Gautam Thakkar (M.Arch ’19) Wins First Place, Sai Prateek Narayan (MUD ’19) Honorable Mention in The Future of My City Graduate Student Competition


The School of Architecture congratulates recent graduate Gautam Jagdish Thakkar (M.Arch ’19) for winning one of two first place prizes in The Future of My City German/US graduate student competition for his project “Vacancy as Opportunity, Decentralized Bolo – Wilkinsburg, PA, USA.” Thakkar’s project, which developed out of a Master of Urban Design studio he participated in, studied urban decline in Wilkinsburg and looked at Community Forge and co-operative models as powerful tools to revitalize the borough. Both winners of the first prize were awarded trips to the U.S. and Germany. Alumnus Sai Prateek Narayan Ramachandran (MUD ‘19) also received an honorable mention in the competition for his project “Water Marks, Micro-Urban Hydrophilic Spaces for Water Advocacy and Awareness in Pittsburgh.”

For the competition, students were invited to develop innovative solutions to urban, economic, and socio-cultural challenges in their regions. From the twenty projects submitted by German, American, and transatlantic teams, the seven members of the independent, international jury of experts – which included Donald Carter, former Director of the Remaking Cities Institute as jury chair, and Associate Professor Stefan Gruber as jury member – selected the winners. Teams included students and experts from Germany’s Ruhr area as well as the United States’ Rust Belt region. Two first prizes, a second and a third prize, in addition to four honorable mentions were awarded.

Read the full press release here.

Awarded SoA Projects


First Place
Vacancy as Opportunity, Decentralized Bolo
Gautam Jagdish Thakkar

The goal of the project is to capitalize on vacancy as a resource, to establish agency for the people to change their built environment through design and to initiate a co-operative movement leveraging skill-sets to establish an alternative way of living that can address the wicked problems in postindustrial cities. The project approaches issues in Wilkinsburg through the perspective of Community Forge, a community initiative, borrowing its goals to build a co-operative model. The project functions in two spheres – one is where it envisages how vacant buildings and vacant lots can be appropriated by the people to adapt to their needs. Secondly, it tries to create an inventory of vacant houses and lots with a detailed data set that is put together as an interactive online map that can be used by the community to understand the building stock available at hand.


Honorable Mention
Water Marks, Micro-Urban Hydrophilic Spaces for Water Advocacy and Awareness in Pittsburgh
Sai Prateek Narayan Ramachandran

A myriad of problems have caused water to become one of the most rarefied and contested natural resources. Due to our apathetic consumerist behavior, we have become desensitized to nature and oblivious to the rarity of water, the one resource-based commons that is most intimately tied with every living being on this planet. This destruction of the hydro-social cycle gives an opportunity for urban designers to produce collaborative spaces for the state and public to harmonize and share knowledge on our natural resources, even reactivate public spaces around this resource to increase visibility and knowledge of its infrastructure, encouraging its preservation as a public good. When considering our natural resources, we should bolster the relationship between the state and civic spheres to work towards the access and treatment of resources through place-making that stresses partnership and kindles advocacy.

About the The Future of My City Competition

The Future of My City was developed by the New York Liaison Office of the University Alliance Ruhr in cooperation with the German American Chamber of Commerce New York and is part of the Year of German-American friendship, an initiative of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany to promote transatlantic relations. The aim of the project is to foster intercultural exchange of students from both regions as well as the development of new ideas solving common challenges. The project is supported by the Federal Foreign Office, the Goethe Institute, and the Federation of German Industries (BDI).