Rice University: Architecture’s Brittany Utting wins top honor for ‘Deep Geologies’

Brittany Utting, an assistant professor of architecture, has won the 2022 Course Development Prize in Architecture, Climate Change and Society for her Rice Architecture studio on the relationship between resource extraction and the built environment in Texas.

Brittany Utting
Brittany Utting
Her studio, “Deep Geologies: Material Encounters in Texas,” was one of five to win the top award from Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).

Utting, who joined Rice Architecture in 2019, is a licensed architect who co-directs the research and design practice HOME-OFFICE, which focuses on the relationship between architecture, materials and the environment. She is also working on a book that examines how concepts of care affect the social and political dimensions of architecture.

Extending this line of inquiry, her Rice studio investigates the impact of petrochemical and other extraction industries on human bodies, landscapes and climates.

“Students are researching such sites as the oil fields of the Permian Basin in West Texas and limestone quarries on the Edwards Plateau and Aquifer,” Utting said. “They are using geographic information systems to document infrastructures, settlements, geophysical formations and ecological conditions. Ultimately, the students will propose buildings and environments that help shape a post-carbon future.”

The course syllabus, available online, notes that each student is responsible for the architectural design of an “Institute for Terrestrial Care” that “reimagines the built environment’s entanglement with its geological and material origins.” As Utting notes in the syllabus, the studio is asking fundamental questions about “how the built world can more radically engage with agendas for environmental justice and geological repair.”

Utting said the award that accompanies the prize will go toward funding continued study of sites of extraction throughout Texas, establishing an atlas of environmental concerns and corresponding architectural ideas for such strategies as industrial decommissioning and ecological remediation. “This is the first iteration of the course, and I hope to continue to develop it in the future,” she said.

“This is a well-deserved honor for Professor Utting and her incredibly timely project on environmental care in Texas and, indeed, the world,” said Igor Marjanović, the William Ward Watkin Dean of Rice Architecture. “Her course bridges local and global environmental concerns, utilizing architectural drawing to visualize a whole new decarbonized future, a concern not only for Rice Architecture, but for all schools of architecture globally.”

The honorees, including teams from Howard University, California College of the Arts, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee/University of Colorado-Denver and the University of Toledo, will present at the ACSA National Conference Los Angeles in March.

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