Welcome to the competition entry blogs for the 2014 SymbioticCities International Design Ideas Competition: “Urban Transformations: Designing the Symbiotic City”! Competition Entries can be selected for viewing in the menu at the left of this page. 

In these blogs, planners, urban designers, architects, landscape architects, engineers, and ecologists, from around the world have shared their proposed ideas and insights about how to transform our cities into more resilient, climate adaptive, regenerative, symbiotic cities. This international design ideas competition was designed for entrants to explore and show the world their ideas. (For more about the rules for this competition you can visit the Competition Rules Page.)

An international jury of planning and design experts selected a winning entry to recieve the $1,000 DIALOG Prize, generously sponsored by DIALOG, a collaborative planning, architecture, engineering and interior design firm based in Canada. 


Final Jury Decision

It was unanimously agreed by all the jurors that "Responsive City" by Negin Akhlaghpour and Juan Caviedes was the strongest entry and should be awarded the $1,000 DIALOG prize. It was also decided that given the very high quality of a number of the other competition entries the jury would award a Runner-Up prize to "Garrison Creek Redux", as well as three Honourable Mention prizes to: "Delhi Manifests", "Exaptive Urbanism", and "Farm Empowerment".

The Need for Transformation

Over the next 25 years, cities, and the ecosystems of which they are an integral part, face enormous challenges. The combined and interacting forces of climate change, fossil fuel depletion, deforestation, collapsing fisheries, and exponential human population growth will create unprecedented challenges for humanity, and the ecological carrying capacity of our planet. As MIT Professor John Sterman describes in his paper, Sustaining Sustainability: Creating a Systems Science in a Fragmented Academy and Polarized World, these changes will occur in parallel with a growing inability of existing municipal infrastructure systems to keep up with increasing demands for electricity, potable water, and human waste processing. 

Rising to the Challenge

We believe that success in meeting these challenges will have two important dimensions. First, success will require the transformation and redevelopment of existing physical and social infrastructure systems to meet the new and increasing demands of the future. Second, success will require the transformation of both our economic and political systems in order not only to reduce the harm that our species is now causing our planet’s natural ecosystems, but to facilitate the regeneration of these ecosystems.

Definition of a Symbiotic City

"A Symbiotic City has mutually beneficial relationships with its macro and micro ecosystems. It produces ecosystem services that are equal or greater than its net use of those services. The transition to a symbiotic city requires a cultural and economic recognition that we are embedded in and dependent upon our ecosystems. A symbiotic city enhances the natural environment, sustainable economic activity, and quality of life." 

The Purpose

We have developed the SymbioticCities International Design Ideas Competition with three purposes in mind:

First:  To generate critical thinking and discussion about the problems facing cities in a climate-changing world, and the changes required to transform the built environment to meet these challenges.

Second:  To challenge participants to develop creative and inspiring planning and design concepts that will help our species move in the direction of a more symbiotic relationship with our planet’s natural systems.

Third:  To connect like-minded individuals around the world who are passionate about positively transforming cities, and provide a platform for them to explore how they might transform their own cities into regenerative symbiotic cities. 

Competition Brief

Using some combination of diagrams, sketches, 2D and 3D drawings, and accompanied by an explanatory narrative, we would like you to explore and develop planning and design concepts, for transforming the city that you live in into a regenerative symbiotic city adapted to a climate-changing environment. Your design concepts should explore how you will address key environmental problems now associated with your city, and transform now ecologically destructive urban systems into regenerative, symbiotic systems. Please see the Transformations pages of SymbioticCities.net for more detail on what we think are the most important transformations required to facilitate the transformation of our cites from pathologically parasitic into regenerative symbiotic cities.

To attract as broad a range of ideas as possible, we invite you to approach your entry as an urban planning project, an urban design project, an architecture, landscape architecture or engineering project  - or any combination of these you think will best allow you to put forward your ideas most effectively. Most importantly, we are looking for you to generate smart, innovative, creative and inspiring ideas that will help move our cites and our species toward a regenerative symbiotic relationship with the ecosystems they are embedded in.

