Upgrade a structure Stony Island Arts Bank

CIRT Upgrade a Structure Challenge

Upcycled Architecture is defined as the art of redesigning an existing structure for purposes other than those for which it was originally intended. Upcycled Architecture additionally advances an existing building’s sustainable, dynamic, and programmatic uses.


In this step you should define your problem with a short statement answering what and where you are designing, and who the primary user is. Refer to the Entry Process Questions to guide your thinking.

Design Challenge Brief

Some contend social and economic changes are creating phenomenal possibilities to upcycle older structures. Very often, buildings outlive their original purposes and today's designers and builders face the challenge of creatively bringing new life and function to them. Upcycled Architecture offers the chance to embrace our past designs while looking to the future for more adaptive uses.

Key to success in this challenge:

  1. identify the structure(s),
  2. provide the reasons for your selection,
  3. give clear explanation of former or current uses/purpose and what you intend to change it to,
  4. support for your intended purpose(s), and
  5. you must use design and construction materials, building techniques, and approaches (e.g., speak to the structural engineering and construction) that are the essence of your new approach/purpose. [Dimensions, size, costs, site, etc. must be determined by the team, but all decisions should be explained and warranted based on the resources likely to be attracted to such a proposal. A square foot cost estimate must be provided]. 

Check out the CIRT Competition Packet for more information about the challenge and competition requirements.

Collect Info

Gather as much information as possible about your chosen location’s topography, climate and primary audiences. Upload images, notes, sketches, land use maps and other helpful resources that show your thinking. You can leave notes for your team in the comment section.


Brainstorm Ideas

As your ideas come together, upload sketches, floorplans, bubble diagrams, aerial maps, material studies or prototype models of these initial ideas. Document each iteration and note shifts in thinking. You’ll need to remember your process and thinking for your final competition board!

Develop Solutions

Take your preliminary ideas and form multiple small-scale design solutions. Create digital or physical models that help articulate your more developed ideas. Discuss them as a team and make final decisions.

Remember the importance of the Design Aspects/Construction Elements:

  • Site selection and its context (built and/or natural)
  • Constructability (structural challenges, materials, textures, colors, etc.)
  • Strategy for sustainability
  • Surrounding landscape/external spaces
  • Life and activities, in and around the building, including the qualities of enclosed spaces showing furniture, fittings and finishes (where needed or appropriate to the design competition selected).

The overall theme, or evaluation criteria, for the competition is one founded on the practical aspects of the profession, particularly with respect to:

  • Constructability
  • Use of materials
  • Meeting deadlines and establishing realistic/reasonable expenses or budgets

More important than the actual design solution is the methods and processes used to arrive at a solution. Fundamentally, the spirit of this competition is one of design and construction.

Final Design

Upload your final images, text and renderings for your final presentation board.

Your final solution should address these entry process questions:

  1. Define and or describe the problems/challenges you faced when deciding on the design project you chose to do for the competition.
  2. Thoroughly describe your design process, in writing and through visuals (e.g. sketches, renderings, stepped process, before and after, budgets, timelines, etc.) that specifically and realistically meets the precise or exact nature of the challenge and/or the client goals/needs.
  3. Explain how your design approach is an appropriate, innovative solution that realistically responds to the precise design competition problem. Explain how your design is different from other approaches or processes, if such is the case; and/or meets budgetary constraints, timeline issues or other challenges.
  4. Describe any social/ecological or otherwise beneficial qualities of your design solution. (For example, is it a universal design? How? Is it environmentally friendly? Does it use cost-effective or recyclable materials?)
  5. Describe what you learned from this design competition.

Submit: For those competing in the CIRT National Competition, please remember to submit the URL to your completed design project with your registration application to the competition platform. You can do this by:

  1. Login to DiscoverDesign
  2. Go to My Account
  3. Under the All Projects tab, please click on your design competition project. Copy the URL for your design project and submit it with the design process questionnaire (question #6).

Don't forget to complete your project and to submit your work on the 2016 Competition Submission page.