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Open Architecture Challenge: [UN]Restricted Access

From military space to civic space

Dotting the global landscape, decommissioned military installations are leaving their mark – symbols of triumph, pride, pain and the unforeseen consequences of military aggression. These abandoned structures and ghost towns disrupt neighborhoods and split entire communities.

Architecture for Humanity is hosting the 2011 Open Architecture Challenge – [un]restricted access – a design competition that will re-envision the future of decommissioned military space. This is an open invite to the global design and construction community to identify retired military installations in their own backyard, to collaborate with local stakeholders, and to reclaim these spaces for social, economic, and environmental good.

Keep updated on progress with the Challenge

On Twitter: @afh_challenge
On Facebook: [UN]RESTRICTED Facebook

August 1, 2012: [UN]RESTRICTED Winners

Winners have been announced for the Open Architecture Challenge: [UN]RESTRICTED ACCESS hosted by Architecture for Humanity. The Founders' Award goes to Paicho Huts, a Ugandan proposal to transform a former IDP camp to benefit rural countrymen. The Winner of the challenge, OCO - Ocean & Coastline Observatory, is a Portuguese proposal to reassign the Trafaria defense batteries outside Lisbon.

Challenge Winner - Ocean & Coastline Observatory, near Lisbon, Portugal

Founders' Award - Paicho Huts, near Gulu, Uganda

Finalists arranged by jury-determined categories:

Environmental Impact
First Place: Humboldthain Food Cooperative, Berlin, Germany
Second Place: Ecological Processing Zone (EPZ), Oakland, United States
Third Place: REGENERATE FT. CARROLL: a gateway ecological park, Baltimore, United States

Political Response
Second Place: Kikotemal' Rik K'aslem Memorial, Guatemala City, Guatemala
Third Place: Healing a Nation: Healing the Wounded, Tripoli, Libya

Economic Development
First Place: Magazine Hill: a weathered continuum, Pretoria, South Africa
Second Place: [ARCH]itecture for Comm[UNITY], Anniston, Alabama, United States
Third Place: The Store - Pillbox Conversion, Napier, New Zealand

Small-scale Intervention
First Place: PLUG-In HEBRON - People Liberated Urban Gaps In Hebron, Old City Hebron, Israeli Occupied Palestinian West Bank
Second Place: B-Tower (TM), various sites, Netherlands
Third Place: Paicho Huts, outside Gulu, Uganda (recipient: Founders' Award)

By the Numbers

510 teams registered for the challenge
74 countries responsed to the Challenge
174 entries qualified for Round 1 jury
24 semifinalists qualified for Round 2 jury
13 finalists received awards and a feature at the 2012 Venice Biennale
10 countries on 6 continents contain award-winning design proposals

These proposals highlight the results of a Challenge that had engaged 510 teams from 71 countries in re-imagining former military spaces. The nature of the resulting standings reflect the extreme difficulty with which the interdisciplinary jury of 33 professionals evaluated the entries.

From five judging criteria - community impact, contextual appropriateness, ecological footprint, economic viability, and design quality – four further projects showing incredible strength were named equal First Place winners, behind the First Place and Founder’s Award, and seven additional teams identified as Runners-Up. Back-to-back rounds of judging narrowed nearly 200 qualifying proposals to 24 semifinalists, and then the winners.

“The turnout and production for this Challenge were incredible,” remarks T. Luke Young, who coordinated the competition at Architecture for Humanity. “This is the most geographically diverse response we’ve had to an Open Architecture Challenge, a fact made more interesting considering the complexity of the project.” Young recognized the effort made by the jury to provide each entrant with a thorough evaluation.

View all Entries

Top Entries, Mapped

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Winner Founders' Award Top Finalists Finalists Semifinalists

July 18: Finalists update

On Monday the jury results had been compiled, and we were very impressed and surprised to see so many strong projects. As a result, we have had to restructure the awards to add $1500 in winnings to four equally-deserving runner-up teams. The winners have been identified, and the Challenge coordinators have decided to reach out to each team individually before announcing worldwide the final results. This will take a few days, so bear with us!

The prize distribution for Finalists are below.

The Biennale swiftly approaching we will be reaching out to teams to be sure we have HiRes board files (300dpi, A-1) ready for presentation. There will be room enough to exhibit the six winners in "full board format" - the eight other finalists will be asked to submit a series of their favorite renderings for an "immersive interactive format" (coordinated by the exhibition team) at the festival.

July 3: Semi-finalists announcement !

The wisdom and the experience of the jury members have spoken. After a hard week of voting, during which they had to make tough decisions between the 200 uploaded entries, they finally came up with the names of the semi-finalists. Here under are the names of those 23 semi-finalists that are still in the competition for the 5 winning places ! We congratulate all of the participants for the quality of your project and thank them again for their participation! The second round of the jury process will begin on the 3rd of July and will last for two weeks.

