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Competition: Crossroads pavilions, Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes Council has launched an international contest for a £36,000 series of pop-up pavilions as part of the city’s inaugural Festival of Creative Urban Living (Deadline: 24 April)

The competition invites artists, creatives, architects, designers and performers to draw up proposals for three temporary structures on Midsummer Boulevard East in the city centre.

Proposals must respond to the theme of the biennial festival, which is this year curated by German experimental architectural practice Raumlabor Berlin and focuses on ‘The Built, The Unbuilt and The Unbuildable’. Winners will receive a £3,000 fee each to construct their scheme in time for the festival which runs from 26 September to 13 October.

Festival site perspective model by Raumlabor Berlin

Festival site perspective model by Raumlabor Berlin

Festival site perspective model by Raumlabor Berlin

Then council says the festival’s theme is aimed at ‘encouraging a debate and dialogue around the founding design principles of Milton Keynes, whilst exploring and challenging the city’s future design’.

Milton Keynes is a major new town of around 230,000 inhabitants, around 72km north-west of central London.

At the start of this year, an international contest was launched for a landmark new £188 million vocational and STEM university in Milton Keynes. Key cultural schemes within the city include 6a’s overhaul of the MK Gallery and the MK Menhir by Sam Jacob Studio.

The new biennial festival is part of the city’s bid to become European Capital of Culture 2023. The event will aim to promote discussion about Milton Keynes original design principles and the shape of future development in the area.

The latest contest focuses on delivering three temporary structures which will serve as a hub for the festival on Midsummer Boulevard East – an area earmarked for major regeneration within the city.

Festival site elevation by Raumlabor Berlin

Festival site elevation by Raumlabor Berlin

Festival site elevation by Raumlabor Berlin

Submissions should include a CV, a maximum of two A3-sized display boards featuring images and text, and a maximum of two A4 documents detailing references.

Judges include Jan Liesegang and Benjamin Foerster Baldenius of Raumlabor Berlin; Nick Green from ON/OFF Architects; Barbara Kaucky of Erect Architects; Simon Wright, public programmes curator at the MK Gallery; and local artist Caroline Devine.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 24 April

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Raumlabor Berlin

The festival curators discuss their ambitions for the competition

Raumlabor Berlin

Raumlabor Berlin

Raumlabor Berlin

Why are your holding an international competition for three new pavilions on Midsomer Boulevard East?

raumlabor is looking for interesting ideas that will compliment A Festival of Creative Urban Living’s programme. We want people to bring in their own expertise and enrich the project.

Where did the idea for an open call contest come from?

We wanted to create a new opportunity for three public art projects/interventions. The open call seemed to be the best option to spread the word - raumlabor has a lot of experience with open calls in past projects.

How will opening the design of the pavilions to a wide audience support the themes of the festival?

We are looking for a diverse set of ideas that are not restricted by any particular artistic/design discipline or medium but do respond to the festival’s theme ‘The Built, The Unbuilt and The Unbuildable’ – we are interested to see how this is interpreted within the New Town context of Milton Keynes.

Milton Keynes promotional material, 1985

Milton Keynes promotional material, 1985

Milton Keynes promotional material, 1985

Why are you keen for local, national and international participation?

We want to gather ideas from many different perspectives and in different media. Our theme, while centred around Milton Keynes- is addressing larger global problems of excessive automobile ownership, climate change and a need for new city visions. Therefore a global viewpoint is welcome and appreciated.

What is your vision for the temporary pavilions?

Within the open call we have asked for proposals that respond to three categories of the built, the unbuilt and the unbuildable. The proposals can be for pavilions, installations, urban interventions or anything else you wish to propose. These three categories bring together the physical and conceptual design ideas of MK’s urban planning.

What facilities or aesthetics might they provide?

We are completely open to the participants’ ideas about facilities and aesthetics, as long as they tie in with one of the chosen categories (i.e. the built, the unbuilt or the unbuildable).

How big and where is the project site and what are the potential constraints?

The Festival site is called Midsummer Boulevard and is the central spine of the city. If you look at the satellite view of Midsummer Boulevard, you will be able to get an idea of the scale. You will see from the model of the exact location of the Festival site, it sits next to The Point – the UK’s first multiplex cinema and centre:mk – the city’s Grade II-listed shopping centre. We are planning to close this area to traffic, in order to test out different uses of this space, as part of the festival. There are no constraints as such, but of course any ideas need to be feasible and realisable within the available budget, they should fit within the festival theme and fall under one of the three categories.

Claverton End Adventure Playground, Archigram

Claverton End Adventure Playground, Archigram

Claverton End Adventure Playground, Archigram

How important will design innovation and quality be to the end result?

We would love to be surprised by innovative ideas. There is no particular parameter to assess design quality but a well presented, thoughtful and detailed proposal would be desirable.

Are sustainable issues an important part of the brief? What materials may participants use?

Sustainability is an important issue but the brief is not restricted to just that. You can propose other ideas too. Participants may use any materials they want as long as they can be acquired within the available budget.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We are open to all artists, architects, designers, makers…. We are looking for good ideas, and doesn’t matter where they come from!

Is the call for ideas open to smaller emerging practices and undiscovered talents?

Of course. It’s an equal opportunity, open to all.

Do you expect teams to have a connection to the local area and/or community? Should international teams pair up with local partners?

Not directly. However, it would be good to acquire as much local knowledge as possible. A reflection of research and background knowledge within any proposals will of course be desirable. You may pair up with local partners, but it is not essential.

Contest site plan by Raumlabor Berlin

Contest site plan by Raumlabor Berlin

Contest site plan by Raumlabor Berlin

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

The Open Call currently is restricted to three public art projects for A Festival of Creative Urban Living. The rest of the festival will be developed by Raumlabor.

What other schemes might the organisation be moving forward in the near future?

We are working on several projects at the intersection of art, architecture and city planning and will continue to pursue work in these areas.

Will there be design contests for future buildings, green interventions, public realm improvements or other smaller commissions?

Yes, Raumlabor frequently opens opportunities for collaborations on different subjects and themes. Sign up to our newsletter to keep yourself updated.


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