Program Statement

The SHIFT Architecture Challenge is an aspirational, biennial Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) program created to highlight the distinct contribution that the architecture profession and architectural thinking bring to addressing key societal issues.

It invites OAA members, as well as those on the path to becoming an architect and their collaborative teams to respond to an identified area of concern using their skills and insights. The program runs biennially, having begun with the SHIFT 2019 Infrastructure/Architecture Challenge.

Program Intent

In a world facing increasingly urgent and complex challenges—climate change, forced migration, poverty, an aging population and beyond—the need for responsible, innovative, and inspiring architectural solutions has never been greater.

The architecture profession is ideally suited to propose creative solutions. The OAA challenges the profession to further enhance the public’s perception of architecture as a force that acts as a catalyst for positive social change.

The SHIFT Architecture Challenge will recognize those practitioners, both emerging and established, whose responses best embody these qualities.

The Challenge

  • articulates the importance of architectural thinking as a social determinant that impacts the well-being of people and the planet;
  • enables the architectural profession to be viewed by the public in a new light; and
  • reflects the capacity for design thinking to permeate all aspects of life.

Program Cycle

The SHIFT Architecture Challenge operates on a two-year cycle, running in “odd years” as of 2019 (i.e. 2021, 2023, 2025…). Each edition of the program will have a specific theme. Past themes were infrastructure and resiliency; the current one is human health.

Benefits and Recognition

With the goal of increasing public dialogue, the SHIFT Architecture Challenge program will focus on opportunities throughout the year to engage, expand and excite. The five selections selected by a jury in 2021 formed the basis for a broader conversation on resiliency which was promoted by the OAA throughout the year which included a SHIFT2021 e-publication and book and two virtual events celebrating the SHIFT selections. You can watch “Resiliency in the City” and “The Resiliency of Changing Communities” online. To learn more about the seven selections and four honourable mentions from 2019, click here.


Both online tools and in-person opportunities focused on public engagement, feedback and discussion will be assessed to present the ideas and the originators to a public audience. This includes a special event at the 2023 Conference in Sudbury.


Selections from the SHIFT Architectural Challenge will appear in a print publication intended for broad public distribution (including libraries, architecture schools, and government outlets). A digital version of the publication will be available online.

Media Relations + Public Awareness

The OAA has embarked on a campaign of increased awareness and public interaction related on the SHIFT Architecture Challenge’s health theme. As the program’s submissions are selected, opportunities for media interviews, blogs and publications will be assessed, as will targeting specific audiences and engaging in social community issues where the SHIFT ideas are applicable.