The Portland Society for Architecture has launched an open international ideas contest to rethink the future of Maine’s largest city (Deadline: 22 July)
The free-to-enter competition – dubbed The Complete City: Imagined – seeks holistic visions to shape development in the rapidly growing East Coast city which is expected to rewrite its zoning policies in the next five years.
Participating teams are invited to propose urban concepts for Portland based on a series of maps drawn up by local residents during a consultation held by the society two years ago. The contest aims to encourage citizen participation in design and identify solutions which enhance civic pride.
Hand-drawn maps of Portland
According to the brief: ‘Since 2017, the Portland Society for Architecture have been using blank maps of Portland, Maine as a tool to collect comments and ideas about and for the city. PSA would like to invite you to use these maps as inspiration to create a compelling and engaging image of how Portland, Maine can develop and thrive as a Complete City.
‘Now The Complete City: Imagined invites the public to use these wildly diverse and imaginative maps as inspiration for what Portland can become in the future. By transforming publicly-sourced ideas into compelling images, the society hopes to inspire visionary planning and development and elevate public interest in the built environment.’
With more than 500,000 inhabitants Portland is the largest city in Maine and is also one of the leading trade, finance and tourism centres of New England. The settlement features 280 hectares of green open spaces and a natural sea-harbour which regularly receives cruise ships visiting the historic region.
The competition – open to designers, writers, artists and students – invites participants to crate new urban concepts for Portland based on the sketch ideas contained in a series of 350 hand-drawn maps created by local residents. Submissions should include four images and a 250-word description.
The winners, to be announced in August, will each receive a USD $1,500 while several honourable mentions will also be awarded. All winning schemes will be exhibited at the University of New England Art Gallery and published online.
How to apply
The deadline for submissions is 22 July
Q&A with The Portland Society for Architecture
The competition organisers discuss their ambitions
Why are you holding an ideas contest for new ideas for Portland?
The Complete City’s unique process is the culmination of a continued and intentional effort toward increasing inclusivity in the design process. Great ideas inspire community commitment to action and holding a competition still offers the largest opportunity for the most voices in the design process.
By transforming publicly sourced ideas into compelling images, the Portland Society for Architecture (PSA) hopes to inspire visionary planning and development and elevate public interest in the built environment. Teams do not need to collaborate with local firms, but we have asked those entering to take inspiration from the data, ideas, and opinions we have collected from those who live, work, or have visited Portland, Maine.
By grounding our contest in the ideas that came directly from Portland citizens, it allows for global solutions with a local focus. We are hoping that this process encourages citizen participation and dialogue about the future to discover what works, what is missing, and what could make it better.
Hand-drawn maps of Portland
What is your vision for the future of the city?
The society’s motto is ‘Helping Portland Build Better.’ Our vision for the future of the city is one where citizens have a deep and personal investment in their local and greater community, with the agency and knowledge to create meaningful change.
By facilitating design from the bottom up, not top down, we are strengthening our capacity to build a better future. Citizens of Portland have identified the needs – and now we need designers and visionaries to help execute the vision.
It can be broken down into a variety of scales, starting with small interventions, to complete streets, complete downtown, complete neighbourhoods, complete parks, complete transportation, complete sustainability, etc… The ‘Complete City’ is one that can provide answers to the identified challenges and needs of its citizens in original and remarkable ways.
The community consultation which generated the hand-drawn maps of Portland
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
We invite anyone and everyone to use our maps as a starting place to imagine a city that offers them a fulfilling life. What does it need to make that possible? What should it offer? What does it look like in Portland, Maine?
The competition is open to all and we are hoping for as many submissions as possible, including international ones. The initial mapping project was a tool for us to engage the community in a conversation about place and now we open it to the world, to think, engage, and imagine new solutions for what makes a ‘Complete City’.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
Portland is planning to re-write its zoning ordinance in the next five years and we’re planning to use the ideas and images from this competition to help inform and shape the outcome.
Powerful ideas and images have the ability to open minds to new possibilities, influence investments, and direct growth in the near and long term. Our hope is to receive visionary submissions that inspire collective action and turn into built projects for our city.
Hand-drawn maps of Portland
Are there any other recent urban regeneration masterplan projects you have been impressed by?
1. Saint John, New Brunswick’s 2011 Plan SJ.
2. Claiborne Cultural Innovation District, New Orleans, LA by Colloqate
3. Chicago Climate Action Plan
4. The Green Loop, Portland, Oregon, 2017 Competition Winner, Untitled Studio
5. The High Line, NYC, 2014, Piet Oudolf, James Corner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro