AECOM and Van Alen Institute announce four Urban SOS® 2017 finalists with bold ideas for creating more equitable cities

Multidisciplinary student teams were challenged to redefine the traditional “hour city” radius, providing broader access to opportunity

- Los Angeles, US
Commuterrail with Green Trees

AECOM and Van Alen Institute, with 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, today announced four finalists for Urban SOS® 2017: hOUR City, a global student ideas competition that challenged multidisciplinary teams to connect more people in regions around the world to the opportunities found in contemporary cities.

An “hour city” radius — the distance people can travel in one hour — has historically defined the boundary of a city. However, with the forces of globalization and dramatic geographic, social and economic shifts affecting cities everywhere, the time has come to imagine new ways to connect people in suburban, rural and isolated urban communities.

The four finalist proposals and teams are:

  • Alternative Ways of Transportation, Bangkok, Thailand
    • Submitted by Wilaiwan Prathumwong, Perada Plitponkarnpim and Patcharida Sricome, all from King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, the team developed a new, formalized multimodal pathway along one of Bangkok’s many underutilized canals, connecting isolated residential communities to public transit.
  • The Healthy City, Oakland, California
    • Submitted by Vincent Clement Agoe, Derek Lazo, Serena Lousich, Mark Wessels and Sarah Skenazy, all from the University of California, Berkeley, the team connects communities suffering from high rates of chronic diseases (e.g., asthma, diabetes, etc.) to the physical spaces and resources of healthcare providers, using traffic calming, recreational opportunities and new transit options.
  • The Holding Project, Belfast, Northern Ireland
    • Submitted by Sean Cullen and Chris Millar from Queen’s University Belfast, the team proposes a joint-housing and economic development plan in central Belfast, tailored to young renters aged 18-35. On publicly-owned vacant sites, the team envisions new pre-fabricated micro-units that would save construction time and costs; tenants would set aside 20 percent of their monthly rent as savings.
  • New Suburban Living, Melbourne, Australia
    • Submitted by Lisa Ann Garner from Universität Der Künste and Lauren Garner from RMIT University, the team developed designs and a planning process for new types of housing in Melbourne’s Middle Suburbs to address the region’s housing shortage and better meet the needs of residents.

Launched in May, hOUR City invited students to tackle urgent transportation, housing or economic development challenges facing cities around the world and to create outcomes that promote equal access to opportunity. Eighty-six teams entered, comprising nearly 300 students from 31 countries around the world and representing 114 unique academic disciplines.

“In our work with cities, we’ve embraced a whole systems integrated approach to tackling the biggest challenges these urban centers and their surrounding regions face,” said Stephen Engblom, AECOM global cities director. “It’s inspiring to see how these multidisciplinary student teams have responded to the challenge to connect urban, suburban and rural communities. From multimodal pathways in Bangkok to bold new housing solutions in Melbourne and Belfast, and public health initiatives for vulnerable populations in Oakland, we believe the finalists’ ideas will bear imaginative solutions to real challenges in those cities that translate globally.”

“In our competitions, research and public programs, Van Alen develops solutions to create more equitable cities and communities,” said Van Alen Institute Executive Director David van der Leer. “We’re proud to guide tomorrow’s leaders to tackle urgent questions about suburban density, creating more affordable housing and connecting underserved communities to transit and jobs.”

“We are excited to see the progress of the four finalists in the coming months,” said Michael Berkowitz, president of 100 Resilient Cities. “The work of building urban resilience often requires regional thinking — and the solutions and approaches these teams will uncover have the potential to create significant impact.”

hOUR City convened juries of leading professionals from design, business, government and other sectors in Hong Kong, London, New York and Sydney who selected the four finalist teams. The finalist teams will compete for up to US$15,000 in prize money; the winning team also will receive up to US$25,000 of in-kind support from AECOM to realize a pilot project from the team’s proposal.

The four finalist teams will now work with experts at AECOM, Van Alen and 100 Resilient Cities to further develop their proposals, and will present their ideas in Los Angeles before a final jury and live audience on January 23, 2018.

The 2017 challenge is the eighth in the Urban SOS® student ideas competition series founded by AECOM, a premier, fully integrated global infrastructure firm, and the third challenge hosted in collaboration with Van Alen Institute, a design nonprofit with a 120-plus-year history of organizing competitions and with 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation.

Last year’s Urban SOS competition, Fair Share, challenged teams to combine design with the tools and technologies of the sharing economy to create more equitable access to resources, envision more sustainable built environments and enrich the lives of urban residents. The winning team, comprising students at Washington University in St. Louis, proposed reusing United States Postal Service (USPS) post offices in Los Angeles slated for closure and excess capacity within the USPS distribution network to collect, store and deliver surplus food to neighborhoods with limited food access. Team members include Irum Javed, Anu Samarajiva and Lanxi Zhang, students in public health, architecture/urban design and landscape architecture/urban design. The team is currently developing a pilot initiative to be implemented in Los Angeles later this year.

About AECOMAECOM logo

AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries. As a fully integrated firm, we connect knowledge and experience across our global network of experts to help clients solve their most complex challenges. From high-performance buildings and infrastructure, to resilient communities and environments, to stable and secure nations, our work is transformative, differentiated and vital. A Fortune 500 firm, AECOM had revenue of approximately $17.4 billion during fiscal year 2016.

About Van Alen Institute

At Van Alen Institute, we believe design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. We collaborate with communities, scholars, policymakers, and professionals on local and global initiatives that rigorously investigate the most pressing social, cultural, and ecological challenges of tomorrow. Building on more than a century of experience, we develop cross-disciplinary research, provocative public programs, and inventive design competitions.

About 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation

100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC provides this assistance through: funding for a Chief Resilience Officer in each member city who will lead the resilience efforts; resources for drafting a resilience strategy; access to private sector, public sector, academic, and NGO resilience tools; and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices and challenges. 100RC currently has 66 member cities.

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