In 1992 Trude Schelling-Karrer (1919-2009), architect and widow of the architect Erich Schelling (1904-1986), established the Schelling Architecture Foundation. She was guided by the architectural historian Heinrich Klotz (1935-1999), founder of the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt and later of the ZKM – Center for Art and Media – in Karlsruhe. Since then the Foundation has awarded prizes for architecture and for architectural theory every two years.
The foundation wants to promote and award prizes for seminal design ideas and projects, even those, that have not yet been realized, as well as to promote and award prizes for contributions to the theory and history of architecture with the aim to open spaces for fantasies and visions beyond the common practice by new impulses in order to create the spatial environment.
The winners are exclusively selected by an international, varying jury. An external application is not possible. First winners have been Coop Himmelb(l)au (1992) and Zaha Hadid (1994) in a time when they had not yet found worldwide acceptance. The first winner of the theory award has been Werner Durth (1992), who had by his research work contributed to reveal the involvement of German architects into the system of government during the National Socialism.
In 2012 the award procedure was altered: in the first half of the year the theory of architecture winner is selected and the shortlist for the architecture prize is announced. On the day of the award ceremony the candidates present their work and the jury makes its final decision. The selected winner of the architectural theory prize participates in the decision.
The Schelling Architecture Foundation works in cooperation with the City of Karlsruhe and with the KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology). As a recent result of this the first Schelling Student Award was founded in 2015 and will in future be conferred alternating with the Schelling Architecture Awards.