Mapping the Competition ‘04

Last year Metropolis called on designers of all disciplines to submit ideas for improving the designed environment. The first annual Metropolis Next Generation competition asked young designers (defined as having practiced for ten years or less) “What is your Big Idea?” and offered a $10,000 prize for the most compelling answer. The 204 entrants, which included architects, industrial designers, urban planners, landscape architects, and graphic designers, were required to submit a business plan explaining how they would use the prize money to realize their idea. Judges were selected for their expertise in specific areas of design; the six-person panel included Parsons School of Design professor Jean Gardner; Brandt Resources founder Ros Brandt; and Harvard Graduate School of Design architecture department chair Toshiko Mori.

Submissions ranged in scale from a doorstop to the redevelopment of a waterfront site in Seattle. Most projects fell into five categories: urban regeneration, housing, product and furniture, communications technologies, and new materials. The winning idea—submitted by Single Speed Design—proposed adapting sections of dismantled highway from Boston’s Big Dig into housing. The runners-up included such strong proposals as Portable Transient Shelter Pods (a housing idea proposed by Lira Luis that would provide seafarers who currently sleep on the docks in Manila, the Philippines, with temporary living quarters) and Integrated Concentrator Modules (a prism-like facade system that utilizes nanotechnology and optical engineering to efficiently capture solar energy, an entry submitted by Materialab).

Taken together, the competition entries—which came from 30 states and 22 countries—constitute a kind of informal survey of ambitious young designers. Here we plot two dimensions: where they are geographically and what kinds of issues they are interested in.

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