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Architect Teddy Cruz Wins $100,000 Vilcek Prize

The Vilcek Foundation announced today the winners of its 2018 prizes in the arts and humanities. Focusing on the field of architecture, this year’s $100,000 award went to Teddy Cruz, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and the director of design at Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman.

“The social, political, and cultural landscape of America has been shaped by generations of immigrant contributions,” Marica Vilcek, cofounder and vice chairman of the Vilcek Foundation, said. “With the Vilcek Prizes in Architecture, we are pleased to recognize the many ways in which they have shaped its physical landscape as well—through bold, original designs, and through research that challenges the status quo, both in the building arts and in society.”

Born in Guatemala, Cruz immigrated to California when he was twenty years old. The architect recalls being struck by both the similarities and the differences between the cities of San Diego and Tijuana, sparking his interest in using the tools and framework of architecture and urban planning to redefine the concepts of borders, citizenship, and community. Among his most recent projects completed with his partner Fonna Forman, are community spaces that host a variety of arts and educational programming on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

“Today, we must expose rather than mask the institutional mechanisms driving uneven urban development,” Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman wrote in the 2016 summer issue of Artforum. “Such a revelation requires a corresponding expansion of our understanding of the scope of architecture itself—can we design human rights, for example? Can social justice become an architectural protocol? In other words, the most important materials with which architects must learn to work are not steel and concrete but critical knowledge of the underlying conditions that produce today’s urban crises.”

The Vilcek foundation also announced that Mona Ghandi, James Leng, and Jing Liu are the recipients of prizes for creative promise, which are granted to younger immigrants who have demonstrated exceptional promise early in their careers. Each prize includes a $50,000 cash award.

Established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia, the Vilcek Foundation aims to honor the contributions of immigrants to the United States and to foster appreciation of the arts and sciences. The foundation awards prizes annually to prominent immigrant biomedical scientists and artists working in the disciplines of contemporary music, culinary arts, dance, design, fashion, film, fine arts, literature, music, and theater.