Urban SOS: All Systems Go Competition Looks At Infrastructure Decay And Proposed Solutions

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

Urban decay illustrated by empty building shell.  AECOM, Van Alen Institute, and 100 Resilient Cities—pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation—have launched Urban SOS: All Systems Go, an ideas competition calling on multidisciplinary teams of students worldwide to identify risks to urban food, energy, or water systems, and offer strategies that make these systems more efficient, equitable, and accessible to diverse populations.

Around the world, this critical infrastructure is increasingly at risk due to extreme weather, the impacts of climate change, and social and economic strife. In New York City, for example, if storms or a labor dispute were to disable the food distribution hub at Hunts Point for any significant length of time, 22 million people throughout the region would be left with less than three days’ worth of food. Despite the importance and vulnerability of these systems, too often, adequate attention isn’t paid to pipelines, power grids, and food supply chains until they fail.

The competition challenges participants to visualize a systemic food, energy, or water infrastructure problem and its consequences, as well as realistic opportunities for intervention, including a prototype of one or more of their strategies that could be realized within the next 12 months. AECOM will make available $25,000 of cash and in-kind staff time to support the implementation of the prototype.

Three short-listed teams will be invited to present their proposals before an interdisciplinary panel at the A+D Museum in Los Angeles in October 2015. Urban SOS: All Systems Go jurors will award $15,000 in prizes, which may be divided among one or more teams.

“This is the sixth year of the Urban SOS competition, and teaming with Van Alen Institute creates a powerful partnership dedicated to finding creative solutions for making our cities more adaptable to change and responsive to crisis,” says Bill Hanway, executive vice president of global architecture at AECOM. “Our involvement with 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by Rockefeller Foundation, has provided a unique platform for the competition and will help bring young designers’ ideas, both profound and poetic, into the global dialogue.”

“Van Alen Institute has a long history of organizing student competitions to produce innovative strategies that address pressing issues,” says Van Alen Executive Director David van der Leer. “Our partnership with AECOM and 100 Resilient Cities will bring together the most talented interdisciplinary teams of future changemakers and civic leaders around the world to envision more productive infrastructure systems for our cities and regions.”

Now in its sixth year, Urban SOS is AECOM’s annual student competition. The program aims to promote cross-disciplinary thinking among the emerging generation of designers.