Culture Amplifier

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After registration you will receive a confirmation email containing the submission link. 


In the past, cities were often direct manifestations of their culture. The ability for civic gatherings, the exchange of ideas and values and for cultural celebration reflected in the public realm and programming of the urban fabric. During the 21st century we have experienced unprecedented global integration. Advances in technology and international economic policies have reduced many barriers to the free flow of goods, services, capital, and people. This rapid pace of globalization has fueled economic opportunities and brought with it many other benefits, but it has also begun to diffuse cultural identity in cities.

Authenticity is often lost when development is allowed to override important social outcomes. The rapid pace of development can also erode a sense of place and authenticity leading to a bland monotonous and sameness. A “gentrification” of cities, where we can find a Starbucks, Petco, and Shake Shack on every other corner. Culture is so much more than the branded image of the city. It is defined by the people and communities within it. As people seek deeper connections with their surroundings, maintaining authenticity and the uniqueness of a place can also have positive economic implications; it’s what often gives cities their competitive edge.

And as technology and social media continue to both connect and isolate us, what is the role of cultural identity in cities? Is cultural identity still relevant in the globally diverse city? The goal of this competition is to seek ideas on how architects, designers, planners, and the general public can contribute towards an informed citizenry that promotes awareness on culture, ethnicity and identity. Can spaces, designs and interventions that promote tolerance and equity better facilitate multicultural exchange by promoting opportunities to peacefully interact?


Washington DC offers a unique lens from which to explore this issue of culture and identity in the built environment. It is a city that is experienced as the seat of national government, a global tourist destination, but it is also home to rich and diverse neighborhoods of historic, mostly black, locals. Gentrification and profit driven development have displaced many long-time residents while increased security measures in a post 9/11 and January 6th world have led to increased privatization of land and the restricted use of public space.

Neighborhoods and the local communities of the district have unique characteristics, which are easily recognized, and collectively, they make Washington, DC unique. Neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights, Logan Circle, Chinatown, Capitol Riverfront, Southwest Waterfront, and Capitol Hill are prime examples of districts that have undergone a major shift in economics, population, influence, and cultural identity. In the past two decades, long-time residents have been pushed out, affordability reduced, and neighborhood identities changed. Growth in population or a rise in economic performance does not in itself define a district, but physical growth and change must consider and include the neighborhood’s evolving social structure and its existing and future cultural characteristics.


Using the tools of urban design, architecture, planning, landscape architecture, art, and technology and policy, we are seeking ideas that create new, or adapt existing public spaces and cultural infrastructure for people to gather and express both their individual and collective voices. Design opportunities should respond to social transmission and infrastructure in Washington, DC. Emphasis should be on creating cultural destinations, not another monumental landmark. To achieve this goal, embracing cultural diversity and social equity is required. Diversity is not solely focused on welcoming different cultures and including multiple voices but also recognizing, understanding, and supporting the differences between people. The proposed cultural destinations should encourage not only long-time residents but also newcomers to express and accept identities of all kinds.


  • How can we find balance in the contradictions of preserving places for existing cultural identities while allowing for new ones?
  • How do we create places for cross-cultural exchange of information? o Can urban design support tolerance, providing people a safe medium to express themselves?
  • Can the urban fabrics reflect nuances that can promote exchange? For instance, threshold spaces, porches/stoops, streets/sidewalks, parks, cultural/academic institutions, etc.?
  • How can local community spaces interact with and support tourist spaces in DC, and vice versa?
  • How can we look at culture and identity through the lens of equity, inclusion and diversity?
  • How can we celebrate local communities and cultures, applying the notion of authentic culture, over manufactured branding, as an economic driver for place?
  • How can cities accommodate millions of visitors while creating and protecting public spaces—in scale, program, symbology, etc.—for local cultures that already exist and will evolve with the city over time?


11/08/2021    Start Competition
12/05/2021    Competition Ends, Submissions are final
End 2021       Finalists will be notified
Spring 2022   Winner Showcase


$15 for AIA, Assoc. AIA, and students
$25 for non-members


  • Any person or teams of up to five members may register and submit a competition entry.
  • Multiple entries from the same person or team may be considered as long as each is registered and paid for separately and the content is not duplicated. Duplicated content will disqualify all entries involved.
  • Any person that is a registered member of the AIA|DC Urban Design Committee or AIA|DC Asian American Design Union Committee is not eligible to participate.