June 1: Submission Period Closed

Greetings Challengers!

We're amazed by the output from teams during the submittal session. Now that the session is closed, as of 23:59:59 PDT June 1, we will begin evaluating the entries. Well, actually, we'll be taking the weekend off, and will evaluate submissions starting Monday. As per tradition, the Open Architecture Challenge has a "grace period" whereby teams are given the chance to correct minor errors/ omissions on their project pages. Team reps will be notified directly by e-mail as to their status of completion, over the course of the next week, and there will be a period where teams can make adjustments. Thanks for your patience and we applaud your efforts!

The Mission

The 2011 Open Architecture Challenge: [UN] RESTRICTED ACCESS asks architects and designers to partner with community groups across the world and develop innovative solutions to re-envision closed, abandoned and decommissioned military sites. The six-month competition requires designers to work with the communities surrounding these former places of conflict to transform oftentimes hostile locations into civic spaces built for the public good.

Download the design brief (PDF)

Who's Representin'?

508 registrants from 71 countries have entered the competition:

Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe.

Entrants will be asked to identify a site in or near their community and develop a design concept for that site. The only rule is: It must be an abandoned, closed (or scheduled for closure) or decommissioned military site. If you cannot find a local site, you can choose a site identified by Architecture for Humanity:

Site 1: Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, Guantánamo Bay (Cuba)* Gitmo Here
Site 2: NSA "East Bank", New Orleans, LA (USA)
Site 3: Johnston Atoll, U.S. Minor Outlying Islands (USA)
Site 4: Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), Tustin, CA (USA)
Site 5: Flak Towers, Vienna (Austria)
Site 6: Marine Corps Air Station MCAS), Futenma, Okinawa (Japan)

*Currently not decommissioned but scheduled for closure.


Dates Competition Schedule*
October 18, 2011 Challenge Launch
May 01, 2012 Registration Ends
June 01, 2012 Submission Deadline
July 09, 2012 Semi-Finalists Announced
August 01, 2012 Winners + Finalists Announced
Fall 2012 Exhibition of Entries

*Dates subject to change. All registered teams will be notified, and promotional documents and media channels will be updated to appropriately reflect updates.


The design competition was judged by an international, inter-disciplinary panel of experts in various fields within the network of stakeholders in base closure, site demilitarization and realignment:

  • Philippa Abbott - Codesign Studio/A+D Projects
  • Patricia Arquette - Ecosanitation NGO head (and actress)
  • Ishmael Beah - Author, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
  • Ute Bauer - Director of iFAG, the Interdisciplinary Research Association for Architecture and History in Vienna, Austria. Specialized in built relicts from Second World War in Austria and published several research papers about the Flak Towers
  • Pedro Buraglia - Urban Designer, former president of Urban Planning Department, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
  • Jon Calame - Founding partner of Minerva Partners
  • C Greig Crysler - Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies; Associate Professor of Architecture at University of California Berkeley
  • Kevin Conger - Founding Partner, President and CEO of Conger Moss Guillard Landscape Architecture
  • Peter J Croll - Director, Bonn International Center for Conversion
  • John Feffer - foreign policy author, blogger & professor
  • David Fletcher - Urban Designer and Landscape Architect, professor at CCA, founding principal of Fletcher Studio, and writer
  • Dr. Bronwyn Hanna - Heritage Officer, Office of Environment and Heritage, New South Wales (Australia) Department of Premier & Cabinet
  • Aaron Harcek Senior Designer - Perkins + Will Architects
  • Paul Jenkins - Professor at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh
  • Ralph Johnson - Design Principal at Perkins + Will Architects
  • Bruce D Judd, FAIA - Principal, Bruce Judd Consulting Group
  • David Listokin - Professor at the Center for Urban Policy Research of Rutgers University
  • Sherwood McGinnis - Professor of International Relations, US Army War College
  • Habi Girgis - Egypt-based Graphic Designer
  • Tom Kundig - FAIA is a principal/owner of the Seattle-based firm Olson Kundig Architects
  • Zsofia Marton - MSc in Civil Engineering specialized in community design and sustainable architecture, and certified in the Social Economic Environmental Design® process
  • Andres Meira - Architect, working with the Clinton Foundation, Deutsche Bank Foundation and others to deliver award-winning educational projects in the UK, Africa and Haiti
  • Carlos David Montoya - Urban Project Architect
  • Elizabeth Ogbu - Global Fellow at, and Lecturer at California College for the Arts
  • Renzo Piano Building Workshop
  • Alex Schafran - Doctoral candidate in City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley and visiting researcher at the Institute Français de Géopolitique, Paris 8.
  • Bahram Shirdel - Iranian Architect / former AA design head
  • Cameron Sinclair - Cofounder, Architecture for Humanity
  • Nick Sowers - Designer & Founder: Soundscrapers
  • Kay Strasser - Franco-Austrian architectural designer holding Master degrees from Ecole Centrale Paris and Politecnico di Milano, collaborating with Architecture for Humanity on social projects across Europe and researching on mid-term transitional responses after natural disasters
  • Mohammad Tauheed - Architect
  • Michael Tomlan - Historic preservation educator at Cornell University
  • Seth Wachtell - Assistant Professor at University of San Francisco


