International work with 'leftover places' yields $10,000 cash, no strings attached

Topic: College of Architecture and Planning

October 1, 2008

Usually when advertisers promise $10,000 no strings attached, it's one of those work-at-home scams that is too good to be true.

For Wes Janz, Ball State University associate professor of architecture and humanitarian design finalist for the inaugural Curry Stone Design Prize, that is exactly what he won. The announcement, which was made at the IdeaFestival in Louisville, Ky. on Sept. 25, caught Janz by complete surprise.

"That someone finds enlightenment in my work is the most amazing of inspirations for me," he said. "I am honored to be in the company of the other four finalists - their work is important and beautiful, all in ways that are specific to the issues each has chosen to address, and in ways that are important to so many difficult lives being lived around the world."

Modeling itself on the Macarthur Fellows Program, the Curry Stone Design prize is a yearly international award that recognizes exceptional humanitarian design based on the merit of the ideas and the potential of bringing them to fruition. The prize purposely defines design in the broadest possible sense and invites new definitions that defy tradition and break boundaries. The winner received $100,000, while Janz and the other finalists received $10,000.

Janz's long-term dedication to his work caught the attention of Curry Stone officials. Over the years, he has visited squatter settlements in several countries, including the United States, India, Panama, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka and Argentina. His research with forgotten people, places and materials has allowed him to take students to visit people around the globe who erect entire communities from scrap materials.

His focus on this overlooked population has earned him accolades from his contemporaries. A colleague at the University of Minnesota hails Janz as a leader of a movement addressing "the needs of the billions of ill-housed people around the globe."

Those interested in learning more about Janz's research can visit the One Small Project Web site or make plans to purchase a copy of his forthcoming book "One Small Project," which is tentatively slated to be published in 2010.

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