Architecture professor becomes sixth Rome Prize winner from UT


Mengwen Cao

Architecture professor Vincent Snyder recently received the 2014-2015 Rome Prize awarded by the American Academy, becoming the sixth person from the UT’s School of Architecture to win the prize.

Hayden Clark

Architecture associate professor Vincent Snyder received the Rome Prize in early April, becoming the sixth winner from the University’s architecture school.

The award, which Snyder applied for in 2013, will allow him to attend the American Academy in Rome for 11 months beginning in September. According to a press release, the prize covers Snyder’s room and board expenses and includes a stipend.

At the academy, Snyder said he will study and research Ancient Roman buildings constructed out of wood, as well as the timber structures created during the construction of those buildings. Snyder said his research will help tie in Ancient Roman wooden architecture and timber structures with modern American structures. 

“[My research involves Ancient] Roman timber, but it’s really about [timber's ability] to potentially exploit wood for American construction,” Snyder said. “There are new ways to use wood that are being developed in Europe right now.” 

Architecture professor Michael Benedikt said Snyder’s topic of research is unique because of the rare nature of the objects he will study.

“He’s going to study Ancient Roman wooden architecture,” Benedikt said. “What’s interesting about that is not much of it survived.”

Snyder said wood makes an excellent construction material because of its flexibility and strength.

“[Wood] is just fascinating,” Snyder said. “The thing that is really amazing about it is that it’s one of those materials that is not only expressive and amazingly strong, [but] is also really flexible, and it’s easy to manipulate…to create architecture that is really inventive.”

Snyder said he doesn’t want to copy Roman architecture. Instead, he said he plans to study its applications for with modern architecture techniques. 

“[The research] is not to exactly mimic what the Romans [did] with timber but rather as a point of departure,” Snyder said. “It really is a way to examine many possible new ways we can use wood in this country — trying to figure out what applications can be learned…today, because the amazing thing about Rome is you get centuries and centuries of constructions, and the Romans were amazingly inventive.”

Frederick Steiner, architecture professor and dean, said Snyder’s insight in multiple principles of construction allows for more creative designs.

“[Snyder] has a background in both architecture and engineering,” Steiner said. “So one of the things — in addition to being a wonderful designer — is he understands the structural aspects of buildings.”

Editor's note: This article originally reported Snyder is the fifth Rome Prize winner from the University. According to School of Architecture Dean Frederick Steiner, he is the sixth. In addition to studying Ancient Roman architecture, Snyder will also focus on the temporary timber structures used during construction. Since publication, quotes have been edited for clarity.