Competition: In/Visible Borders

  • Date

    Sunday, December 16 2018

  • Time


  • Location

    Online Submission


Cities should be built and evolve for the people that live within them, but who the people are is often debated, forgotten, or misunderstood. This year, the AIA|DC Urban Design Committee has sought a better understanding how architecture and urban design contribute to spatial equity within cities.

Spatial equity strives to give equal opportunity to the community inhabiting the space. The collaboration between the designer and developer aims to be inclusive of the community ethos and aspiration, creating a culture of place that measures human values. Thus this competition strives to elicit new ideas for the places in which we, the people, live and how we can continue to achieve more spatial equity.


Thresholds, boundaries, and borders define the edges of our everyday life. Borders of all scales, visible and invisible, establish relationships between the built environment and surrounding communities. Borders influence how we identify ourselves, relate to others, utilize available resources, and form communities. They are the physical and symbolic embodiment of our choices and are an indicator of how equity is distributed. These borders can clarify and define spaces and relationships — making the world around us easier to navigate and understand.

Borders also have the ability to restrict the sharing of resources. This typically results in the detriment of one party and perpetuates further inequity.  These inequities are manifested in different scales, such as slums, public housing, refugee camps, and war zones.They also can translate into infrastructural systems affecting mobility and education. The lack of access to green spaces, food deserts, empty buildings, vacant lots, and congested streets are just a few of the physical manifestations of inequity.

Borders, according to Jane Jacobs, “exert an influence (sucking) the life out of our cities and its neighborhoods. Not just literal walls and barriers, many features of urban life — from roads to parks to buildings — can cut off activities in public spaces and create what's called a border vacuum.” In contrast, Kevin Lynch argues that boundaries can fuse communities together: “an edge may be more than simply a dominant barrier if some visual or motion penetration is allowed through it — if it is […] structured to some depth with the regions on either side. It then becomes a seam rather than a barrier, a line of exchange along which two areas are sewn together.”  If borders are instead viewed as a means of stitching disparate entities together or facilitating connections and transactions, they have the potential to be flexible, permeable, and inclusive.

In 1995 seven european countries opened their borders to each other for their citizens to cross without IDs. This group, known as the Schengen Zone, was later joined by 19 countries, the dissolution of these state borders brought a large part of europe together. It resulted in easier cross-border commutes to work, the ability to shop in other countries, and vacations unencumbered by tedious passport hassles. However, the recent refugee crisis and rise of nationalistic parties have led to some border controls being re-established. The Schengen Zone is being questioned and the future of european borders is unclear. There are numerous countries that are re-evaluating their own positions with regard to trade, immigration, and refugees.

In addition to the state/county, and other jurisdictional lines that divide a nation, there are border conditions that are translated through the complex networks of infrastructural systems, transportation networks, agricultural production, labor forces/unions, telecommunications, energy production, and more. Behind these industries lie numerous organizing institutes and stakeholders. These complex network often suffer in their efficiency due to political borders, and are critical for the existence of an autonomous state. Is it possible to reimagine how borders impact autonomy? At the neighborhood level we often come across edges that restrict movement, manifested either in physical signs or integrated within us through socio-cultural systems. The relationship between buildings, streets/buildings, plaza/street/buildings, offers spaces for opportunity that redefines the segregation to integration. Cohesion and collectivism can transform the points of conflicts to points of growth.


  • How can design as a medium leverage and transform borders to unify spaces while at the same time maintaining identity, diversity, security, and sense of place?
  • How does the design process vary and how can it be reimagined with respect to borders, at multiple  scales, and what impacts would this have on the community at large?
  • When do borders contribute to spatial equity and when do they harm these pursuits? How can design reinforce or weaken these affects, respectively?

You are asked to propose design solutions to enhance spatial equity along a border(s). A successful proposal should seek to demonstrate the relationship between multiple scales that are formed by border conditions: the resultant urban conditions of this systematic relationships, the individuals who are impacted by this urban condition, and the stakeholders who may manage or influence how these systems operate.


  • 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 is not eligible.

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.


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 finalists will be invited to author a brief article in UDDC’s annual publication about their submission and will receive a printed copy of the journal. See last years journal here.

The winner will receive $750 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.


Registration - open now!

Student - submission fee of $35               
Professional - submission fee of $50

Please note that all fees are non-refundable.

Teams of up to five persons may submit under one admission fee.



  • 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.

Submission Requirements

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 16th, 2018.                   
  • All submissions must be digital and uploaded to the competition website.            
  • Once registered will receive a link and confirmation number to access the submission website.
  • No compensations 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 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 submission 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
  • Video (max length of 3min)
  • Infographics and diagrams
  • Collage
  • GIF

Upload Instructions

Visit the following website for upload by the deadline:

You will need your confirmation number (found in your registration email) and the email address you registered with.


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’s selection will 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.