Learning Initiatives

Spring 2021 Student Ideas Competition

The Spring 2021 Student Ideas Competition invites young people to present design solutions to the following prompt:

How can existing urban spaces be reimagined to better reflect the needs and interests of local residents?

The competition is open to Chicagoland students in grades 7-12 and is free to enter. Winners will receive cash and technology prizes. Strong entries will be community specific, imaginative, and exhibit a creative use of materials. Complete details can be found in the Competition Manual


Deadline: May 7, 2020 at 11:59pm CST



Throughout the competition, CAB will continue to release resources to support students, educators, and caregivers in participating in the competition. Resources will be shared here as they become available. 

Competition Manual
Complete details regarding eligibility, submission requirements, prizes and more. Plus tips and tricks. 

Overview Presentation
This slideshow can be viewed independently or presented to students to help kick-start the submission process.

Design Process Worksheet
This worksheet helps guide students through creating a competition submission using the Design Process. 

Creative Prompts Toolkit 
This toolkit was created by School of the Art Institute of Chicago Master of Arts in Art Education students Giselle Sterling Futrell, Heather Hill, and Holly Marie Abney.

Competition Poster
A shareable poster containing all the important details about the Student Ideas Competition. 

Consent Form 
If you are working remotely with students, the consent form may be emailed to education@chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org rather than uploaded as part of the submission form. 

Submission Guidelines + Eligibility

Projects must be submitted by May 7, 2021, 11:59 pm CST.

Entries may include 2-dimensional, 3-dimensional, performative, or written components and can use any media (cardboard, paper, photography, foam, pencil, digital, video, dance, etc.). A photo, video, or digital file of your entry must be uploaded to the competition portal.

The following elements must be submitted in order to qualify for jury review: project title; project map; written response; 1 overall image; up to 4 additional project images may be submitted. Complete details may be found in the Competition Manual

Submit your project here.


Students in grades 7-12 (as of February 15, 2021) are eligible to participate.

Participants must live and/or attend school (or be homeschooled) in the Chicagoland area.

Both individual and/or group submissions will be accepted.

Free to enter.


The following jurors were selected based on their personal and professional success in design and the arts, involvement in local issues in Chicago, and commitment to supporting youth:

Kimberly Dowdell
Principal, HOK

Melissa Mister
Chief Program Officer, After School Matters

Caroline O'Boyle
Director of Programs and Partnerships, Trust for Public Land

Walmer Saavedra
Executive Director, Human Scale

Taylor Staten
Founder, TnS Studio

Tricia Van Eck
Founder and Artistic Director, 6018North

Gibran Villalobos
Assistant Curator, Performance and Public Practice, MCA

Tanner Woodford
Executive Director, Design Museum of Chicago


The jury will select ten finalists to compete for first-, second-, and third-prize as well as honorable mentions.

First Prize Winner: $500.00, laptop computer, CAB SWAG bag, framed certificate

Second Prize Winner: $300.00, tablet, CAB SWAG bag, framed certificate

Third Prize Winner: $200.00, wireless headphones, CAB SWAG bag, framed certificate

Finalists: $100 each, CAB SWAG bag, framed certificate

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


About Learning Initiatives

Learning Initiatives at the Chicago Architecture Biennial provide free, educational programming to learners of all ages as a way to promote active exploration of the built environment and empower audiences to see architecture and design as tools for change.

CAB's Learning Initiatives aim to: Facilitate meaningful and ongoing engagements with students, schools, community organizations, universities, museums, and other cultural institutions; Encourage connections between learners’ lived experiences and Biennial content; Reach students from populations historically underrepresented in architecture, and; Provide opportunities for co-learning across generations and disciplines.


Learning Initiatives provide opportunities for active engagement with key issues through the lens of architecture, design, and urbanism. Programs run throughout the year with a major effort to align opportunities with Biennial editions. 

Learning Initiatives organized around the 2021 edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, The Available City, will highlight themes of equity, sustainability, and community-based design. CAB will engage young people in programs that urge them to reimagine their communities and city, with a specific focus on unused spaces including vacant city-owned lots.

2021 Family Programs RFP: Now Open

CAB Family Programs engage families with children ages 5-10 in hands-on activities that introduce architecture and design themes through age appropriate content. In 2021, a series of virtual Family Programs will be offered between May - December. Programs will be developed in partnership with organizations and practices dedicated to connecting young audiences with architecture, design, and urbanism through imaginative and engaging activities. 

For complete submission requirements, view the 2021 Family Programs RFP.

To submit a program proposal, visit bit.ly/familyprogramintake

Youth Studios

Youth Studios are offered together with youth-serving community organizations across Chicago. Youth Studios bring high school students together with design professionals to actively explore architecture and design in relation to questions or topics facing them and their communities with the goals of exposing young people to architecture and design; promoting civic engagement; and supporting college and career readiness.


The Student Ideas Competition at the Chicago Architecture Biennial encourages middle and high school students to share their ideas for how design can play a role in creating shared spaces and shaping communities. CAB will offer two student competitions in the Spring and Fall of 2021. 

Visit our competition page to learn more and to see past winning projects.

Youth and Family Programs

Youth and Family programs engage families with children ages 6-12 in hands-on activities that introduce architecture and design themes through age appropriate content.

Visit our programs page for details about upcoming youth and family programming.

Educator Resources

CAB provides standards-aligned curriculum resources and teacher trainings to bring architecture and design learning into elementary and high school classrooms where they are not currently taught. Educator resources are aligned with Biennial editions and the Student Ideas Competition.

Field Trips and Tours

During Biennial editions, CAB offers both guided and self-led tours and field trips designed to engage school groups and families with the content of the Biennial, encouraging new or expanded views of architecture and design. 


Are you an organization or educator looking for ways to engage your students in conversations about how they can play a role in shaping our cities and world through architecture and design?

Contact us!