Category Archives: competitions

Fantasy Island

Excited to see the announcement of a new global design ideas competition from LA+ Journal, entitled Imagination.

“Paradisiacal, utopian, dystopian, heterotopian – islands hold an especially enigmatic and beguiling place in our geographical imagination. Existing in juxtaposition to what’s around them, islands are figures of otherness and difference. Differentiated from their contexts and as much myth as reality, islands have their own rules, their own stories, their own characters, their own ecologies, and their own forms.”

This design ideas competition asks you to create a new island. You can locate it anywhere in the world, program it any way you want, and give it any form you can imagine.  The jury consists of Richard Weller, James Corner, Marion Weiss, Matthew Gandy, Javier Arpa and Mark Kingwell, and prize pool is $10,000 plus feature publication in the special issue of LA+.

Banner image: Gilligan’s island blueprint map by Mark Bennett image via The Nesting Game


GOOD Times in Portland

The recent event for GOOD Ideas for Cities happened last week in Portland, and generated some great dialogue.  I was also on one of the teams that presented.  A short recap.

:: custom notebooks by Scout Books

 “Each team was issued a challenge proposed by a local urban leader. At the event, the creative teams will present their solutions to their assigned challenge, and the urban leaders will join them onstage for a brief Q&A with GOOD Ideas for Cities editor Alissa Walker.”  Teams included international talent from Wieden + Kennedy and Ziba Design, as well as local groups Sincerely Interested, THINK.urban, ADX, and the Official Manufacturing Company, all tackling some pressing (and not so pressing) urban ideas.

The event was held at Ziba’s beautiful new HQ building in the Pearl District, and the sold-out event had some great people and conversations.  As you can see the packed house (including Mayor Sam Adams) is checking out Alissa from GOOD’s intro, and had some great energy for the various groups.
:: image via Portland Mercury
My evolving side project THINK.urban, under development as a non-profit with fellow PSU Grad Students Allison Duncan and Katrina Johnston, was one of the teams, as mentioned above.  We’ve been slamming away on ideas for six weeks, and presented our ideas for world-class bike infrastructure, working from a challenge from‘s Jonathan Maus).
:: image via Portland Mercury 

As mentioned in a recap by Sarah Mirk from the Portland Mercury (check out the post for all of the ideas) – here’s what we’ve been working on.

“CHALLENGE (from editor Jonathan Maus): How can we create a major new bikeway that helps make bicycling as visible, safe, convenient, and pleasant for as many people as possible? 

IDEAS (from PSU grad student nonprofit THINK.Urban):  Take a cue from Europe and build two-way cycletracks on Portland’s biggest streets. The two-way lanes would be separated from cars on streets like Sandy, Broadway, and Hawthorne, by a grassy median. “Prioritize bikes on the same level as cars. People are tired of looking at Europe. We want to see these things here now.”

We were really happy with the ideas that were developed, honored to be in such great company, and looking forward to seeing this new bike infrastructure take root.  More on the ideas will be posted at THINK.urban, and I’ll link them back here when they do. 

GOOD times.

Gardner Museum Fellowship

An interesting opportunity for the Gardner Museum Fellowship in Landscape Studies for 2012, which is open to a broad definition of “…an emerging design talent whose work articulates the potential for landscape as a medium of design in the public realm. This new initiative is intended to recognize and foster emerging design talent from across the design disciplines whose work embodies the potentials for landscape as a medium of public works.”

Check out the all-star jury that will review applications, under the guidance of Charles Waldheim, Consulting Curator of Landscape, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Julie Bargmann, University of Virginia
Alan Berger, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Anita Berrizbeitia, Harvard University
Julia Czerniak, Syracuse University
Walter Hood, University of California, Berkeley
Anuradha Mathur, University of Pennsylvania
Jane Wolff, University of Toronto

Start working today, as deadlines are due December 15th.

Pruitt Igoe Now

Another good ideas competition, Pruitt Igoe Now the infamous St. Louis housing complex that was demolished in 1972 and considered one of the touchstones in the ‘death’ of modernism.  The site is typical of the towers in the park ideal most notably ascribed to public housing and derived from version of Le Corbusier’s Radiant City designs.  In this case, bars of housing were interwoven with roads, parking, and open space within immense superblocks as seen in the aerial and plan of the original development.

From the site: “Pruitt Igoe Now seeks the ideas of the creative community worldwide: we invite individuals and teams of professional, academic, and student architects, landscape architects, designers, writers and artists of every discipline to re-imagine the 57 acres on which the Pruitt-Igoe housing project was once located.”   What could the site be today?

Part of the site has been rebuilt as a school, but a large portion is still undeveloped, and has developed its own feral ecology, as shown in these before and after shots of the demolition of building C-15 in 1972 and the same site in 2010.

Even if you aren’t interested in the competition, a quick tour around the site gives a really fascinating look at some of the history of this contentious site.  Also, check out the new documentary ‘The Pruitt-Igoe Myth‘ for some more background… here’s the trailer.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: an Urban History – Film Trailer from the Pruitt-Igoe Myth on Vimeo.

Greatest Grid

An interesting competition I am ruminating on proposing for, The Greatest Grid – from the Architectural League of New York along with the Museum of the City of New York – seeks ideas related to the grid and to reflect on the role of the grid, now 200 years old, impacts and shapes New York, and how it has and will continue to shape the city.  Some background (and more on the site):  

“On the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of the 1811 Commissioners’ Plan for New York, the foundational document that established the Manhattan street plan from Houston Street to 155th Street, the Architectural League invites architects, landscape architects, urban designers, and other design professionals to use the Manhattan street grid as a catalyst for thinking about the present and future of New York. For two centuries, the Manhattan street grid has demonstrated an astonishing flexibility to accommodate the architectural gestures and urban planning theories of successive generations of architects, urban designers, private developers, and city officials. Given its capacity for reinvention, how might the Manhattan grid continue to adapt and respond to the challenges and opportunities–both large and small–that New York faces now and into the future?”

