Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.    Jane Jacobs


Urban economic displacement impacts low-income and minority groups at a disproportionate rate. For example, in Portland, it is estimated that between 1991 and 2010, 8,356 Black Portland residents were displaced from central city neighborhoods to the east and north, pushed to the margins of the city where public resources are scarce (Source). A recent study conducted by the Urban Displacement Project in Berkeley reveals that in the Bay Area, more than 53% of the low-income households live in neighborhoods jeopardized by urban displacement. The research indicates that this trend will continue to grow (Source). At the city scale, the consequences of displacement surface in a fragmented urban fabric.

The typical response to this situation focuses on low-income and affordable housing initiatives. While these strategies are undeniably critical, what are the other opportunities to create vital and improved resources to counteract the driving forces behind economic displacement?


The Plural City Ideas Challenge is not only about the immediate design solutions to pressing and mounting housing problems in urban centers, but also the design of sustainable, culturally-supportive resource interventions. While there is an immediate need for affordable housing, The Plural City Ideas Challenge is about designing for the city as a series of multi-cultural, multi-plural urban neighborhoods where socio-economic diversity is a fundamental asset to be preserved.


The repercussions of economic displacement impact families, neighborhoods, schools, and the very fabric of the city, reinforcing models of exclusion and marginalization while exacerbating inequities. With this challenge of resisting displacement comes the opportunity to propose a new set of ideas to support and foster a plural city at multiple scales. As such, this challenge is intended to collect design proposals spanning from the scale of the city, to neighborhood, to block, building, intersection, or sidewalk. Judges will look for proposals that introduce innovative ideas with the potential to address the wicked problem of displacement and contribute to the plural city.


The competition's objective is to envision the design of an imaginative, sustainable, viable resource exchange in an area threatened by economic displacement and homogenization. Submission ideas can focus on a range of scales and methods, such as innovate material use, sustainable construction, individual structures, infrastructure, neighborhood design, and tactical urbanism.

Design Criteria

•Embrace and balance cultural, environmental, and economic sustainability.
•Respect and acknowledge the importance of socio-economic diversity and historic urban fabric.
•Create universally accessible designs that accommodate the needs of all users and residents.

The Program

Participants choose a project to explore, research, and create innovative solutions that respond to displacement occurring in an urban site of their choosing. The location may be experiencing any point on the cycle of displacement--already occurred, occurring now, or likely to occur in the future.

Submissions must clearly demonstrate the design solution with a mature awareness and innovative approach to environmental issues; an articulate mastery of formal concepts and aesthetic values; a thorough appreciation of human needs and social responsibilities; and a capability to integrate functional aspects of the problem.

No specific site has been selected; submissions should base site-specific solutions on individual research and design solutions.

Code Information

Refer to the International Building Code for information on standard requirements. Participants should follow the principles of universal and sustainable design.


Entries are encouraged to research references that are related to urban displacement, the design problem, and precedent projects. Research is a fundamental element of any design solution. Following are a few sample research reference websites and articles:

The Right To the City, Henri LeFebvre
City Life and Difference, Iris Young
Putting the Public Back Into Public Space, Kurt Iveson
Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning, Horst WJ Rittel
To go Again to Hyde Park: Public Space, Rights, and Social Justice, Don Mitchell
Class Struggle on Avenue B: The Lower East Side as Wild Wild West, Neil Smith
The Closest Look Yet at Gentrification and Displacement, Richard Florida

CDC, Health Effects of Gentrification
Root Shock
Displacement Research and Action Network
Urban Think Tank
City Lab
Radix Consulting Group


Our jurors will select the first, second and third most inspiring proposals and award them $1,000, $500 and $250 respectively. A selection of entries will receive honorable mention and inclusion in a public exhibit in downtown Portland, date to be determined, as well as inclusion in an online gallery.


Brent Brown, bcWORKSHOP

Brentin Mock, CityLab

Dan Pitera, Detroit Collaborative Design Center

Katie Swenson, Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship

Belinda Tato, ecosistema urbano


Winners will be notified of the challenge results directly. A list of highlighted projects will be posted on the competition website at A limited number of honorable mentions may also be selected at the jury's discretion. Selected submissions will be exhibited at the CPID symposium on design and displacement.


Entry into this competition is open to anyone, from any place, and from any discipline. Entries will be accepted for individual as well as team solutions. Submission text must be in English. Entrants confirm that the submitted material is their own original or collaborative work, that it does not infringe upon any copyright law, and that they have permission to publish the material.

