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Travel Reports: The Deborah J. Norden Fund

Every year since 1995, The Deborah J. Norden Fund, established in memory of architect and arts administrator Deborah Norden, underwrites worthy research projects proposed by passionate and curious students of architecture, architectural history, and urban studies. Now in its 20th year, the fund has enabled more than twenty-five fascinating independent projects that have explored topics and locales around the world—slum redevelopment programs in Mumbai, India; the social impact of new architecture and planning interventions in Medellín, Colombia; the insertion of built form into fragile ecosystems in Australia; and the stereotomy of complex surfaces in French Baroque architecture, among many others.

While the topics of the projects vary a great deal from year to year, the intentions of the fund remain constant. Most practically, the Norden Fund enables students and recent graduates to experience firsthand those structures, communities, or monuments that inspire them, and offers a means of bypassing the standard circuit of grant applications that impede untested talent from entering the realm of juried competition. But at its core, in the words of Deborah Norden’s sister, Linda Norden, the objective of the fund is “to emphasize the relationship between architecture and life” by supporting architects who are “dedicated to [investigating the] aesthetic and structural decisions that inform the day-to-day life of whoever happens to reside or work or play or simply pass through the structure under consideration.” In this feature, we highlight the work of past Norden Fund grantees through essays, photographs, and sketches from the winners themselves.

The 2015 recipient of the Norden Fund grant is Ylan Vo for Ecologies of War and Recovery: A Case Study in Vietnam’s A Luoi Valley, who will document the A Luoi Valley as an example of the post-conflict landscape of Vietnam with particular emphasis on the ecological and social conditions surrounding the toxic Agent Orange hotspots that mark the valley.

More information is available on the Norden Fund competition pageTravel Reports, a publication celebrating the first ten years of the Norden Fund program, is available for purchase here.

The first iteration of this ongoing feature was published on March 4, 2013, and was most recently updated January 21, 2015. More travel reports will continue to be added.