch‘00), member, Weitzman Board of Advisors, and principal, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects; Simon Kim, associate professor of architecture, Weitzman, director, Immersive Kinematics Lab, and principal, Ibanez Kim; Fritz Steiner; and Lori Kanter Tritsch. For the Witte-Sakamoto Family Prize: Eugenie L. Birch, Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education, Weitzman; Lance Freeman, professor in the Urban Planning Program, Columbia GSAPP; Lisa Servon; Fritz Steiner; and Bill Witte, chairman and CEO, Related California, member, Weitzman Board of Advisors. For the Witte-Sakamoto Family Medal: Vincent Reina, associate professor of city and regional planning, Weitzman; Eleanor Sharpe (MCP‘99), executive director, City of Philadelphia Planning Commission; Fritz Steiner; and Bill Witte.

Learn more about the winners, past and present, on the Weitzman Awards website.

The awards ceremony will take place on Thursday, November 18, 5:30pm at the Kleinman Energy Forum, Fisher Fine Arts Library, 220 South 34 Street, Philadelphia.