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Active Lifestyle YAF/COD Ideas Competition Launched at AIA Convention

With an eye on the 2013 AIA Convention in Denver, the AIA Young Architects Forum and Committee on Design begin an ideas competition with public health in mind.

By Kim A. O'Connell

If current trends continue, today's children could be the first generation of Americans to have a shorter life span than their parents, according to public health expert Dr. Richard Jackson and his book Making Healthy Places. The causes are well-documented: too little exercise, too much "screen time," junk food, and not enough time outdoors. But more and more, the solutions to these problems are found in architecture and design.

To help counteract this sobering trend, the AIA's Young Architects Forum and Committee on Design third-annual Ideas Competition will focus on design that promotes healthy, active lifestyles. The competition, whose previous iterations dealt with rebuilding in the wake of natural disasters and universal design, launched at this year's AIA Convention in Washington, D.C. In developing the theme, competition organizers were inspired by the city of Denver, host city of the 2013 AIA Convention, where the winning projects will be unveiled. Denver routinely tops lists of the nation's healthiest and most active cities, including a 2011 Men's Health poll that gave the city an A rating for promoting healthy lifestyles.

Competition entries are due by Aug. 31 and winners will be notified in October. The first prize winner will receive a complimentary registration to the 2013 AIA Convention, including travel and hotel expenses up to $1,500. Second prize is $1,000 and third prize is $500.

According to the competition brief, the design objective is to create an intervention in the urban environment that engages people in a physical activity that benefits their health and well-being. Jurors are looking for solutions that are visually stimulating, informative, and enjoyable, with a special emphasis on proposals that are attractive for children. Although the competition allows for a broad interpretation of the theme, entrants are asked to consider proposals that would cover an approximate footprint of 2,500 square feet (either contiguously or in total), and cost no more than $25,000.

"Our theme is pretty relevant to the times we live in, with the HBO documentary [The Weight of the Nation] and popular shows like The Biggest Loser," says Virginia Marquardt, AIA, a senior associate for DLR Group in Phoenix, who serves as the YAF events advisor. "We're looking for some good ideas, whether they are indoor or outdoor, large-scale or small-scale, that people can incorporate into their everyday lives."

The competition jury is made up of four individuals with a wide range of public and private design expertise and geographic diversity: Ted Flato, FAIA, of Lake|Flato in San Antonio; David Burney, FAIA, commissioner of New York City’s Department of Design and Construction; Nan Anderson, AIA, founding principal of Anderson Hallas Architects in Golden, Colo.; and Ann Schopf, FAIA, past chair of the Committee on Design, and partner and director of design at Mahlum Architects in Seattle.

"The things I'm looking for are a clear response to the competition brief, [as well as] creativity and innovative thought," Schopf says. "The entrants must remember that we have a lot to pore through, and the clearer and quicker we can understand the big idea, the better the chances for us to recognize its merit."

Not that complexity is vital to success in the ideas competition. Schopf adds that design interventions could be as simple as prominent and easily accessible stairs. "We all need to move more in our lives, as we are stuck behind computers all day," she says. "Studies have shown that our brains need the exercise just as much as the rest of our bodies."

"The ideas competition is near and dear to my heart," Schopf says. "The opportunities that it brings to young architects throughout the country and the world are fabulous."


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Designing Healthier New Yorkers: Building Design—Part II

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Q&A: Dr. Richard Jackson on Designing Healthy Communities

Back to AIArchitect May 17, 2012

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