Design It: Shelter Competition

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Google today announced the launch of Design It: Shelter Competition, a global online initiative that invites the public to use Google Earth and Google SketchUp to create and submit designs for virtual 3D shelters for a location of their choice anywhere on Earth. The competition opened today, June 8, 2009, Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday, and the deadline for submissions is August 23.


The competition is open to everyone from students to amateur designers to design and architecture professionals. After choosing a location on Google Earth, participants can use SketchUp 3D modelling software to create original designs for 100-square-foot structures in which to live and work. Completed designs are then uploaded to the Google 3D Warehouse and submitted via the Design It: Shelter Competition Web site where site visitors will be able to browse through all of the entries.

“Google SketchUp is a free software program that enables anyone to create and share 3D models of anything imaginable. It’s a fancy pencil. People have an easy time picking it up and making whatever comes to mind. Some of them design buildings and some just fiddle around with their furniture, but all of them are being creative – and that’s what we set out to enable more people to be able to do,” said Aidan Chopra, Product Evangelist, Google SketchUp.

The competition takes its inspiration from Learning By Doing, an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum’s Sackler Center for Arts Education curated by David van der Leer, the museum’s Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design, which features plans, photographs, and models of shelters built by students at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. For the past seven decades, students at the school have taken on the challenge of designing, building, and living in small shelters nestled in the landscape of the school’s Arizona Taliesin West campus and recently on the Taliesin campus in Wisconsin as well. In addition to providing hands-on management and construction experience, the shelter program encourages students to consider human needs for safety and comfort as well as the relationship between architecture and place. Inspired by the program, the Design It: Shelter Competition opens Wright’s challenge to the world by asking participants to design an ideal shelter in a location of their choice and in response to that location. “We hope this competition will raise awareness of the role that architecture and design can play in everyday life while stimulating a sense of joy for design,” said van der Leer.

Following the contest submission period, Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture students will select 10 entries as finalists. The public will be invited to vote on the finalists online from September 7 through October 10 to determine the winner of the People’s Prize. At the same time, a jury of experts in the fields of architecture and design will review all shelter submissions to choose the winner of the Juried Prize. Jury members include Martin Cox, Principal, Bade Stageberg Cox; Neil M. Denari, Principal, Neil M. Denari Architects; Cathleen McGuigan, Architecture Critic, Newsweek; Victor Sidy, Dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture; Lisa Strausfeld, Partner, Pentagram; Aidan Chopra, Product Evangelist, Google SketchUp; and David van der Leer, Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design at the Guggenheim. On October 21, the 50th anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum’s opening, The two competition winners will be announced and two prizes will be awarded – a Juried Prize and a People’s Prize. Prizes will also include airfare and two nights’ accommodation for two in New York City, behind-the-scenes tours of the Guggenheim Museum and Google offices, and Google SketchUp Pro licenses. The Juried Prize will also include a $1,000 cash award.


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