All finalist designs will be displayed at the Palazzo Bembo for the Venice Biennale, kicking off this August, and sent on an exhibition world tour.

Specific prizes break down as follows:

  • Grand Prize (1): Revit AutoCAD 2012 Suite; Autodesk SketchBook Pro; A signed copy of Design Like You Give a Damn [2]; CASH: US$2500
  • Runners Up (4): Revit AutoCAD 2012 Suite; A signed copy of Design Like You Give a Damn [2]; CASH: US$1000
  • Honorable Mentions (8): Revit AutoCAD 2012 Suite; A signed copy of Design Like You Give a Damn [2]
  • Founders' Award (1, among the above): Classified

Why This Challenge?

Every other year, Architecture for Humanity's Open Architecture Challenge brings international attention to issues in the built environment affecting the health, prosperity and well-being of underserved communities. This year’s Open Architecture Challenge will focus on helping communities reclaim abandoned, closed and decommissioned military sites.

While these sites are often laid to waste, Architecture for Humanity sees them as opportunities of global proportion. In the US alone we will spend billions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds to do environmental remediation on the 12 millions square feet of US military space scheduled to close this year. Can we use this opportunity to bring economic stability to areas deserted by closed bases?

This year marks a milestone: in the United States alone more than 235 military sites are scheduled for closure or realignment. The U.S. military is under orders to downsize 5% of its entire infrastructure on or before September 15, 2011 in accordance with the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) ruling. The ruling will force the relocation of more than 125,000 military personnel and their families.

Globally we see opportunity at every site. Can we re-envision the more than 750,000 abandoned bunkers that pepper the Albanian landscape? Is there a second life for the recently bombed Libyan military strongholds? Can we use environmental diplomacy to re-imagine Guantanamo Bay Detention Center? Is there a way to turn abandoned bases in Afghanistan into places of learning?

The 2011 Open Architecture Challenge will seek to provide solutions to these unanswered questions and will re-envision the future of decommissioned military space. This is an open call to action – the first of its kind. Architecture for Humanity will ask the global design and construction community to identify retired military installations in their own backyard, to collaborate with local stakeholders, and to reclaim these spaces for positive social, economic, and environmental change.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and Autodesk.

'Take Your Base' and Sponsorship Opportunities

We're continuing our recruitment of individuals and organizations who are ready to accept the mission of sponsoring the complex yet rewarding task of successfully transforming previously conflicted sites into civic spaces. If you are ready to enlist your financial resources in service of this greater good, please give us a call at 415.963.3511 or send us an email to

About the Open Architecture Challenge

The Challenge is hosted once every two years on Worldchanging, an open-source community developed by Architecture for Humanity. Design teams from all over the world compete to design and build the winning scheme. Support from sponsors and implementing partners funds the construction of selected designs. All of the designs are shared freely via Worldchanging and made available for future use.

Past Challenges
2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom of the Future

2007 AMD Open Architecture Challenge: Digital Inclusion

About Architecture for Humanity

Architecture for Humanity is a charitable organization that seeks architectural solutions to humanitarian crises and brings design services to communities in need.

For more information, please visit:

Logo by Habi Girgis, winner of the [un]restricted access Identity RFP

[un]restricted access Identity RFP

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Competition Details

  • Name: Open Architecture Challenge: [UN]Restricted Access
  • Host: Architecture for Humanity
  • Type: Public
  • Registration Deadline: May 01 2012
  • Submission Deadline: June 01 2012
  • Entry Fee: $50 USD Professionals , $25 USD Students , $0 USD Dues paying Architecture for Humanity Chapter members , $0 USD Developing Nations
  • Award: More than $5,000 in prizes
  • Status: Concluded

About Our Partners

Sponsorship Needed We're continuing our recruitment of individuals and organizations who are ready to accept the mission of sponsoring the complex yet rewarding task of successfully transforming previously conflicted sites into civic spaces. If you are ready to enlist your financial resources in service of this greater good, please call us at 415.963.3511 or contact us.

CONTACT US Re: [Un]restricted Access


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