1. What is the SHIFT Architecture Challenge?

The SHIFT Architecture Challenge is an aspirational Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) program for highlighting the distinct contribution of the architecture profession 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 2023?

The theme for the current edition of SHIFT is health and architecture.

As the world strives to emerge from a global pandemic, and Canada reflects on its current approaches to long-term care and other health spaces, architecture’s impacts on human wellbeing—negative and positive—have taken centre stage. From considering indoor environmental effects on bodies and minds to designing truly inclusive, accessible spaces, what role does the architecture profession play in supporting human health, both in Ontario and around the world?

The SHIFT2023 Challenge asks the profession to explore the intersection of architecture and human health, and examine how innovative ideas could improve happiness and well-being. At scales ranging from a room to a building to an entire city (or beyond), how can new architectural approaches offer better outcomes?

3. Is a SHIFT submission centred 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 health theme that is the actual subject of the submission. Looking at some of the selected projects from 2021 and 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 presentations, publications, and a public awareness campaign, beginning with a special session at the 2023 OAA Annual Conference in Sudbury in June 2023.

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 hold status with the OAA. This includes:

  • architects;
  • retired 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 Health/Architecture Challenge is not open to current members of the OAA Council or the Communications and Public Education Committee.

6. What do I need to do?

Submissions include three main components:

  • text outlining an issue related to the concept of human health 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 2023 jury will include a diverse mix of professionals, ranging from practitioners and academics to students, policy-makers, and subject matter experts that reflect the OAA’s commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

9. When is the deadline?

The deadline for all submissions has been extended until Monday, January 16, 2023.

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 2021 edition, this included a book publication and media outreach as well as virtual speaking events in Toronto. For 2023, 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 the OAA Annual Conference in Sudbury, as well as for Toronto later that year.

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.