Germane Barnes wins Wheelwright Prize 2021 at Harvard GSD

Germane Barnes has been awarded the 2021 Wheelwright Prize, with a research thesis exploring the ‘non-white contribution to Roman and Italian architecture'

Uneasy chair project featuring crown top by germane barnes
Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears a Crown.
(Image credit: Blair Reid Jr)

Miami-based architect Germane Barnes has won the prestigious Harvard Graduate School of Design’s 2021 Wheelwright Prize. The architectural honour has been awarded to support Chicago-born Barnes' research proposal Anatomical Transformations in Classical Architecture, ‘an examination of classical Roman and Italian architecture through contributions of the African Diaspora.'

The Wheelwright Prize is a grant to ‘support investigative approaches to contemporary architecture', and has an emphasis on research and an international approach. Barnes' work is a perfect fit, exploring Roman and Italian architecture – but from the point of view of non-white contributors, and in particular the role of the African Diaspora. The announcement comes with a prize of 100,000 USD towards Barnes' travel and expenses, while doing his research.

Germane Barnes architect

Germane Barnes has won the 2021 Wheelwright Prize

(Image credit: TBC)

‘The past year has shown the world that marginalised communities offer more than a cursory look, but a thorough excavation of their contributions and legacies,' says Barnes. ‘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.' 

This Prize will allow him to pave the way in original and in-depth research that will bring in new and previously unrecognised voices in architectural history, something the school recognised. ‘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 Harvard GSD’s dean and Josep Lluís Sert professor of architecture Sarah M. Whiting.

Barnes was selected among four finalists and more than 150 applicants. He is set to embark upon his research project this summer.

Black and white photograph of Barnes Thesis

Barnes Thesis Photo 2 By Jennifer Bonner

(Image credit: Jennifer Bonner)

Dark Mode exhibition project

Dark Mode. Photography: Blair Reid Jr

(Image credit: Blair Reid Jr)

germane barnes sacred stoops project with chairs shot

Sacred Stoops. Photography: Raw

(Image credit: Raw)

The A Spectrum Of Blackness exhibition

A Spectrum Of Blackness. Photography: MoMA

(Image credit: MoMA)

Pop Up Porch installation seen at night

Pop Up Porch. Photography: Germane Barnes

(Image credit: Germane Barnes)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).