At a very young age, Nicholas Lorenzen ‘23 found his love for architecture, and has been building and creating new and innovative projects ever since. In May 2021, Lorenzen took the first place prize in the 39th Annual Chicago Architecture Center’s Newhouse Award at only 16 years old.
The architecture and design competition’s prompt was to design a multi-family home that was not only affordable, but also environmentally sustainable. The goal of the project was to improve the quality of life on the South and West sides of Chicago. In a span of three to four months, Lorenzen created a model of a house built out of shipping containers with a rooftop garden that allows residents to grow their own food. Another factor of his victory were the essays he submitted explaining his idea. His intention was to provide an extra source of income for residents, as well as solve the Austin community’s food desert problem, he said.
Lorenzen’s inspiration for this project came from Meghan Harte, a teacher who taught an architecture summer camp at the Northwestern Center for Talent Development when Nick was in third grade. She showed him an article about American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson, Eric Lloyd Wright, and how he used shipping containers for disaster relief and temporary housing.
“My love for architecture started when my parents took me to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park when I was 5,” Lorenzen said. “Before that, I didn’t really know what an architect was, but after that, I found a deep love and interest for architecture.”
Ever since then, he hasn’t been able to stop drawing and creating new ideas. Lorenzen loves the aspect of being able to help people and change the world in a positive way with his designs, he said.
“I would love to be an architect in the future, and I have many goals to impact the world,” Lorenzen said.
Despite the award ceremony being virtual due to COVID-19, Lorenzen still appeared on an interview segment of CBS News. Alongside him during the interview was his mother, Kristen Lorenzen, someone who is certainly looking forward to seeing her son’s impact.
“My husband and I thought it was just a phase,” she said. “Eleven years later and it’s still something he wants to do, and he’s even looking at colleges now for architecture, which is crazy.”
There were a number of categories that the contestants were able to submit their designs to, including graphic design, architecture, urban planning, etc. Lorenzen did not just win the architectural award, he took home the whole prize.
“Never in a million years did we expect him to win the whole thing—we didn’t even realize that was an option,” Kristen said. “It was quite a surprise and I was very, very excited for him.”