Lands of time

Zimbabwean architect Thandi Loewenson awarded the 2024 Wheelwright Prize.

Harvard University Graduate School of Design named Thandi Loewenson as the winner of the 2024 Wheelwright Prize and the recipient of a $100 000 (R1,8 million) grant. The prize - a travelling fellowship - is awarded annually to talented early-career architects worldwide who are proposing exceptional itineraries for research and discovery.


Loewenson, who holds a PhD in Architectural Design from The Bartlett (University College London) and works as a Senior Tutor at the Royal College of Art, was awarded the prize for her proposal titled Black Papers: Beyond the Politics of Land, Towards African Policies of Earth & Air. Jurors for this year’s award included Chris Cornelius, K Michael Hays, Jennifer Newsom, John Peterson, Noura Al-Sayeh and GSD Dean Sarah Whiting. Loewenson’s project was selected over those of other finalists Meriem Chabani, Nathan Friedman, and Ryan Roark.


Loewenson’s project will examine how colonial capitalist systems of racialisation, dispossession and exploitation are co-constituted and endure across multiple, entangled earthly and airborne terrains. Her studies will include aerial techniques for surveying and prospecting, as well as the mining of ‘technology metal,’ minerals employed in networked devices that also underwrite a global system of digital dispossession.


The Black Papers aim to shape both policy discourse and public perception. Incorporating drawings, moving images, and performances as well as critical creative writing, they are designed to reach broad audiences through popular media including video, radio, and social platforms like WhatsApp.


‘The question of land, and its indelible link to African liberation and being, echoes across the continent as a central theme of liberation movements and the postcolonial governments that followed,’ says Loewenson. ‘Instead of solely engaging land as a site of struggle, this work situates land within a network of interconnected spaces, from layers deep within the Earth to its outermost atmospheric reaches.’


The Wheelwright Prize will fund two years of Loewenson’s research and travel. She plans to focus her work in seven African nations: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.



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