AIA SPP Pop-up Competition

“Buildings that guide you through them while providing you with enough information to make meaningful decisions along the way can make for quite profound experiences. Embed within your architecture a succession for a meaningful sense of place—where memories can be shaped and built form can transcend the senses.” – Maria Lorena Lehman

Can you remember being in an architectural space that had a strong sense of place? Is your memory of that place linked to an experience that happened there?

In architecture it is important to establish a sense of place. This is true not only for creating quality architecture, but also because it makes the experience within that space memorable. A key factor in distinguishing a place from space is the ability for humans to interact. This ability to engage provides a feeling of belonging to an environment, instead of just passing through it.

As landmarks and other architectural features come together in one’s mental map, the sense of place becomes stronger.

The challenge

Throughout urban areas, opportunities exist for social interaction, moments of reflection, and instances of joy. The Small Project Practitioners, an AIA Knowledge Community, want to challenge the design community to create a space with a small footprint that people can engage, enjoy, and discuss.  

In this unique design competition, you will need to create a sense of place within the confines of a 10' x 10' x 8' space.

In your submission, please consider where it will live, who it would serve, and what it would be used for. Your entry should be unique, temporary, and impactful.

The theme for this year's competition is reflection. We ask you to address this theme in your proposal. The word reflection has many meanings—the return of light or sound waves from a surface, the production of an image by or as if by a mirror, an often obscure or indirect criticism, a thought, or an idea or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation to name only a few.

The proposals may be literal or figurative, but we ask that they be thought-provoking.

The winner will be announced on March 10, 2017 and will be expected to build their design on April 26, 2017, the day before the start of AIA Convention 2017, in Orlando. The winning entrant will be expected to de-construct and remove the materials on the last day of the convention.


The winning entry will be showcased at AIA Convention 2017 in Orlando from April 27-29, 2017.

The winning design will also be published in SPP Review and on, and other industry websites and print publications.

If selected, you will receive:

  • $1,000 to construct the winning entry on the convention floor at AIA Convention 2017
  • one round-trip airline ticket, up to $600 in value, from anywhere within the continental US. (If the winner lives within driving distance, or otherwise cannot use a plane ticket, he or she may elect to receive free admission to AIA Convention 2017 in place of an airline ticket.)
  • hotel accommodation, for one person, for three nights—April 26, 27, and 28


The SPP Small Project Design Competition is open to architects, associate architects, and architecture students, with the following exclusion:

Any person whose relationship to a juror might affect the juror’s impartiality in carrying out his/her responsibilities is prohibited from submitting. These include, but are not limited to, members and employees of juror’s firm, close business associates or jurors, juror’s students, close relatives of jurors, and any employee of the AIA or any AIA Component.


Entries must not have been published in any competition publication, whether printed, online, or otherwise.

Entries must not have been selected as finalists, winner, honorable mention, etc. in any other competition.

If the design is submitted by a team of people, all team members must be identified on the concealed identification form.

Image credits