AAI 2nd Year Competition 2017

Second year comp

Deadline Extended to 03.05.2017

This is what democracy looks like

‘Tell me what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like.’

A common call and response chant at protest marches relating to social inequality in recent decades, notably across the Occupy movements since 2011. A slogan of the global Womens March(es) on Washington, 21 January 2017.

We are living through extraordinary times. 2016 saw unimaginably divisive political events including Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, alongside shocking realities of migration and homelessness demonstrating the inequalities at play. But the turn of 2016 to 2017 also brought inspiring images of resistance, solidarity and direct action (Apollo House and Womens March on Washington to name two).

Architecture is by nature about imagining a future, and this is inherently political. You are asked to think about 2017 as a tipping point towards a less inequal society, and to design for a society in which everyone has voice. You are asked to design ways to come together in difference. You are challenged to think about democracy, dissent, consequence, responsibility and the meaning of the things you design.

The challenge is to design what democracy looks like.

According to architect and urbanist Teddy Cruz ‘The past three decades have seen an ascendance of neoliberal policies, yielding a culture of unchecked greed that, in turn, has produced unprecedented inequality. This period of institutional unaccountability has been framed politically by the wrongful idea that democracy is the “right to be left alone,” a private dream devoid of social responsibility.[1] As Cruz asks, can we rethink and ‘recuperate’ the meaning of democracy?

Often you work to the constraints of a brief, a specific need. This competition can be a chance to think about action, response, and self-initiation rather than the fulfilment of a brief.

You are challenged to creative social and political action.

You are asked to make a design response to these turbulent political times; ‘in a new reality everything has a new meaning, as yet unestablished and unconfirmed’[2] When you are studying there can be a disconnect between the abstraction of college projects and wider reality. Think about the present and how you choose to respond. Think about this disconnect, this gap and make something to address it. Competitions can be a chance to test something you otherwise may not, an opportunity for unknown outcomes. Without constraint, what would you do?

Submission requirements:

“Never again shall a single story be told as though it were the only one.”  John Berger

 Make, do or design something spatial that facilitates dissent, difference and shared conversation. You may design a space for public protest or public conversation, or make another response of your choosing.

Your response might be pragmatic or poetic, large scale imagining or small scale action. The requirement is that is generates or facilitates shared conversation, encourages dissent, and that it is a spatial proposal. You might create a representative image, an action, a design. You may want to make or do something at 1:1 scale, or to reimagine part of a city plan.

Remember, while this brief is for a competition, it is also to result in an exhibition which gives collective voice to the thoughts of second year architecture students in Ireland in 2017 on what they stand for and how they can make radical design. Think about developing a relationship between critique and acting in the broader social, economic, and political world.

[1] Teddy Cruz to Ted Cruz: Tear Down That Wall, open letter via Creative Time Reports, 3 November 2014.
[2] Aleksandar Hemon, ‘Stop Making Sense, Or How to Write in the Age of Trump’, Village Voice, 17 January 2017.

Some references:

Planning for Protest https://www.planningforprotest.org/
Chantal Mouffe on agonistic democracy https://pavilionmagazine.org/chantal-mouffe-agonistic-democracy-and-radical-politics/
The artwork of Jeremy Deller. https://www.jeremydeller.org/
Gregory Sholette on art and the social turn https://field-journal.com/issue1/sholette
Home Sweet Home / the occupation of Apollo House – essay by Emmett Scanlon https://occupationalhazards.ie/agents-of-apollo/
The writings of John Berger – “Whenever the intensity of looking reaches a certain degree, one becomes aware of an equally intense energy coming towards one through the appearance of whatever it is one is scrutinizing.” 


Final Submission Guidelines for students

The final submission date has been extended to 5pm Wednesday 3rd May. Individual submissions from students should be uploaded to a dropbox folder and the link emailed to mccormackhelen@gmail.com by 5pm. File size max. 3.5mb

Entry guidelines: 2 no pdfs from each entrant consisting of the following –

1 – Image submission:

each pdf should be max 3.5mb
pdf should be identified by name in the following format:

school name_last name first name_ID code.pdf

The ID code is a code of your own choosing 2 letters 3 digits e.g. HM101. Put this code on the bottom left corner of your image.

2 – Accompanying written description, separate pdf.

max 250 words description

WD_school name_last name first name_ID code.pdf

Put your ID code on this page also, and no reference to your name or school name.


Selected entries may be shortlisted for exhibition, details of shortlisted entries will be announced on the AAI website and year heads informed. For exhibition purposes your image can be maximum A2 size (no minimum size, any medium) and 100mm depth max for models.

The competition brief is written by Tara Kennedy, Cork Centre for Architectural Education. The jury consists of Tara Kennedy, artist/activist Seoidin O’Sullivan and architect/UL tutor Maxime Laroussi.

Image: Fortress Europe (2007), edited found photograph, Zoran Poposki

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