Sort of open-ended, but the grid is such a powerful and contentious concept in both urban form (such as these studies on Planetizen here and here) and indeed the pattern of settlement for the western US.  While New York was not the first city to be ‘gridded’ it seems a fitting context for exploration of an idea – one that offers some interesting avenues for exploration beyond the Big Apple.  Coupled with some recent reading on Sanderson’s work on Mannahatta Project – there could be some exciting potential overlaps/influences of the grid and nascent ecology of the island.

 :: image via Skyscraper Page

One of links on the competition site leads to the Wall Street Journal story on the birthday of the grid, with some collected maps worth checking out – my favorite is the sliced island by designer Nicholas Felton using the program Geocontext.

:: image via WSJ

Competition: Network Reset

An interesting new competition announced recently entitled Network Reset: Rethinking the Chicago Emerald Necklace, An international competition organized by MAS Studio & Chicago Architectural Club
which asks respondents: “…to look at the urban scale and propose a framework for the entire boulevard system as well as provide answers and visualize the interventions at a smaller scale that can directly impact its potential users. Through images, diagrams and drawings we want to know what are those soft or hard, big or small, temporary or permanent interventions that can reactivate and reset the Boulevard System of Chicago.”

I’m a little perplexed by the new trend of competitions that have a 30 day turnaround between announcement and due date – as it seems to.  Still – I’m intrigued, as it seems to be an interesting problem worth pursuing.  Registration is open, and entries due February 21 – so get moving now.

Works of Landscape Urbanism?

A long-standing question that seems to have arisen in recent days due to discussions on Ecological Urbanism, coupled with a reconnection to the Landscape Urbanism bibliography.  I’ve also recently rescued my book collection from storage – so have an opportunity to look specifically at some of the pertinent literature to glean what we could consider a ‘working list’ of projects that make up a coherent body of landscape urbanism.  Is Wikipedia correct in stating that “…most of the important projects related to this theory have yet to be built, so design competitions have been an influential stage for the development of the theory.” Or is there something of substance out there.

:: Parc de la Villette Entry – OMA – image via OMA

For instance, again from Wikipedia (i know not the most definitive source – but I’m greasing the skids here) lists four ‘projects’ in the listing for Landscape Urbanism.

:: Fresh Kills Park – Field Operations – image via Fresh Kills

Three of these are competition entries, including the unbuilt concepts for Downsview Park and the OMA/Koolhaas entry for Parc de la Villette (the built entry being that of Tschumi).  Another competition entry that is often referenced, the Field Operations/James Corner design for Fresh Kills Landfill – is a long-term implementation that is technically in process, but may be years before it is realized. Finally, a surprising entry (I think, not due to the project but that I’ve never heard this associated with LU before) is Schouwburgplein, a wonderfully interactive plaza in  Rotterdam by West 8/Adriann Geuze.

:: Schouwburgplein – image via West 8

So two questions:
1. What are the elements required for a work of landscape urbanism ?
(i.e. scale, context, key concepts, necessary elements, temporality, products, etc.)

2. What projects would you consider a valid work of landscape urbanism?
(as opposed to, or differentiated from a work of another discipline: architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, planning, ecology, etc.)

:: Downsview – The Digital and the Coyote – Tschumi – image via Downsview 

Again, it may be one of those conceptual culs-de-sac involving the fuzzy distinction between a priori (conceptually defined) and a posteriori knowledge (proven through experience) and trying to retroactively apply intent versus finding those projects designed using a specific theoretical approach.  In fact, I suspect that may be the case, but it’s worth exploration. And, as there are folks actively designing under the guise of LU – what is the product, historical or contemporary that explains the concept in physical form?

Sukkah City

An interesting competition and potential for installation is Sukkah City. A recent email from one of the co-organizers Joshua Foer explains the concept: “…it aims to radically reinvent the original green building: the sukkah. The sukkah is an ephemeral, elemental structure traditionally erected by Jews for one week each fall. Its ancient design constraints require that it have a roof made of shade-providing plants or trees, through which one can see the stars. Sukkah City will be a visionary village of 12 radically experimental sukkahs put up for three days this fall in Union Square Park, NYC.”

:: A typical modern Sukkah – image via Beliefnet

Adding to the complexity of these interventions are a series of ‘rules’ that guide development, based on what amounts of ancient building codes such as “A sukkah may be built on top of a camel.” or the more distinct: “A whale may be used to make a sukkah’s walls. Also a living elephant.” More pragmatics revolve around structural components like: “The sukkah must have at least 3 walls, but the third doesn’t need to be complete. The walls must remain unshaken by a steady wind.”

:: image via Sukkah City

The most intriguing element with the blending of architecture and landscape is the idea of the vegitectural roof made “…shade-providing plants or trees, through which one can see the stars.” This can be interpreted in simple ways, with a covering of materials called s’chach using woven bamboo or palm leaves – keeping remaining openings for starlight viewing.

:: image via Wikipedia

The variations of course encompass the fully vegetated, such as these partially and fully vegetated varieties.

:: image via Israeli Museum Jerusalem

:: image via St. Marks Oakland

With a broadly interpreted rulebook and innate program of ephemerality, the entries should be an interesting mix – all juried by a pretty esteemed cast for determining winners. Entries are due on August 1, with installation of a dozen winning entries in in Union Square Park on September 19-21.