2018 National DiscoverDesign Competition:


The National DiscoverDesign Competition is an annual ideas competition challenging high school students to design solutions to a real-world problem using the design process. The competition is hosted by the Chicago Architecture Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring people to discover why design matters.

This year’s challenge was developed in partnership with Borderless Studio, an architecture and urban design office that focuses on the future of cities and the roles that architecture plays in supporting healthy, vibrant and meaningful communities.

Download the Competition Packet

The Challenge

Design a community market on a transit-oriented site in Chicago to improve access to resources and provide public gathering spaces for the Marshall Square or McKinley Park neighborhoods in Chicago. Your design must be able to be built on one of the following transit-oriented development sites:

Marshall Square

Marshall Square

2012 S California Avenue

Vacant lot under the train line at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Pink line, California station

McKinley Park

McKinley Park

2211 W 35th Street

Vacant lot near the CTA Orange line, 35th/Archer station


Community markets provide both social and economic benefits for the public. They encourage personal interactions, bring life to often overlooked spaces and stimulate local economies in ways that major retail stores or supermarkets cannot. Community markets can especially thrive in areas where people already pass through, making areas near bus, train bicycle and other transit stations an ideal location.

Projects developed with consideration to nearby transit stations are called transit-oriented developments (TODs). Research shows that TODs can positively impact an area in a ½ mile radius from the station location. As a gateway for many communities, transit-oriented projects are pedestrian focused, sustainable and can serve as an important resource for people using the station. In particular, they can provide unique opportunities for community exchange, gathering and access to essential community resources. For example, fresh and healthy food options in ‘food deserts’ (areas where people don’t have access to fresh or healthy food options) or safe spaces for public gathering.


Competition entries will be judged on both process and final designs. Strong designs will demonstrate evidence of research, written and visual documentation through the following criteria:

  • Consideration of the relationship between market space, community gathering, dialogue and engagement for all times of year and all ages.
  • Consider the context of the site: Who lives around here? What kinds of places surround it (schools, shops, transit)? What are the neighboring resources and/or needs?
  • Includes options for additional programming or functions to enable gathering and communicating. For example areas for raising awareness to community issues through performances/lectures/concerts; steps for gathering; and/or exhibition space for public art.
  • Research and understanding of the community for which the market serves.


Designs must adhere to the following constraints:

  • Build on one of the proposed sites and within the specified lot dimensions
  • Include at least one permanent structure
  • Include solutions for providing access to healthy/locally sourced food as a resource
  • Include solutions for activating the space year-round
  • Include site elements (trees, people, etc.)
  • Include at least one scale figure
  • Show your overall, final design in context on the site


September 4:

Registration opens

October 31:

November 30

Registration closes: deadline extended

November 30:

Project submission deadline

December 12:

Jury Day

December 17:

Winners announced


Must be a student age 13-18 who lives within the United States and has not graduated high school yet. See additional eligibility details.


The National DiscoverDesign Competition is free to enter. Register online at https://architecture.slideroom.com by October 31, 2018 to compete.

Winners & Prizes

The jury will select ten finalists to compete for first, second and third place.

  • First Prize: Economy-class round trip flight for two within the United States serviced by Southwest Airlines , $100 cash prize & framed certificate
  • Second Prize: $250 cash prize & framed certificate
  • Third Prize: $150 cash prize & framed certificate
  • Finalists: $50 cash prize & framed certificate
  • Educators: The primary sponsoring educator for the top three winners will receive a gift card for classroom supplies.

Submission Requirements

All of the following requirements must be submitted by November 30 to the competition portal in order to qualify for jury review:

Completed design challenge steps on DiscoverDesign. A completed design challenge must include:

  • a unique cover image of your design
  • at least one description and three images per step of the design process
  • written statement (250-500 words) addressing: Reflect on your initial success statement. How did you successfully address the challenge and serve the identified community? What are some unresolved aspects of your design?

Completed registration on the competition portal including:

  • All form questions answered
  • URL to your completed design challenge
  • One (1) overall image showcasing your final design (jpeg) (this needs to be the same as your header image for your DiscoverDesign project)
  • Click the SUBMIT button by November 30, 2018.

Projects must be submitted to the competition portal on November 30, 2018 to qualify for jury review. You must submit your design project URL and one (1) overall image to the competition platform.

Download Competition PacketStart Design ChallengeSubmit project on SlideroomView Competition Resources