1. What is the SHIFT Architecture Challenge?

The SHIFT Architecture Challenge is an aspirational Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) program for highlighting architects’ distinct contribution to addressing key societal issues. It invites Ontario architects, interns, student associates, and their teams to respond to an identified area of concern. The program runs biennially (i.e. 2021, 2023, 2025) and has a different theme each year, having begun with the SHIFT 2019 Infrastructure/Architecture Challenge.

2. What is the theme for 2021?

The theme for the current edition of SHIFT is resiliency.

Whether in a literal sense or in a figurative one, resiliency can be seen as a type of flexibility, characterized by its inherent strength and elasticity. It is a quality in objects to hold or recover their shape; it is an ability in people to stay intact in the face of challenges or to rebound quickly from difficulty. When applied to the built environment, resiliency is a powerful concept that can take on many dimensions, from the physical, economic, and environmental to the cultural, social, virtual, and spiritual. At scales from small spaces to whole buildings to entire ecosystems, the OAA challenges the profession to explore the intersection of architecture and resiliency, and to propose innovative ideas that advance our design thinking to reach new heights.

3. Is a SHIFT submission centered around hypothetical ideas as a solution to a problem or are they supposed to be built solutions?

A built solution could be part of a submission to illustrate a practical example, but it is the aspirational idea or concept that can be widely applied to the resiliency concept that is the actual subject of the submission. Looking at some of the selected projects from 2019 will provide some examples, and the OAA will be communicating other ideas and case studies throughout this year.

4. Why should I take part?

This program 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.

Those selected will be part of exhibits, presentations, publications, and a public awareness campaign, beginning with a special session at the 2021 OAA Annual Conference in Niagara Falls in May 2021.

5. Who can participate?

While submissions by teams of individuals—either emerging or established—from diverse professional backgrounds are encouraged, the team lead (i.e. spokesperson) must be an OAA member. This includes:

  • architects;
  • retired architects;
  • Licensed Technologists OAA;
  • non-practising architects;
  • intern architects; and
  • student associates.

Other team members may include those from the design community and beyond, like community activists, politicians, subject matter experts, or institutional representatives.

The SHIFT Resiliency/Architecture Challenge is not open to current members of the OAA Council or the Communications Committee

6. What do I need to do?

Submissions include three main components:

  • text outlining an issue related to the concept of resiliency and how architectural thinking can address the topic (maximum 5,000 words);
  • supporting images (maximum of 14 visuals, drawings, and/or photos); and
  • video providing an overview of the submission (maximum length of three minutes).

7. How are selections made?

Submissions will be evaluated for their ability to capture the public imagination and inspire new ways of thinking. The jury will review the submissions for clarity, excellence and quality of presentation in regard to five main criteria: innovation, social responsibility, inspiration, inclusivity, and holistic approach.

8. Who selects the SHIFT submissions?

The 2021 jury will include a diverse mix of professionals, ranging from practitioners and academics to students, policy-makers, and subject matter experts that reflect diversity with respect to gender, geographical location within Ontario, and age.

9. When is the deadline?

The deadline for all submissions is currently being finalized, and will be communicated shortly on this webpage and through social media. Follow @oaarchitects on Twitter.

10. What happens if my submission is chosen?

With the goal of increasing public dialogue, the chosen submissions will form the basis for a broader conversation on the issue promoted by the OAA, including exhibits, presentations, and publications.

For the 2019 edition, this included a book publication, a website, and media outreach as well as speaking events in Quebec City and Toronto. For 2021, new 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. Events are being planned for both Niagara Falls at the OAA Annual Conference as well as in Toronto.

11. Does SHIFT replace the OAA Design Excellence Awards?

No, the SHIFT Architecture Challenge does not eliminate the Design Excellence Awards—in fact, in many ways, it complements them. SHIFT takes place in ‘odd-numbered’ years (i.e. 2019, 2021, 2023), while Design Excellence will be celebrated in ‘even-numbered’ years (i.e. 2018, 2020, 2022). For more information on this awards program, click here.

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