The RIBA has announced an international contest seeking ‘big ideas for our post-pandemic world’
The competition invites RIBA members and students to imagine what life in our new, post-pandemic world could look like by 2025. Participants are asked to think about how the global Covid-19 outbreak will modify the way people interact with spaces and each other and whether design could mitigate the worst effects.
The call for concepts aims to identify a range of ambitious solutions covering the future of: healthcare spaces, remote learning, high density living, public transport, high streets vs online shopping, international travel and the use of technology to monitor and control populations.
The overall winner will receive a £5,000 prize sponsored by Arup and a £2,000 second prize and £1,000 third prize will also be awarded. RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance said: ‘Now more than ever, we need to design spaces and buildings that contribute to the health and wellbeing of everyone.
‘Architects have a vital role to play in adapting and redefining our environments in a post-pandemic world. We are looking forward to seeing a range of creative responses to the challenges presented by this unprecedented global situation.’
Wuhan, China, was the first reported site of the coronavirus disease, also known as Covid-19, which started to claim lives in December last year. By 23 January, the wider Hubei province was put on lockdown and all residents were forced to remain indoors, impacting the lives of 57 million people.
In early March amid rising new cases, the UN World Health Organisation declared a pandemic and emergency quarantine and lockdown measures were introduced throughout much of the developed world. Almost all of Europe, North America and Asia have now endured many months of isolation and social distancing with close to 4 billion people still under lockdown.
A successful lifting of emergency public health measures has yet to be achieved and the best approach to transitioning to a post-pandemic society remains a subject of fierce debate. Close to all aspects of the built environment including housing, workplace, transport and public realm could be impacted by the crisis both in the long and short term.
The latest competition seeks both detailed and wide-ranging concepts for our post-pandemic world which also seek to address wider issues such as climate change and wellbeing. Digital submissions should include two A3-sized display boards along with a 500-word description and an optional two-minute video.
Judges will include Francine Houben, creative director and founding partner at Mecanoo; Matt Jones, principal designer at Google AI; Sarah Castle, director and co-founder of IF_DO; Ed Clarke, director of Structural Engineering at Arup; and London mayoral design advocate Joanne Averley.
The deadline for applications is 2pm local time on 12 June.
How to apply
Visit the competition website for more information
Q&A with Alan Vallance
The chief executive of RIBA discusses his ambitions for the competition
Why are your holding an international competition for ideas for our ‘post-pandemic’ world?
Across the world governments and businesses are looking at how we will interact and navigate our built environments in the future, and how can we adjust and prepare for this. Considerations range from how streets might look, to what a culture change around working remotely might mean for offices (and homes), how a green investment plan may lead to sustainable growth and what the changes could be to how we shop and how our healthcare is delivered. The RIBA launched ‘RETHINK: 2025’ to create an opportunity for the architecture community to radically consider how our profession will play a central role in planning for and shaping the future of our planet.
What would you like to see in responses to the brief?
As we all know architecture ranges from the design of the smallest product to huge masterplans and every scale of building in between. The best responses will not only look at the fallout from coronavirus but also the longer-term impacts on quality of life, including the mitigation of the other great issue of our times, climate change. We want to see intelligent design approaches incorporating creativity and innovation.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
We invite architects and designers – from students to experienced professionals, either alone or by joining forces to participate.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
The RIBA is an international hub for generating innovative and sustainable design ideas which will shape the future of our built environment. One of the ways in which we do this is through competitions. Recent architectural competitions launched by the RIBA include the Home of 2030 Design Competition which aims to attract the best and brightest talents of the housing industry to design the homes of the future.
Are there any other similar projects exploring the post-pandemic world you have been impressed by?
As the profession looks beyond the immediate impacts of the pandemic, it’s critical that we now think about the longer-term future of our built environment. Architects are innately designers and problem-solvers. We know that internationally they are already generating ideas in response to the challenges posed by the post-pandemic world – whether that be impromptu suggestions on social media or virtual discussions with collaborators, generating exciting and practicable ideas.