Skip to content

#TheSoapbox: Architecture school running major design competition — why isn’t council paying attention?

The results from this competition will provide a foundation on which the city can build its plans for the post-COVID future

In June, I wrote a column asking city council to provide the community with a post-COVID strategic plan. Since that time, we have not seen council provide anything new. However, we have seen the community continue to provide some great ideas.

In this case, it is not so much about dealing with the crisis right now, but rather looking to the future. The Project Now to reuse the existing arena is a great example of members of the community stepping up to provide excellent ideas for moving the city ahead in a cost effective and environmentally-responsible way.

Another unique example of the community leading the way to providing a plan for the future is the current Sudbury2050 Urban Design Ideas Competition. This competition has received some media attention; however, it has been kept relatively low key. 

Although it has been underway since late February, I have really just learned about it and decided to dig deeper.

It is being sponsored by the McEwen School of Architecture, and to be clear about this competition, it is definitely not just a student project.

In fact, this is a world-class design competition, with already over 400 entrants/design teams from over 60 countries, competing for $60,000+ in prize money.

In the world of architecture and urban design, this competition is a big deal! And yet, in typical Sudbury fashion, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of attention being paid to it, especially by our council. Is it because it is home-grown?

The results from this competition will provide a foundation on which the city can build its plans for the post-COVID future.

What city would not want to have a global urban design competition focused on their urban core, just when they are grappling with the many issues of a post-COVID city? What city would not want to have designers from over 60 other countries presenting their ideas for a post-COVID Sudbury?

The city’s pre-COVID strategic plan was developed on a set of assumptions that are dated and certainly questionable given today’s realities.

The city’s declaration of a “climate emergency,” if taken seriously, had huge ramifications on its own. Wouldn’t it be valuable to see what the world thinks a post “climate emergency” city might look like? The competition is also challenging the entrants to present their ideas on a wide range of issues that are specific to Sudbury.

This competition provides a unique opportunity to maximize the development of new urban ideas, in the shortest amount of time.

Because it has an international scope, it brings to Sudbury the creativity and inspiration of designers from around the globe. Imagine having experienced designers working on our city urban plan who are themselves also experiencing the impact of the Covid pandemic. Although the competition is attracting designers, architects and urban designers, it is also open to anyone and there is no cost to the taxpayer.

The competition has an open category, which is open to anyone, and a student category for entrants who are presently studying.

The submissions from all of the entrants will be received at the end of August and will be available for viewing online and the public will be invited to choose their favourite. 

The public votes will be collected and a people’s choice winner, with a $3,000 prize, will be selected at the same time that the jury announces the winners and honourable mentions for the open and student categories.

Once the winners are announced, an opportunity will be offered for the public to attend the presentations, by the winners, of their submissions in a workshop environment.

Finally, all competition entrants are to present their approach for engaging the community with their urban design solutions. This has been set as a key “community engagement” challenge in the competition requirements.

What more could a city ask for, and at no cost?

Please be reminded that the city invested $10 million to ensure that the School of Architecture came to the urban core. The school has met its goal of bringing students and faculty into the city. The school has carried out many projects for the city, as it promised, and this competition is certainly going to have the biggest impact.

So why isn’t council celebrating this opportunity?

Bob Hibbs lives in Greater Sudbury.

A rotating stable of community members share their thoughts on anything and everything, the only criteria being that it be thought-provoking. Got something on your mind to share with readers in Greater Sudbury? Climb aboard our Soapbox and have your say. Send material or pitches to