Design Guidelines

Tackling Wicked Problems
2017-2018 Designing Healthy Places Student Competition

Sponsors: National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
                 American Institute of Architects (AIA)
                 Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA)

Design proposals must reflect a clear conceptual strategy, which is resolved in built form at a detailed level. The project should be developed with an integrative approach to the innovative use of building materials and systems—spatial, structural, environmental and enclosure.

Participants will develop a selected physical area of the project in greater detail considering the building’s systems through larger scale drawings showing structure, environmental strategies, building envelope and interior spaces. Through rendered perspectives and elevations, the proposals should demonstrate surface qualities including material, color, texture, and light.

Together with the integrated resolution of structural, tectonic and technical issues, projects should be designed in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.  Design proposals should respond to the physical context (geography, topography and latitude), climate (sun, wind, light and water), and culture (patterns of interaction rising from human occupation). Projects should demonstrate reduced dependency on non-renewable resources and the integration of environmental responsibility with the architectural vocabulary of the proposal.

Criteria for the judging of submissions will include: creativity in the design solution, successful response of the design to its surrounding context, and successful response to the full range of issues within the concept of healthy design.

Submissions must clearly represent the selected program. In addressing the specific issues of the design challenge, submissions must clearly demonstrate the design solution’s response to the following requirements:

  • An elegant expressive understanding of the healthy design concepts deployed with maximum innovative potential
  • A strong conceptual strategy translated into a coherent integrated design proposal
  • An articulate mastery of formal concepts and aesthetic values
  • A compelling response to the physical and cultural context of the scheme
  • A mature awareness and innovative approach to environmental issues
  • A thorough appreciation of human needs and social responsibilities

Submissions must include (but are not limited to) the following required drawings:

  • Three-dimensional representations - in the form of axonometrics, perspectives showing the proposal in its context, montages and/or physical model photographs – to illustrate the character of the project
  • Site plan showing proposal in its context of surrounding buildings and topography, together with details of access/circulation
  • Building/site sections sufficient to show site context and major spatial and program elements
  • Floor plans to show program elements, spatial adjacencies and navigation strategies
  • Large scale drawing(s), either orthographic or three dimensional, illustrating:
    • the use and detailing of healthy concepts

Submissions must include:

  • Completed online registration including all team members and faculty sponsors
  • 4 digital boards at 20” x 20”.
  • A design essay or abstract (300 words maximum)
  • Program summary diagram/text of spaces and areas (300 words maximum)

Incomplete or undocumented entries will be disqualified. All drawings should be presented at a scale appropriate to the design solution and include a graphic scale. The site plan should include a north arrow. The names of student participants, their schools, or faculty sponsors, must NOT appear on the boards, or in the project title or project title file name(s).

For questions please contact: 

Eric Wayne Ellis
Allison Smith 
Director of Operations and Programs

Programs Manager


Designing Healthy Places Competition
The Opportunity
Design Guidelines
Competition Guidelines
Competition Organizers

Full Designing Healthy Places Competition Program (PDF)