Learning: Alternative Designs for Universities

Learning: Alternative Designs for Universities


The aim of the “Learning” competition is to develop design proposals for the university, intended as a space of higher education, training and teaching on all levels and disciplines. The participants are asked to create innovative and unconventional projects on this theme, questioning the very basis of the notion of university. Recently a series of new initiatives have emerged in relation to learning experience. The digitalization of education empowered processes of serious gaming as a learning tool, through app and interface, while video tutorials introduced a brand new dimension of bottom-up knowledge sharing movements. Organizations like Coursera, TED and Edx managed to grasp the qualities of remote learning and translated them into professional educational tools, providing online courses and lectures for anyone around the world. Along the same line, many universities started providing entire programs online, reducing costs and giving large flexibility to their students. On the other hand, many institutions still rely and invest in direct human interaction as main vehicle for education. Innovation operates by empowering not only the teacher-student relationship, but also the potential for collaboration and mutual motivation between learners, trans-disciplinarity and inter-disciplinarity in the outside world. Within this context, with critical thinking and a creative attitude, participants are urged to investigate what kind of spatial qualities can support or empower the process of learning in the future. Designers are asked to merge considerable programmatic innovation and valuable design tools. The proposal could be a device, piece of furniture, interior design project, pavilion, building, urban plan or something other. Scale of intervention, program dimensions and location are not given and they can be chosen by the participants to better suit their project. Some basic topics of investigation to approach the competition theme can already be deduced from the definition of the word “university”:

university noun [C]
A high-level educational institution in which students study for degrees and academic research is done. As follows, essential aspects of universities today can be questioned:

– Does the institution have to be represented by a building with lecture theatres? Couldn’t it be a device, capable of incorporating the entire infrastructure needed to educate learners? Alternatively, couldn’t it be a network in the city, an interconnected system of facilities that can accommodate flexible learning environment? Or can it be just a flexible room, adaptable to the diverse needs and conditions? Couldn’t it have a different or critical role in the making of a city?

– Does education have to occur within the traditional defined roles of teacher and student? Should only high-level education be provided, or can it be explored as a communal activity and knowledge sharing dynamic, built on a community of learners rather than a class? What kind of spatial aspects can enhance those processes?

– Within the learning space, does a university imply interaction or separation from fellow students? How is social-interaction relevant when it comes to learning activities and how can design empower that? Or is isolation a value to pursue? What kind of design could favour it?

– Are degrees and standard educational programs still part of the future of university, or will instead trans-disciplinarity and life-long-learning offer new models? What kind of space can respond to those conditions?In a society heading towards digitalization and big-data, how will education and research change, and what kind of space will be the most suitable to support them? Will technology be the dominant feature, or will instead separation from technology become a benefit?

– Will traditional disciplines still be the backbone of professional education, or will students experience a much more diverse and personal journey towards their education? How will universities change accordingly? These are the questions to suggest to the participants as possible fields of investigation. Each project can tackle one or more of the issues suggested, as well as raising new ones in relation to the competition topic. Just try to be as creative and unconventional as possible.


WINNERS (3 Prizes)
1.000 euros
Publication in the Non Architecture Competitions books
Publication on the Non Architecture Competitions website
Reviews in digital magazines and several architecture blogs

Publication in the Non Architecture Competitions book
Publication on the Non Architecture Competitions website
Reviews in digital magazines and several architecture blogs

FINALISTS (38 Prizes)
Publication in the Non Architecture Competitions book
Publication on the Non Architecture Competitions website


Arjen Wals: Professor Transformative Learning for Socio-ecological Sustainability/Unesco Chair at WUR University

Prue Chiles: Professor of Architectural Design Research and Acting Director of Architecture at Newcastle University.

* The selection has not been fully confirmed yet. The components of the jury might vary during the first four weeks of the registration period.

For more information please visit: http://www.nonarchitecture.eu


1–15 October 2018 – Special Registration (30 €) period
16 October -15 November 2018 – Early Registration (45 €) period
16 November -15 December 2018 – Regular Registration (60 €) period
16 – 27 December 2018 – Late Registration (75 €) period
15 December 2018 – Submission opened on our website
30 December 2018 – Submission Deadline (23.59 GMT+2)
19-23 January 2019 – Winners announcement
21 January 2019 – Call for Materials for the “Learning – Non Architectural Universities” book starts
21 February 2019 – Call for Materials for the “Thinking – Non Architectural Universities” book ends
March 2019 – The “Thinking – Non Architectural Universities” book is available