2013 DiscoverDesign National High School Architecture Competition

What is the DiscoverDesign.org National High School Architecture Competition?
Sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), the aim of this competition is to promote architectural awareness and design problem solving skills in high school students across the United States. The competition utilizes DiscoverDesign.org, CAF’s new digital learning tool which connects teens, teachers and architects for 21st century project-based learning.

This competition is open to any student at least 13 years old and currently enrolled as a United States high school student (grades 9 – 12) within the 50 United States. You may only enter as an individual and may only submit one design project.

In order to be eligible for judging, your design project must include uploaded content (text and/or images) in all of the five steps of the design process on DiscoverDesign.org, including: Overview, Collect Info, Brainstorm Ideas, Develop Solutions, and Final Design.

There is no cost to enter this competition.  Mail-in submissions of design projects will not be accepted. 

By participating you understand and will comply with these guidelines established here. 

Design Challenge Background
Libraries are no longer being used as places to store and distribute books, nor do they serve as place for only studying. With changes in technology, libraries have been forced to change their ways of operating. Instead of closing their doors, they are adapting by becoming People-Centric instead of being Book-Centric. They become community resources for collaborating, creating, and making.

Design Challenge Brief
The challenge is to redesign your high school library and re-think how your school’s library should, or could, function as technology advances and our notion of study and working changes accordingly. What does a library look like that is designed around a person’s knowledge needs instead of only storing and cataloging books?

You may redesign the interior of the existing library space, expand on the existing space, or design a completely new addition on to your school building. Your design should contain all the spaces and functions required for a typical school library – a variety of seating options for students (inside and out!), as well as book and media storage, space for the librarian, computer areas, audio/visual labs, and meeting spaces. You may also want to include a cafe, information kiosk, or a workshop area. The redesigned library should include ideas for both old and new ideas for a library. You should also consider sustainability issues and the environmental impact of your design.

2013 Competition Schedule

Competition open for registration and submissions February 12
EXTENDED! Registration and consent forms deadline Postmarked, emailed, or faxed to CAF by Friday, April 19
All project submissions deadline Tuesday, May 14 at 8:00pm, CDT
Project judging - Round 1 week of May 19, 2013
10 Finalists announced Tuesday, May 28 2013
Project judging - Round 2 week of June 3, 2013
Top 3 Winners announced Tuesday, June 11, 2013
First place winner available to claim prize and visit Chicago August 2013

Solving the design problem
The library design problem posted on DiscoverDesign.org contains suggestions for the types of questions you might want to ask while solving this design problem.  It also includes samples of the types of drawings, models, and images you might want to upload to the website.

DiscoverDesign.org isn’t just about showing your final finished design.  It’s also about showing how you arrived at a solution (sort of like when your Geometry teacher asks you to “show your work.”).  Don’t wait until the last minute to upload all your design ideas!

Submissions may be illustrated or rendered in any format – hand sketches, photographs, videos, animations, digital models (as DWF files), hand or digital illustrations. Physical models may also be built, photographed, and uploaded to your account on DiscoverDesign.org.

Uploading your design work
The judges want to see photos showing the problems in your existing library, sketches of your early ideas, a physical study model, and explanations of ideas you investigated but later rejected. 

If you’re working on a digital model in Google SketchUp, AutoCAD, or Revit for example, you'll want to be sure to keep re-saving your digital model (with a new file name each time) as you work through the steps. Keep uploading new versions to your project account without deleting the old files.

Throughout the various stages of the design process, you can post photos, digital models, animations, architectural drawings, videos, and written text. DiscoverDesign.org is a creative ‘architectural town square’ where you can be inspired, pose questions, and get feedback about your work from your teachers, other students, or even an architect who might be mentoring you.

IMPORTANT: In order to be eligible for judging, you must upload content (text and/or images) in each of the five steps of the design process on DiscoverDesign.org, including: Overview, Collect Info, Brainstorm Ideas, Develop Solutions, and Final Design.

Once you begin your design project, we will suggest deadline dates for each stage of the design process in order to keep you on track to meet the final deadline on May 14, 2013.  These internal deadlines are optional. 

Additional info and the technical specifics on uploading your work can be found here.

Free Design Software Video Tutorials

CAF is pleased to partner with BlackSpectacles.com to offer all students registered in the competition access to free online design software tutorials until the competition ends on May 14, 2013.

You can learn more about how to use Google SketchUp, Revit, 3DS Max Design, Photoshop, and AutoCAD with the free tutorial videos at BlackSpectacles.com. (These tutorials are valued at $120 / 4 months).  

To take advantage of this offer, CAF will provide your name and email address to Black Spectacles to set up your account.  You may choose to opt out of this offer by checking the box on the Registration Form. After the competition, students and teachers will be eligible for a 20% discount off any BlackSpectacles.com membership.

While many design software programs cost money, Google SketchUp is free to download.  Google also provides basic video tutorials.

First prize: Trip for 1 student winner and 1 parent/guardian to Chicago, sometime between August 1 – 15, 2013.  

Trip includes: a roundtrip flight for 2 from within the 50 United States; 2 nights in the Palmer House Hilton Hotel; a $60 gift certificate to the Lockwood Restaurant at the Palmer House; 2 tickets to a CAF river cruise and walking tour; a year-long membership for design software tutorials from BlackSpectacles.com ($280 value); and a copy of CAF’s The Architecture Handbook: A Student Guide to Understanding Buildings.

