2021 Edmund N. Bacon Urban Design Awards Student Competition

2021 Edmund N. Bacon Urban Design Awards Student Competition
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2021 Edmund N. Bacon Urban Design Awards Student Competition

FREE | Sign Up For Updates
$25 | Per Entry At Time Of Submission


Deadline for Questions: October 30, 2020
Entries Due By: December 31, 2020 @ 11:59pm EDT

This competition was formerly known as the Better Philadelphia Challenge.


THE EDMUND N. BACON URBAN DESIGN AWARDS STUDENT COMPETITION was founded in 2006 in memory of Philadelphia’s iconic 20th-century city planner, Ed Bacon [1910-2005]. This annual competition, with a $5,000 first prize, challenges university-level students (undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral) from around the world to address real-world urban design issues in Philadelphia that have application not only to our city, but to urban centers around the globe. The competition is organized by the Ed Bacon Memorial Committee of the Center for Architecture and Design.


  • WHO: This student competition is open to undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students in any field of study who will be matriculating during the fall semester coinciding with the competition. Recent graduates are not eligible to participate unless they will be matriculating at a college or university during the fall semester coinciding with the competition. The most successful entries tend to come from diverse teams which include individuals from a variety of fields: architecture, urban planning, design (industrial, graphic, etc.), landscape architecture, public health, economic development, environmental science, real estate law, business, or other fields which might bring innovative ideas to your proposal.

  • HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Entries can be submitted via an online webform beginning August 1, 2020 and at any time before the submission deadline. Other than downloading the brief and signing up to receive email updates, there is no need to register to participate in the competition - your submitted entry is all that's needed!

  • COST: a $25 per-entry fee is charged at the time of submission


The 1300-acre Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) Refinery along the Schuylkill River in southwest Philadelphia will close. An explosion in June of 2019 was only the last in a series of setbacks for the troubled energy company, which filed for bankruptcy is January 2018, but its bankruptcy plan was approved in March of that year, but the refinery closed at the end of August 2019, idling over 1000 workers, though most have still been employed in the cleanup of the site following the accident. The facility was in operation for over 130 years and produced 335,000 barrels per day (bpd). In February 2020, the property went under an Agreement of sale with Hilco, a developer of multi-use light industrial facilities. As of the publication of this brief, the deal has yet to close, although it is expected to. Hilco’s plans for the site are still unknown, though the company has not ruled out the continuation of refinery-related business, given the existing infrastructure still in place. Before the sale, a proposal was already in place to create a $120 million renewable energy complex on the site.


As an example and to give more context to Hilco as the probable developer of this site, Hilco is a partner in an industrial project which have transformed the 3100 acre, heavily polluted Sparrows Point in Baltimore, converting it into a distribution hub, which also includes a hydroponic greenhouse and facilities supporting an offshore wind farm. The redevelopment involved remediation of numerous contaminants. By 2025, Hilco has projected reaching $2 billion in investment and creating 17,000 jobs.


The surrounding neighborhoods have been pushing to close the facility, and its leaders have been vocal in their distrust of PES and its operation over the years. The heavily polluted Southwest Philadelphia site is undergoing its own cleanup, which includes pumping subsurface petroleum for recycling. This effort will continue for many years. 


Assuming petroleum refining might cease or be greatly scaled back at the Hilco site very soon, and that progress can be made on remediating its contamination, what could be the future of the site in 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years? How might the developer and the City work with the neighborhoods and businesses in the area to resolve their needs, which are often in conflict?


Need some inspiration? Check out these winning entries from past competitions!


EDMUND N. BACON [1910-2005] is recognized as one of the most significant city planners of the 20th century. As Executive Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission from 1949-1970, his design concepts shaped the physical landscape of the post-World-War-II city. Bacon’s work had such national significance that he was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1964, and brought Philadelphia into the national spotlight as a city that was ambitiously planning for its future.

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