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Competition: CTBUH 2019 International Student Tall Building Design

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) is receiving entries to its annual student competition for futuristic skyscrapers

Open to all university students and recent graduates – the free-to-enter competition seeks innovative proposals for new tall buildings which help reduce both land and energy consumption while also integrating urban activities traditionally found at ground level.

The anonymous call for concepts – now in its eight edition – aims to boost discussion around the role vertical cities could play in meeting the challenges caused by our planet’s growing population. Concepts may focus on any site but must feature at least 50 per cent habitable space to qualify for the awards.

Oasia Hotel Downtown, Singapore by WOHA Architects

Oasia Hotel Downtown, Singapore by WOHA Architects

Source: Image by City Reader

Oasia Hotel Downtown, Singapore by WOHA Architects

According to the brief: ‘The goal of the competition is to shed new light on the meaning and value of tall buildings in modern society. The age of the tall building as a single iconic piece of sculpture, standing in isolation from its surroundings, is coming to an end.

‘Designers have a responsibility to ensure that these permanent urban structures engender a future-oriented urban response to the greatest challenges of our time: unprecedented population growth; mass urbanization; climate change; environmental degradation; social, political and economic change; and the rapid advance of myriad technical innovations.’

Traditionally built in areas of high land value such as city centres, tall buildings are increasingly seen as one solution to the increasingly catastrophic demand for energy and land caused by growing populations and rising living standards across the globe.

Despite the large amounts of embodied energy resulting from constructing new towers, the typology may also play in reducing our environmental impact thanks in part to potential for density to reduce transport demands and the ability to integrate renewable energy generating technology.

Last year’s winners Yiming Gui, Ziyue Li and Ziqiao Ma from Shenyang Jianzhu University proposed a ‘sky village’ which aims to mitigate the heavy soil erosion caused by settlements and agriculture in China’s historic Guizhou Province.

2018 winner

2018 winner

2018 winner

The 2017 winner by Dagmar Zvonickova from London’s University of Westminster proposed introducing new public facilities such as art galleries into large office towers in Hong Kong which are traditionally very uniform environments unrepresentative of the wider city.

The competition language is English and digital submissions should include a single landscape A1 board featuring images along with a 500-word written description on a single A4 page.

Teams may feature up to five participants with multidisciplinary collaborations strongly encouraged. Five finalists will be invited to present their proposals at the CTBUH 2019 10th World Congress in Chicago which runs from 28 October to 2 November.

Submissions will be judged on their creative approach, response to the site, sustainability and functionality. The overall winner will receive USD $6,000 while a second prize of $5,000, third prize of $4,000, and two additional prizes of $3,000 each will also be awarded.

How to apply


The registration deadline is 15 July and submissions must be completed by 22 July

Contact details

The Monroe Building
104 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 620
Chicago, Illinois 60603

Tel: 1 (312) 283-5645
Fax: 1 (844) 823-9392

Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with CTBUH

The organisers discuss their ambitions for the competition

2017 winner

2017 winner

2017 winner

Why are you holding an international ideas contest for new futuristic tall buildings?

This is our 8th International Student Tall Building Design Competition, and we’ve held it each year to continue to add context to the role and value of tall buildings in society, and how they can be a key supporter of the density that is required to achieve more sustainable cities.

What is your vision for the future of tall buildings?

This contest encourages students to embrace a vision of the tall building that integrates it successfully with its urban context, rejecting it as an insular and disconnected sculptural gesture, and instead, leveraging it as a problem-solving tool for today’s most salient urban issues. These challenges include providing successful housing for swelling urban populations and addressing issues of climate change and environmental degradation, by protecting people against increased floods and storms, and using environmentally-responsible, resource-efficient techniques during construction, design and demolition.

The design brief allows students to place their project anywhere in the world (although the site must really exist) but urges them to take local context in mind, in order to provide key features that will create tall buildings in service of their community from cultural, social, aesthetic, environmental and other perspectives. This might include thoughtfully integrated green features, such as public parks or at-height gardens, or considering links to adjacent public transportation.

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

This competition emphasizes emerging talent, and is only open to students at the university level that are currently enrolled or have recently graduated (must be able to prove that they attended school during the fall 2018 term). We encourage all students who meet these criteria to apply. The entries must be original works by the student and cannot have been submitted to any previous competitions. Five finalists will be selected to present at the CTBUH 2019 10th World Congress in Chicago, US, taking place 28 October–2 November.

Torre Reforma, Mexico City by LBR&A Arquitectos

Torre Reforma, Mexico City by LBR&A Arquitectos

Source: Image by Cvmontuy

Torre Reforma, Mexico City by LBR&A Arquitectos

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

We will hold another student design competition next year with a different design brief. We are also holding an International Research Seed Funding Awards Competition and a Student Research Competition.

Are there any other recent innovative skyscraper projects you have been impressed by?

Our annual Tall Building + Urban Habitat Innovation Conferences feature a multitude of tall building projects that exhibit true consideration and synergy with the cities that they are built in. The Oasia Hotel Downtown, Singapore, which was completed in 2016 by WOHA Architects and won the Best Tall Building Worldwide Award at the 2018 Tall + Innovation Conference, is an exemplary building due to its vegetated walls, which actually are a living habitat for essential plants and animals, and its use of sky spaces, which allow breezes to permeate the building, as well as providing pleasant recreational space replete with green features at height—a challenge in densifying cities.

Torre Reforma, completed in 2016 by LBR&A Arquitectos, and also a Best Tall Building Americas Award of Excellence Winner in 2016, provides a visual departure from the standard glass and steel tower, drawing its inspiration from vernacular architectural techniques in its hometown of Mexico City. It features openings in its exterior that allow for interesting vantage points for its occupants and its unique construction also allowed for a column-free methodology, opening up the floor plates for a dramatic interior.