Call For Entries - POD designs / by CPID

Call For Entries

The POD Initiative is seeking inspiring designs that utilize plywood to address homelessness parallel to the upcoming exhibit at the Portland Art Museum from May 13th - September 3rd, Quest for Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes, and Collections of John Yeon. Yeon’s incredible life and work included investigations into affordable housing in Portland through pioneering uses of plywood, a product with origins in Portland. Today, similar visionary thinking is needed to address the homeless crisis in Portland and around the country. The POD Initiative organizers, led by the Center for Public Interest Design and Communitecture, are partnering with the UO John Yeon Center and Portland Art Museum to: generate innovative pod designs that can benefit houseless Portlanders; advance a dialogue aimed at changing public perceptions of homelessness in Portland; and discuss architecture’s critical role in shaping thoughtful, elegant designs for shelter to benefit Portland’s most vulnerable citizens. This effort aims to build on significant steps made by the architecture community in the POD Initiative’s inaugural project in the fall of 2016. This initiative brought together designers and stakeholders in the houseless community to design and build fourteen micro-housing units called “sleeping pods” through a collaborative process that has resulted in new initiatives on homelessness by the City of Portland.

How It Will Work

The (Plywood) POD Initiative is seeking design proposals from architects and designers located in Portland and the Pacific Northwest that explore innovative new strategies which take advantage of plywood’s inherent properties toward beautiful and dignified transitional housing for the houseless. Designers are also welcome to investigate materials similar to “plywood” such as cross-laminated timber if they see a meaningful application. The designs will fit the parameters of a “sleeping pod” (provided below), which are designed to form a village in their aggregation with shared amenities like kitchens and showers.

Participating individuals/teams will be provided with a template for a 24”x48” design board on which to place their designs and offer a brief narrative of design concepts, and will submit digital copies of their final proposal by end of day on May 1st, 2017. POD Initiative organizers will work with museum staff to print and display the work at the Portland Art Museum. Submissions will be reviewed by the exhibit curator, POD Initiative organizers, and representatives from the houseless community, and we hope to include most or all of the designs in the exhibit as appropriate. Following the exhibit, all submitted drawings will become an open resource for the public and houseless advocates like the Village Coalition, a group of advocates, activists, and houseless individuals in Portland committed to combatting homelessness from many sides of the issue. 

In addition to the exhibit of the design boards, at least one pod design will be chosen to be constructed at the Portland Art Museum this summer (August date TBD) on their Miller Family Free Day, which is visited by thousands. Where possible, the pod construction will be led by Maslow CNC with the help of volunteers, including the design teams if they choose to participate. Currently based at ADX, staff of Maslow CNC will be available for consultation during the design process and to share technical capabilities of their CNC technology. Following the display of the built pod, the Village Coalition will work with the City of Portland and other partners to ensure that the pod and/or its components benefit a houseless community.

Interested designers should email POD Initiative organizers at in order to receive more information, including sample design boards and opportunities to visit a houseless village to discuss design ideas with residents. 

Design Parameters

Designs will inevitably include a range of materials beyond plywood, but special emphasis for potential uses of plywood and related engineered wood products like cross-laminated timber are encouraged.

Pods: “Sleeping pods” are loosely defined as micro-dwelling structures with a footprint between 6’x8’ and 8’x12’, with a maximum height of 10’6”. Design dimensions are largely based on the ability for pods to be lifted by forklift and moved on a flatbed truck under power lines and bridges. The weight of pods and base (treated 4x4 skids recommended) should be considered early in the design process, as the structures may need to be moved to multiple sites by forklift unless units are designed for disassembly and reassembly. Pods also need to be fully insulated, provide adequate light (including at least one operable window), and have a lockable door.

These parameters were developed with the City and are intended to ensure comfort and security for future residents. That said, designers are welcome to challenge these parameters with their proposals if good reason is provided. Designers are also encouraged to explore any areas where they see potential contributions to the discussion of pod designs from environmental sustainable and water collection to panelized systems of construction or ornamentation. For example, one team may choose to focus on ease of buildability by, say, a person seeking to build their own housing with limited tools, while another design team may propose a kit of parts created in a woodshop/factory using CNC technology. We are excited to see a range of proposals, as responses to homelessness will require an array of strategies.  

Pods are the primary focus of this call for entries, but designers interested in exploring plywood’s potential for creating the shared village facilities (kitchen, bathrooms, storage, showers, gathering, etc.) are welcome to submit those designs for consideration for inclusion in the exhibit as well.


-We are seeking involvement from architects and architecture firms, but will consider the inclusion of proposals from anyone with the creative spirit and desire to contribute to this important issue.

-If you have participated in the previous POD Initiative, we particularly welcome your participation in this next step, which may build upon your previous efforts or explore entirely new possibilities.

-A firm is welcome to submit more than one entry

-Architecture students made incredible contributions to the previous POD Initiative effort and are welcome to submit designs as teams, under the guidance of professors, or as individuals (current students should name their university on their submission boards). 


For more on the POD Initiative, please visit:

To express your interest in submitting designs to this exhibit and initiative, please email (Note: Please be patient with email questions, as responses may not be immediate).