Winners Announced: 2009 Open Architecture Challenge


September 8th, 2009 – A team of young engineers from Gifford LLP, a London-based engineering consultancy firm, received the award for Best Rural Classroom Design for the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom for their design for a new rural classroom for Building Tomorrow–one of three building partners in the competition.

According to Gifford’s web site, “The rural classroom is designed to be built easily by a local community in Uganda and in other rural communities of the Developing World. It includes innovative design features to provide a comfortable, stimulating and usable learning environment within a sustainable building structure.

The Gifford team consists of engineers Chris Soley, Hayley Maxwell and Farah Naz who specialize in sustainability and low energy design, and structural engineers Jessica Robinson and Ed Crammond.

Chris Soley of Gifford said: ‘As engineers we have a passion for design and we are thrilled to have done so well in what is principally an architectural competition. Our design focuses on community involvement with a building that can be easily built from local materials by local tradesman at low cost, and providing a comfortable and flexible multi-use space for the whole community.’”

View the winning designs and finalists:

Challenge Winner: Teton Valley Community School, Victor, Idaho, USA
Designed by: Section Eight [design], Victor, Idaho, USA

Founders’ Award: The Corporación Educativa y Social Waldorf, Bogota, Colombia
Designed by: Arquitectura Justa, Bogota, Colombia

Best Rural Classroom Design: Building Tomorrow Academy, Wakiso and Kiboga, Uganda
Designed by: Gifford LLP, London, UK

Best Urban Classroom Upgrade Design: Rumi School of Excellence, Hyderabad, India
Designed: IDEO, San Francisco, CA, USA

Best Re-locatable Classroom Design: Druid Hills High School, Georgia, USA
Designed by: Perkins and Will, Georgia, USA

The need for safe, sustainable and smart classroom design has never been greater. Worldwide, 776 million people are illiterate. With less that six years left to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals the World Bank estimates ten million new classrooms are needed to reach its target on education. In addition, tens of millions of crumbling classrooms ¬ including many in the United States ¬ are in desperate need of upgrading. Meeting this demand for better learning environments will constitute the largest building project the world has ever undertaken.

In response, the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge was launched by Architecture for Humanity and principal partner Orient Global in collaboration with a consortium of other partners from around the world. This truly global initiative invited the architecture, design and engineering community to collaborate directly with students and teachers to rethink the classroom of the future. Designers entering the competition were given a simple mandate: collaborate with real students in real schools in their community to develop real solutions. Collectively more than 10,000 individuals participated in this global initiative.

More than 1,000 design teams from 65 countries registered for the competition. The winning design was selected from more than 400 qualified entries by a team of interdisciplinary online jurors. (See Jury Bios: Each design was rated on feasibility, sustainability, and innovation in the learning environment.

“The response to the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge has been remarkable. It has clearly captured people’s imagination,” said Richard F. Chandler, Chairman of Orient Global. “We congratulate the winning teams and everyone who took part in this international effort. Education is the first step in building prosperity for tomorrow’s world. The challenge now is to implement the best of these designs in classrooms across the globe.”

Gifford LLP’s classroom design will be realized multiple times over the next few years as Building Tomorrow continues to break ground on new academies throughout Uganda. Furthermore, Gifford LLP will receive a design and travel grant to work with Building Tomorrow on the ground in Uganda throughout the construction process.

Teton Valley Community School in Victor, Idaho and architecture firm Section Eight [design] received the top award of the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom. An emerging practice, Section Eight [design] partnered with Teton Valley Community School to design the classroom of the future. Currently based out of a remodeled house, students at Teton Valley Community School are now one step closer to getting a real classroom. In addition to the rural classroom winner, the competition recognized entries in two more categories: best urban classroom upgrade design and best re-locatable classroom design. Building partners Rumi Schools of Excellence in India and Blazer Industries with The Modular Building Institute in the United States have committed to build classrooms based on these designs.

The Founders Award is awarded to the entry that best exemplifies the aims of Architecture for Humanity and the Open Architecture Network. It was awarded to the entry for The Corporación Educativa y Social Waldorf in Bogota, Colombia designed by Arquitectura Justa for their integrated approach to providing safe spaces for students to learn and play.

Competition finalists will also receive awards, including software from industry leader Autodesk; SMART Board interactive whiteboard from SMART Technologies; Google SketchUp Pro 7; copies of the book the Third Teacher by OWP/P, VS America and Bruce Mau Design and an honorarium from partner Curriki for the best use of the competition design curriculum.

All the design solutions are now available on the Open Architecture Network for designers and school administrators to learn from and adapt to their own context. An international traveling exhibition of the winning designs and notable entries is set to launch in the fall.

To see all the entries and for more information, please visit:

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