Second prize: $250 CAF Shop certificate; a year-long membership for design software tutorials from BlackSpectacles.com ($280 value); and a copy of The Architecture Handbook.

Third prize: $100 CAF Shop certificate; a year-long membership for design software tutorials from BlackSpectacles.com ($280 value); and a copy of The Architecture Handbook.

The 2013 jury will also recognize one student and one architect mentor who did the most to foster, encourage, and build an online design community of learners in DiscoverDesign.  Through comments and feedback, they will provide both encouragement and constructive criticism on students' work throughout the run of the competition.

Role of Teachers in the Competition
There are no requirements or expectations that a teacher will coach you through the competition, but we do encourage this.

However, you must have a sponsoring teacher at your high school who signs the consent form. The teacher may teach any course at school, but must be able to verify that you are enrolled as a student.

Registration and Consent Forms

Step 1
You must first create an authenticated user account and username on DiscoverDesign.org. Your username should NOT include your full name or your school name. Your username must be included on the Registration and Consent forms.

Step 2
Complete a Registration form.  It must be postmarked, emailed, or faxed to CAF by Wednesday, April 4.  Full contact information can be found on the form.

Step 3
Complete a Consent form.  It must be postmarked, emailed, or faxed to CAF by Wednesday, April 4.  Full contact information can be found on the form.

Notes on registering
If you are under the age of 18, we require your parent or guardian’s signature.
If you are over the age of 18, you are not required to have their parent or guardian sign the forms.

You must also provide the following information on the registration and consent forms:

  • Your name
  • Your date of birth
  • High school you currently attend (or homeschool network)
  • Name, address, and signature of your parent / guardian (if under age 18)
  • Signature from a sponsoring teacher at your school

Deadlines for submitting a final entry
The final deadline is Tuesday, May 14, 2013 8:00pm CDT.

After this time, all user accounts will be locked for judging and no additional images or text will be able to be uploaded.

All design work for the competition will be uploaded through your user account for the 2013 DiscoverDesign.org National High School Architecture Competition Library Redesign.  Your project can include images of your physical model, but no physical projects/boards/models will be accepted as competition entries at CAF.

User accounts will be unlocked for additional comments and feedback after the final results are announced on Wednesday, June 6.

Judging criteria

  • Originality in your design.
  • Your ability to creatively solve the design challenge.
  • How well your library redesign uses energy and natural resources in order to minimize the building’s impact on the environment.
  • The quality of images, sketches, drawings, and models you have uploaded in each of the five design process steps on DiscoverDesign.org (Overview, Collect Info, Brainstorm Ideas, Develop Solutions, and Final Design).
  • How well you have written about and explained your thinking in each of the design process steps.

Judging process
All entries meeting the eligibility requirements will be prejudged in Round 1 during the week of May 28, 2013 by a panel of professional designers and/or design educators.  Ten finalists will be announced on June 6.  The public will be encouraged to comment on the final student designs. Round 2 judging will take place during the week of June 11 and the top three winners will be announced on June 20.

If any design entries do not meet the requirements, the panel reserves the right not to award a winner.  All decisions made by the panel are final. 

Judges will provide online feedback for the top three winning student projects.

Notification of winners
Finalists and winners, as well as their teachers, will be notified by email.

How will student design projects be used?
The Chicago Architecture Foundation will use your design project to promote DiscoverDesign.org and next year’s competition to teens, teachers, and architects across the country and around the world.  CAF reserves the right to use the winning designs in its printed and electronic publications.

Ownership of design work
You retain ownership of your entire submission (images, text, videos, models, etc.), subject to the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s right to use the submission as granted in the consent form.

Privacy and Safety
The privacy and online safety of high school students using DiscoverDesign.org are very important to us.  To protect your privacy, we limit the personal information we collect from you and publish on the website, and we do not share your data with anyone.  Only your username and city are displayed online.  Our policies are in accordance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Students must be at least 13 years old in order to create an account on DiscoverDesign.org.  By creating an account a user can comment on others’ work and upload their own work. 

The Chicago Architecture Foundation seeks to provide an online environment where students, teachers, and architecture professionals can interact safely among themselves and also with their classmates, friends, and people around them. 

Please see Terms of Use, privacy, and online safety for complete information.

Design project submissions are not linked to your name or school for the judging and review process.  Only your username and city are displayed.  Judging will be done anonymously and members of the jury will not see your name or your school listed.

The names, schools, and links to the submissions of the top three placing students will be publicly announced by the Chicago Architecture Foundation at the end of the competition.

Children, siblings, or members of households of employees of the Chicago Architecture Foundation are ineligible.  Additionally, no child, sibling, or immediate family member of a Jury member may participate.  No member of the Jury shall assist a student or act in any other capacity whatsoever to advise or aid a competition entrant in the development of his or her submission.


Applicants will be disqualified if they:

  • Are not registered as a United States high school student, within the 50 United States (grades 9 – 12)
  • Do not upload content (text and/or images) in each of the five steps of the design process on DiscoverDesign.org, including: Overview, Collect Info, Brainstorm Ideas, Develop Solutions, Final Design.
  • Do not submit a consent form signed by a sponsoring teacher and also a parent/guardian (if under age 18).
  • Do not adhere to the entry guidelines.
  • Use any derogatory language on DiscoverDesign.org.
  • Plagiarize or submit someone else’s material – whether student or professional, built or unbuilt.

Need help or have questions?
Email or call Jen Masengarb, Senior Manager of Educational Research at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

312.922.3432 x246