Design Competitions and Optimality

I have pitched a few design ideas to various “juries” and design “Calls” from all over of the world. I usually end up designing not an object but "systems", "enterprises", or "organizations". As a geographer, I see objects as sets of relationships, often complex and dynamic, riddled with politics, economic tensions, social construction etc.

But I have come to realize how problematic Design competitions can be.

The conundrum is subtle but evident:

  1. An organization issues a “call” for submission from practitioners and professionals.

  2. Then, they say how difficult it has been to choose the “finalists” and so on…

Indeed problematic from the beginning till the end:

  1. “scarcity” in the beginning, thus a “call” for submissions had to be issued, and then

  2. an “over supply” problem in the end.

An organization, after managing to receive many great ideas, and choosing “the one” winner, seems to be ambiguous on what to do with the rest of the great ideas.

But maybe, having a surplus of great viable ideas for the City and city design is NOT the problem.

The problem is that there only one (1) prize.

And so when an group in Toronoto (NXT City) called for ideas (from 35 years and younger people like myself until next year), I thought to pitch in an “idea” to address the design competition conundrum:


The Design competition is the “Genie in a bottle". GREAT.

However, it is resolved to grant only a limited amount of wishes, “n”.

E.g. W1, W2… Wn .

That kinda sucks.

The problem is not the Genie, the problem is “n”, which is a fixed value.

But what if:

n = n+∞

How can a Prize, instead of being an object, and an “end” condition, become an ever expanding space, a positive generator of opportunities for many other brilliant ideas?

  • I envisioned a platform or a Game where optimal outcome is the goal, where there is only positive progression.

  • It will allow for donations and contributions from any individual or group participant.

  • It will have several “teams”, each of which will define goals and targets e.g. what to do with the prize money.

  • Participants can choose any team as “Home team”, and can also contribute to other teams.

  • The game will have a variety of engagements and installations that could be funded by donations, sponsorships, public funding etc.

  • Participation and engagement with any of the installation will be rewarded by points that are tallied.

  • Points in the game will be displayed, real time, or be broadcasted via RSS feed.

  • The Game’s goal is to achieve optimality: have all teams at equal points by a set date.

  • On this date, a concert event will be hosted to allow for attempts for all teams to work together and achieve optimality.

  • If optimality is achieved: the prize and donations will be shared among all teams. And each team can set out to do and accomplish their set targets and plans.

  • If optimality is not achieved: The game continues to the +∞

Now, who wants to play?

To view the submission:

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