The Design Challenge

The 2019 BP Student Ideas Competition at the Chicago Architecture Biennial invites young people to respond to the following question:

How would you transform a vacant or underused space in your community?

The competition is sponsored by BP America and organized by the Chicago Architecture Biennial, in partnership with the Chicago Public Library. The competition welcomes submissions that explore ideas about architecture and the built environment from a wide range of disciplines including design but also the humanities, visual and performing arts, and STEM fields. Strong entries will be community specific, imaginative, and exhibit a creative use of materials.

Please see the competition manual for complete details.

Entries must be uploaded to the submission page.

Consent Forms: (English) (Spanish)


January 28, 2019     Competition registration opens
April 12, 2019             Registration closes; submissions due by 5:00pm CST

Winners will be announced and celebrated at an awards ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center in Spring 2019.

Submit your project

Create an account and upload your final project to the submission page.

Even if you're not ready to submit your final project, you can create an account and start the process now. See the "How to Enter" section below for more details about what to submit. 


— Students in grades 7 through 12 are eligible to participate

— Participants must attend a middle or high school in the Chicagoland area or Northwest Indiana or be a homeschool student working towards elementary or high school completion

— Students may submit as an individual or as a group

— Free to enter


First Prize Winner
— $500.00
— Collaborate on a project with a Biennial Contributor or Partner
— Tickets to a Biennial special event
— Chicago Architecture Center tickets
— Digital Achievement Badge
— Framed certificate signed by the jury

Second Prize Winner
— $300.00
— Studio tour with a Biennial Contributor or Partner
— Chicago Architecture Center tickets
— Digital Achievement Badge
— Framed certificate signed by the jury

Third Prize Winner
— $200.00
— Private tour of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial
— Chicago Architecture Center tickets
— Digital Achievement Badge
— Framed Certificate signed by the jury

Honorable Mentions 
— $100.00 each
— Chicago Architecture Center tickets
— Digital Achievement Badge
— Framed certificate signed by the jury

All participants will be eligible for a Digital Achievement Badge.

Teachers and educators that support a first prize winning individual or group project will receive a $150 gift certificate to be used for instructional supplies.

For group submissions, prizes will be split amongst members.

How to Enter

Entries must be uploaded to the submission page.

To be eligible for a prize, submissions must include: 

1. Project Title
Your title should capture what is unique about your design and shouldn’t be more than a few words.

2. Project Map
A map showing your project location and the things around it. This map can be hand-drawn, digital, or captured from Google Maps.

3. Written Response (150-500 words) that answers all three of the following questions:
How does your submission respond directly to the call to transform a space in your community? How does your submission specifically respond to the needs of you and/or your community? Why is your chosen medium the best way to present your submission?

4. Four (4) digital files showcasing your submission
One (1) representative image: An image or video that either shows your entire submissions or represents the entire submission. This should be a good “overall” image or a complete video; Three (3) additional files: These files may be additional material or details of your overall submission. These should highlight the ways in which your submission responds to the challenge.  

5. Consent Form (English) (Spanish)
Each member of your team should email a consent form to

Files should be named in the following format: LastNameFirstInitial_ProjectTitle (Example: WashingtonJ_MyProjectTitle.jpg)


Download the competition manual for complete details on the challenge, the jury process, and how to submit your project.

Check out the competition slideshow for inspiration and next steps.

Tips for planning to bring the competition to your classroom.

How to use the Chicago Public Library as a competition resource. 

Kickstart your creativity with this Design Process worksheet

Share the competition with a color poster or black and white poster to hang at your school or organization.

Help spread the word with a social media graphic.

Students with disabilities should contact the Biennial for submission details.


All eligible projects will be reviewed by a jury of professionals selected by the Chicago Architecture Biennial committee. Jurors have been selected based on their personal and professional success in design and the arts, involvement in local issues in Chicago, and commitment to supporting youth. Projects will be reviewed by the jury and assessed based on the criteria outlined in the competition manual.

Jury members will include representatives from the Chicago Architecture Biennial, BP America, the Chicago Public Library, and more! Check back for a complete list of jurors.