The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) is pleased to announce the sixteenth annual steel design student competition for the 2015-2016 academic year. Sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), administered by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat as a promotional partner, the program is intended to challenge students, working individually or in teams, to explore a variety of design issues related to the use of steel in design and construction.


The 2015-2016 Steel Design Student Competition offered architecture students the opportunity to compete in two separate categories. A total of $14,000 will be distributed in cash prizes.

Category I TALL BUILDINGS: sought to explore the themes outlined above to find alternative design approaches for tall buildings; to create high-rise buildings that are inspired by the cultural, physical and environmental aspects of place. At the same time, the project should embrace the very latest technologies available (including future technologies) to allow advancement in steel structure, building form, skin, function, operation, systems and expression.

Category II OPEN
offered architecture students the opportunity to select a site and building program using steel as the primary material. This competition category permits the greatest amount of flexibility for any building type.


Structural steel offers a number of benefits in building design including the capacity to bear great loads in tension and compression, high resiliency and performance under harsh and difficult conditions, (e.g., earthquakes and hurricanes) and the ability to span great distances with minimum material. Steel can be shaped by many processes, ranging from standard rolled sections to custom castings and digitally generated components. It can be prefabricated and delivered for site assembly, and it can be erected quickly under almost any weather condition to meet tight construction schedules. Similarly, steel’s wide use for building cladding highlights its durability, technical capabilities and aesthetic versatility. Steel can be easily modified during the life cycle of a building to accommodate changing occupant requirements. As the most recycled material in the world, steel is an environmentally sound building material choice. Today, structural steel is 97% recycled with the primary source being automobiles. Architects praise the natural beauty of steel and are excited about exposing it in the design of their structures to emphasize grace, slenderness and strength, and in their building envelopes to enhance environmental performance and aesthetic character.

TALL BUILDINGS PROGRAM   It is vitally important that the site is studied and researched in detail, as this should be the springing point for the design. The eventual competition entry should clearly show how the building responds to its “site”, in the widest understanding of that word. It is important that the site study reaches far beyond the aspects of the individual site, in order to determine the context for design, the programmatic brief for the building, and to inform the design process to follow. Site studies thus need to embrace the ‘local’ (the direct site context of the building), the ‘intermediate’ (since a tall building has a physical relationship with places far and wide in a city) and the ‘global’ (the city and local culture as a whole).


This category offered architecture students the opportunity to participate in an open competition category with limited restrictions. Students (with the approval of a faculty sponsor) will select a site and building program of anything other than a tall building. Tall buildings, are defined in this competition, as a building that exceeds 12 stories in height. The design should be guided by the principles of innovation, creativity, identity, sustainability, functionality and efficiency.


2015–2016 ACSA/AISC Steel Student Design Competition representatives, from left to right: (organizer) Eric Wayne Ellis, Director of Operations and Programs, ACSA; (sponsor) Nancy Gavlin, Director of Education, AISC; (juror) Gail Borthwick, Design Director,Gensler; (juror) CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood; (juror) Jon Magnusson, Chairman/CEO, Magnusson Klemencic Associates; (juror) Doris Sung, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California; (juror) Elizabeth O’Donnell, Associate Dean, The Cooper Union; and (juror) Lee Su Huang, Assistant Professor, University of Florida. Image courtesy of CTBUH.
  Category I: TALL BUILDING Jurors
  Antony Wood has been Executive Director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat since 2006, responsible for the day-to-day running of the Council and steering in conjunction with the Board of Trustees, of which he is an ex-officio member. Prior to this, he was CTBUH Vice-Chairman for Europe and Head of Research. His tenure has seen a revitalization of the CTBUH and an increase in output and initiatives across all areas.
Jon Magnusson joined Magnusson Klemencic in 1976 and rapidly advanced to Principal, Senior Principal, CEO, and ultimately Chairman of the Board, a role he held for 18 years. Now a Senior Principal, Jon has been structural engineer-in-charge for over $2.5 billion of construction in the last 10 years alone. He has worked on projects in 47 states and 49 countries, including major sports stadiums, healthcare facilities, signature convention centers, and high-rise buildings.

With a strong passion for architecture and sustainable design, Gail Borthwick believes that successful projects must take into consideration what’s important to the client. We must align sustainable strategies with the performance goals of the client in order to have high performing projects that are sustainable and realized. With extensive expertise in sustainable design in architecture and urban design, she is currently leading two large scale projects in Chicago. In the last year she has developed the Design Performance Cards Tool for Gensler as a way to set up a dialogue between clients and design team members. The tool forces the discussion about performance on environmental, social and economic platforms. By expanding the performance spectrum we can add value in ways we never thought possible. Gail has presented at the LBC Unconference, USGBC Greenbuild, University of Montreal, Judson University, Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Paris City Hall.

  Category II: OPEN Jurors 
Doris Sung graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Architecture and from Columbia University with a M.Arch degree.  She worked in Boston at Walter Gropius' firm, The Architectural Collaborative, before completing her internship in Washington, D.C.  She has taught at the Catholic University of America, University of Colorado, Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), and University of Southern California (USC), where she is presently an Assistant Professor.  Ms. Sung has lectured and exhibited at numerous sites around the world.

Lee-Su Huang received his Bachelor of Architecture from Feng-Chia University in Taiwan and his Master in Architecture degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He has practiced in Taiwan with various firms and in the United States with Preston Scott Cohen Inc. in Cambridge, and with LA.S.S.A Architects in Seoul, Korea. As co-founder and principal of SHO, his research and practice centers on digital design+fabrication methodology, parametric design optimization strategies, as well as kinetic/interactive architectural prototypes. Lee-Su is currently Assistant Professor at the University of Florida’s School of Architecture, teaching graduate and undergraduate level design studios as well as foundation and advanced digital media / parametric modeling courses.

Elizabeth O’Donnell served as Associate Dean for the Cooper Union's School of Architecture for eleven years. In practice she has completed numerous projects in New York City including offices for non-profit foundations, schools, loft residences, and building additions, with an emphasis on the adaptive reuse of existing buildings and sites. She graduated from The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union after studying at the University of Minnesota and Antioch College and will complete a Master of Education at the City University of New York in 2014.
CTBUH Hosts 2015–2016 ACSA/AISC Steel Student Design Competition Jurors 

SPONSORS   Sponsor: American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), headquartered in Chicago, is a non-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry in the United States. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural-steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of more than 90 years of service to the steel construction industry providing timely and reliable information. Membership to AISC is free to university faculty and full time students and AISC membership provides valuable benefits. Information can be found at under membership.

Administrative Organization: The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture is a nonprofit, membership association founded in 1912 to advance the quality of architectural education. The school membership in ACSA has grown from 10 charter members to over 250 schools in several membership categories. These include full membership for all accredited programs in the United States and government-sanctioned schools in Canada, candidate membership for schools seeking accreditation, and affiliate membership for schools for two-year and international programs. Through these schools, over 5,000 architecture faculty members are represented. In addition, over 500 supporting members composed of architecture firms, product associations and individuals add to the breadth of interest and support of ACSA goals. ACSA provides a major form for ideas on the leading edge of architectural thought. Issues that will affect the architectural profession in the future are being examined today in ACSA member schools.

Promotional Partner: The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is the world’s leading resource for professionals focused on the inception, design, construction, and operation of tall buildings and future cities. A not-for-profit organization, founded in 1969 and based at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology, CTBUH has an Asia Headquarters office at Tongji University, Shanghai, and a Research Office at Iuav University, Venice, Italy. CTBUH facilitates the exchange of the latest knowledge available on tall buildings around the world through publications, research, events, working groups, web resources, and its extensive network of international representatives. The Council’s research department is spearheading the investigation of the next generation of tall buildings by aiding original research on sustainability and key development issues. The Council’s free database on tall buildings, The Skyscraper Center, is updated daily with detailed information, images, data, and news. The CTBUH also developed the international standards for measuring tall building height and is recognized as the arbiter for bestowing such designations as “The World’s Tallest Building.”


View the full 15-16 Steel Competition Program (pdf) 


The projects will be on view at the 105th ACSA Annual Meeting in Detroit, MI (March 23-25, 2017) and the American Institute of Architects Annual Convention in Orlando, FL (April 27-29, 2017).


ACSA & AISC will be publishing a full competition summary book (Fall 2016) highlighting all of the winners, including more images and additional information on all projects.

+ Check out past competition winners