Virginia Tech graduate Nicholas Coates of Gate City, Virginia, is the recipient of the prestigious 2015 SOM Prize, a $50,000 research and travel fellowship that enables one outstanding applicant the opportunity to travel in connection with carrying out in-depth research on a subject of their choosing, to meet with other professionals in the field, and to pursue study outside the realm of established patterns.
The SOM Foundation supports individuals with the highest design aspirations and enables them, through research and travel, to broaden their horizons and achieve excellence in their professional or academic careers.
For his research, Coates will travel to Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Japan, carrying out his winning proposal on the topic, “The Corner: A Marker of the New, A Memory of the Past.”
As he explained, “When articulated carefully, a corner forms an introduction to a new set of conditions: it expresses the dynamic moment, initiating a shift in perspective. Both from an urban spatial point of view and through the material of the building itself, an architect is always presented with an opportunity to direct a beautiful turn.”
Coates became interested in this topic while visiting Brion Cemetery in Italy during his fourth year studies abroad and sees the fellowship as an opportunity to, “tie together broader questions of movement, spatial sequencing, and memory.”
Coates received a bachelor's degree in architecture from Virginia Tech in May 2015 and was awarded the Phi Kappa Phi Medallion for being the top graduating senior from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. He was also the recipient of the Henry Adams AIA Medal and Certificate for his academic achievement, the Alpha Rho Chi Medal for outstanding leadership, and was a finalist for the highly competitive Pella Thesis Prize.
During his undergraduate career, Coates spent a semester at the Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, and a semester in Chicago in the office of von Weise Associates as part of the Chicago Studio, an interdisciplinary group of students embedded within firms in the city, striking a balance between practice and academia. That same year, he accompanied Dean Jack Davis to the American Institute of Architects Large Firm Roundtable in Chicago, representing Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design students in a national dialogue.
Recently, Coates assisted in teaching Inside Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech, a program that introduces architecture and design to high school students. After completing his travel fellowship, he plans to attend graduate school.