Entry Fee, Registration and Deadline

The entry fee is $45 per submission ($30 with early registration). Entrants may submit up to three (3) entries in teams or individually, each with a $45 fee ($30 with early registration). The fees go to the Center for Public Interest Design and will only be used toward competition awards, promotion, and exhibition of the competition. Early registration runs from January 11th through March 11th, 2016. In order to be considered, all the individuals or teams must have registered and submitted online by Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 11:59 pm EST.

Evaluation Criteria

The evaluation process should be an integral part of the design process, encouraging participants to scrutinize their work in a manner similar to that of the jury. The final result of the design process will be a submission of two presentation boards describing the design solution. In addressing the specific issues of the design challenge, submissions must clearly demonstrate the design solution's response to the following requirements:

•An expressive understanding of the socio-economic needs of the site
•A strength of the argument and the proposal's ability to support the concept for the design
•An articulate mastery of formal concepts and aesthetic values
•A mature awareness and innovative approach to the right to inhabit the city
•A thorough appreciation of cultural diversity
•A capability to integrate functional aspects of the problem in an architectural manner, and
•A capacity to derive a design with maximum innovation and possibility

Each presentation must directly address the criteria outlined in the Design Challenge and Criteria for Judging and must include (but are not limited to) the following:


Your proposal must be represented in graphics of some form: from infographics to orthographics, whatever best illustrates your idea.


Your proposal may take place anywhere in the world. It must be an existing urban context that has been influenced by, is being influenced by, or is facing the threat of economic displacement.


Your proposal can be of any scale and focus as long as it aligns with the judging criteria. Thus, you can submit an architectural intervention, an urban design intervention, a series of infographics that conceptualize an approach or methodology, a shared public space, and so on.

Design Narrative

A brief essay, 500 words maximum, (in English) is required as part of the submission describing your ideas and design rationale. Keep in mind that the presentation should graphically convey the design solution and context as much as possible, and not rely on the design essay to convey a basic understanding of the project. The names of participants, their affiliation, or faculty sponsors, must NOT appear in the design essay. This abstract is included in the final online submission, completed by the participant in a simple copy/paste text box.


Submissions must be designed on two 24” x 36” digital boards, portrait format. Accompanying narrative must be 250 to 500 words in length. The names of participants, affiliations, or faculty sponsors, must NOT appear on the boards or narrative. Participants should keep in mind that, due to the large number of entries, preliminary review does not allow for the hanging end-to-end display of presentation boards. Accordingly, participants should not use text or graphics that cross over from board to board.

Both boards and narrative must be sent digitally as a PDF, no larger than 20MB.

Entries will be judged anonymously. List the name of the entrant(s) and school/firm only on the registration form and not on the drawing sheets or narrative.

A final Submission upload must contain the following:

•Completed online registration including all Team Members
•Each of the two 24” x 36” boards uploaded individually as a high resolution Portable Document Format (PDF)
•A Design Essay or Abstract (simple copy/paste text box completed during submission)
•A $45 entry fee ($30 with early registration)

Selected projects will be required to submit high-resolution original files/images for use in challenge summary website and exhibit materials.

Please register at
Please email all final submissions to

Documents and File Naming

You will be given a user ID number upon registering.

•[User ID number]_registration.pdf - Signed completed registration form including signature(s)
•[User ID number]_01.pdf - 500 words maximum describing your chosen design brief scenario with registration number
•[User ID number]_02.pdf - Two 24x36 boards, portrait orientation


The submissions will be judged by the Jurors anonymously and the entrant's name(s) should not appear anywhere on the submission other than on the registration form.


Entrants acknowledge that the Center for Public Interest Design may exhibit all entries in the online gallery, and a selection of entries may be chosen for physical exhibition, public display and publication in a book or website format. The CPID will make every effort to notify entrants of any public exhibitions of their work through correspondence with the registered contact.

In entering the design competition, entrants grant the Center for Public Interest Design unrestricted license to exercise the entrants' rights regarding their design submissions, including, but not limited to, reproduction, preparation of derivative works, distribution of copies of the design submission, and the right to authorize such use by others. Entrants will be credited on all online and print material published by the organizers of the competition.


Frequently asked questions will be updated as the competition progresses. Please contact with questions.


The Center for Public Interest Design is a research + action center at Portland State University that aims to investigate, promote, and engage in design practices that are a catalyst for social, economic, and environmental change in communities both locally and worldwide. Based at the Portland State University School of Architecture, the CPID promotes innovative and engaged design practices by supporting opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, research, and fieldwork among faculty, students, professionals, and client communities. While we work to make a difference in the world, we are also teaching the designers of tomorrow to become agents of change.

For more about the CPID, visit: