Standing Out: Architecture Alums Receive Award for Sustainable House Design



By Thaddeus Mast
A model of Mae Smith and Keith Wiley’s design

In a cozy São Paulo architecture studio more than 5,200 miles away from Chicago, two recent Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture graduates are celebrating: They recently learned they have received the Schiff Foundation Fellowship for Architecture from the Art Institute of Chicago for a project they had completed last spring. 

Mae Smith (B.ARCH ’22) and Keith Wiley (B.ARCH ’22) spent months on their project: “Rethinking Nature, Reassembling Matter: São Paulo House.” Wiley says that “the design investigates how construction technologies can inform sustainable ways of living.”

“We were very committed to this project,” Smith says. The two credited Victor A. Morgenstern Family Visiting Chair in Architecture Gustavo Utrabo, a São Paulo-based architect, as their mentor—so much so that after graduation, they are spending six months working in Utrabo’s office. 

As Smith and Wiley were wrapping up projects and studying for their finals in May, they were suddenly asked to consolidate a semester-long project into an eight-page document: College of Architecture faculty had selected the team, along with four others, to represent the school as finalists for the Schiff. The annual $15,000 award, established in 1988, supports “the work of Chicago-area students of architectural design and criticism.” Although the University of Illinois Chicago and the School of the Art Institute also submitted five groups of undergraduate and graduate students, Smith and Wiley’s São Paulo project stood out to the jury, composed of successful architects from across the country.

At Utrabo’s office, the pair continue to work on integrating sustainability into construction projects in Brazil, from the banks of the Amazon River to the neighborhoods of São Paulo. After finishing their work with Utrabo, they plan to return to Chicago and work at local architecture studios.

Photo: A model of “Rethinking Nature, Reassembling Matter: São Paulo House.”