For example, you might wish to explore how to better reduce the per capita environmental footprint of urban habitation by increasing density in a manner that is not only environmentally regenerative, but increases the overall livability of the community and city of which it is a part. Or, you might explore how to create a local urban food supply that is both highly productive and environmentally regenerative. And beyond the urban centre, you might be interested in exploring how to transform the vast suburban expanses that now surround our contemporary cities from the ecological deserts they are now, into the biodiverse ecological oases they could be. There are many possible explorations you could make, but the judges will be most interested in entries that show a good understanding of how cities can be more integrated with their local and regional ecosystems, how cities can be more adapted to a environment stressed by climate change; and how you develop innovative and creative strategies for realizing that integration.

In developing your planning and design concepts you will want to refer to the SymbioticCities.net Transformations and the associated reference material outlined in this website. As part of the narrative you will be writing to explain your planning and design concept(s), we would like you to refer to the types of transformations that your proposed design concepts will employ to move your city towards a regenerative symbiotic relationship with your city’s local and regional ecosystems.

One of the most important of these nine transformations is the development of ecosystem infrastructure that will facilitate regenerating ecosystems and the ecosystem services they produce. For the purposes of this competition, we would like you to assume that in the future, natural capital and the eco-system services it produces are recognized and valued by society, both economically and politically. As part of developing your submission narrative, you should include an explanation of the eco-system infrastructure incorporated into your project entry, and the associated ecosystem services produced, and why these would be valuable to the neighborhood or city.

This is an open competition for ideas about planning, design and policy interventions that address two or more Transformations that we see as integral to our transition towards Symbiotic Cities. Submitted ideas must be based in the city the participant lives in, and should directly address at least two of the following questions: 

  1. How do your ideas move the city towards a zero-carbon economy?
  2. How do your ideas increase the ecosystems infrastructure?
  3. How do your ideas increase the mixed-use density of your city?
  4. How do your ideas provide for regenerative building fabric?
  5. How do your ideas increase the capacity of your city to produce its own sustainable food supply?
  6. How do your ideas increase the capacity of your city to provide for infinite water recycling?
  7. How do your ideas increase material and resource recycling?
  8. How do your ideas increase the capacity of your city to provide for zero-carbon mobility?
  9. What economic and political conditions will be required to implement your project?
  10. How do your ideas increase the capacity of your city to stabilize its population size?

Competition Prize!

The planning and design firm DIALOG is generously sponsoring a $1,000 CAN prize for our jury's selection of the best planning and design idea, and there will also be an additional book prizes for honourable mentions.

Competition Jury

The following jury of distinguished planners, urban designers, architects, landscape architects, and engineers has been brought together to review and select a winning competition entry:

  1. Craig Applegath, Co-moderator of SymbioticCities.net and Architect and Principal at DIALOG, Toronto, Canada 
  2. Rahul Mehrotra, Director of Planning and Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Boston Massachusetts 
  3. Scott Torrance, Landscape Architect at Scott Torrance Landscape Architect
  4. Vanessa Timmer, Executive Director and Co-founder at One Earth
  5. Stefan Schurig, Climate Energy Director at the World Future Council 
  6. Justin Ritchie, Co-Director of Extraenvironmentalist.com and PhD Candidate, UBC Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability
  7. Jeff Schnurr, Executive Director at Community Forests International
  8. Josh Taylor, Program Coordinator at Catalyst Community Development Society

Competition Blogs

Please note that your entries for the Design Ideas Competition will be submitted in the form of blogs. Once you have registered for the competition, you will be assigned your own blog space to start drafting your competition entry (these blogs will not be seen by other participants until the end of the competition). We will also be providing blogs for FAQs and to explain how to use the blog format for the competition.