Smart House of the Future Student Competition deadline extended

Students in Ontario undergraduate and graduate programs in architecture, architectural technology, engineering, and environmental science/design are invited to participate in an ideas competition for a Smart House of the Future. Sponsored and coordinated by WORKshop Inc., this two-stage design competition seeks proposals that are innovative, pragmatic, and that could lead to an actual built prototype.

Contemporary materials and technologies, along with cultural and demographic shifts, are challenging traditional notions of the home. This competition invites participants to consider the domestic revolution over the past century, what “smart” means now, and what it might mean in the year 2020.

At the beginning of the 20th century, houses were electrified and the use of domestic appliances – such as the washing machine and upright vacuum – became commonplace. The automobile arrived, changing the design of cities and homes; and after WWII, lifestyles changed radically due to the advent of television. Towards the end of the 20th century, the digital revolution arrived, now accelerating and infiltrating almost every aspect of our lives.

It is inviting to reflect on historic notions of the “house of the future.” World’s Fairs presented popular exhibits of innovative technologies. The Homes of Tomorrow exhibition at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair predicted that houses in the future would have personal helicopter pads, all-steel construction, air-conditioning, and prefabricated components. In the mid-20th century, Buckminster Fuller presented his Dymaxion Home, a sheet-metal-kit house which was factory-built and assembled on site. Exhibitions of futuristic domestic spaces such as Alison and Peter Smithson’s House of the Future (1956) and the Monsanto House of the Future at Disneyland (1957) showed visitors the possibilities of fibreglass and other plastics in home construction, along with emerging features such as compact appliances, microwave ovens, colour televisions, and centrally conditioned air.

During the post-WWII housing boom, architects such as Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saarinen, and Richard Neutra worked on California Case Study houses — a series of experimental model homes showcasing the possibilities of modern design and modern building materials. The British avant-garde group, Archigram, mounted an attack on the home as a permanent space, proposing mobile, networked cities and wearable inflatable dwelling units such as the Suitaloon and Cushicle. Prominent architectural critic-historian, Reyner Banham, wrote at length about reducing the structural and mechanical systems of the house into a plastic bubble dome with an air-conditioning unit, the bubble being at once its own generator of structure and environment.

Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, numerous options are offered by home builders, employing advanced domestic technologies and materials (one of the many commercial examples is the Smart Home Service by Samsung). Stylistically, progressive contemporary designs coexist with retro-Victorian and Tudor stock. What you see on the outside is often quite different from the high-tech performative interior. With the widespread use of smart phones and tablets, increasing concerns about climate change, and a movement toward low- or zero-carbon emissions in everyday life, innovating for the smart house of the future has meant multidisciplinary engagements with networking and information technologies, biomimetics, passive energy strategies, security systems, productive use of land, and fitness and healthy living components, all within the domestic sphere. Electric cars and easy access to public transportation systems are further impacting on notions of “smart,” particularly in the rapidly transforming suburbs.

Moreover, as both home automation and sustainability have become keywords in the everyday domesticity of the 21st century, they have engendered a shifting and indeterminate relationship between home and individual whereby the public culture of the digital and the private spaces of domestic life merge, creating new spatial networks and further transforming lifestyles.

The Stage One deadline has been extended to 5:00pm on September 3, 2014. Stage One winners will be announced later in September 2014, followed by the announcement of the Stage Two deadline.

Three finalists will each be awarded $500 and invited to participate in Stage Two, during which time the first-place winner will receive $1,000; second place $700, and third place $500.

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