If you have any questions about the eligibility requirements, please contact the AIA|DC UDC at AIA|DC UDC shall have the sole authority to verify that eligibility requirements have been met.


DC Cultural Map – Cultural Amplifier Map
Document Drive – Cultural Amplifier Supporting Documents


The jury shall have the sole authority to determine awards. The jury’s decisions shall be final and not subject to review. All entries will be anonymous up to the final selection. Finalists will be selected in a two-tiered process. In the first judging round, the jury will select top candidates for final awards. Of these submissions, the winner and honorable mentions will be decided.


The winner will receive monetary award of $500 and free registration to the next AIA|DC Urban Design Competition, in addition to the opportunity to author an article in this journal and receive a printed copy. The Honorable mention(s) will receive a monetary award of $250 and the opportunity to author an article in this journal and receive a printed copy.

The finalists will be featured in UD|DC’s annual publication about their submission and will receive a printed copy of the journal. See previous years' journals here:
Avenues, Issue 1 - Livability + The City
Avenues, Issue 2 - Spatial Equity
Avenues, Issue 3 - Transparency
Avenues, Issue 4 - Authenticity


  • Entrant information, including primary contact name, email address, and list of all team members (if applicable) must be submitted at the time of project submission.
  • Submission primary contact name AND email must match with registration. Noncompliance will be disqualified.

You are invited to describe your ideas in any variety of ways, with the following requirements:

  • All submissions are due by 11:59 pm EST on December 5th, 2021.
  • All submissions must be digital and uploaded to the competition website.
  • Once registered, respondents will receive a link and confirmation number to access the submission website.
  • No compensation will be made for technical difficulties in uploading past the deadline. We encourage you to upload your submission early.
  • No identifying information should appear within the content of the submission.
  • A short narrative of 300-500 words is required.
  • Drawings and imagery should illustrate the proposals impact on different urban scales.
  • Files should be submitted in one of the following file types: PDF, AVI, WMV, MOV, MP4.
  • Multi-page PDF submissions are limited to 5 pages/slides.
  • Video submissions are limited to 3 minutes in length.

All submissions (regardless of format) are limited to 25 MB in size. Submissions could include, among other types:

  • Bird’s eye and/or eye level renderings
  • Site plans, plans and/or sections
  • Axonometric or isometric drawings o Video (max length of 3min)
  • Infographics and diagrams
  • Collage
  • GIF


All persons or firms contributing to the design of the project must be given due credit, regardless of their professional disciplines. It is incumbent upon the submitting person to provide a complete list of all participants contributing to the design. By submitting a project for consideration, the submitting persons represents and warrants to AIA|DC that he or she has provided a complete list. Failure to provide a complete list may result in disqualification and/or a referral of the matter to the appropriate ethics body of the national office of AIA. AIA|DC accepts no responsibility for incomplete lists.


Although every reasonable precaution shall be taken in handling submitted material, the Chapter shall not be held responsible for loss of, or damage to, any submission.


Acceptance of an award shall constitute an agreement by the entrant to authorize AIA|DC to reproduce any of the material described above for publicity purposes, and an agreement to indemnify and hold the Chapter harmless in connection with such materials.


The jury will score entries on the following criteria:

  • Innovation and creativity of idea (50%)
  • Site Selection (30%)
  • Clearly and effectively communicates idea (20%)

The jury’s selection will be permanent and final. An impartial member of the AIA|DC Committee will serve as a moderator for the jury and provide written documentation of the jury’s selection. The jury will certify the accuracy and completeness of the documentation before the winners are announced publicly. Scoring rubrics and notes made by jury members during the jury’s closed session(s) will not be available to the public or participants. The Jury reserves the right to award winners but is not required to do so if the entries submitted do not meet the objectives of the competition as stated in the brief.

Register here.

After registration you will receive a confirmation email containing the submission link.