A design competition for the recent graduates of select universities in Pennsylvania with a different prompt each year. Entrants are given the prompt at the start of a week, and have until the following Sunday to submit the require materials. This year’s prompt was to design a school for refugee girls fleeing the Syrian Civil War.
Because of a death in the family, I found myself with only four days to work on this project, so I did not have high hopes for actually placing in the competition. However, I had already agreed to submit an entry when events struck, so I took this as an opportunity to see what I could produce in a very short amount of time. As to the prompt, I also took issue with the premise of this project on a fundamental level. I question both the efficacy of asking architects to design low-cost housing of any sort, as well as the use of a massive humanitarian crisis for the backdrop of a seven-day design competition between upper-middle class Americans who have no deep knowledge of the complexities of the relief effort, nor likely any understanding of the local culture.
To that end, I wound up recycling the concept of an earlier sketch model that I had made, and adapting it to the climate of Northern Jordan. Because I do not believe that in seven days someone with, at most, three years of professional experience can design something that would actually benefit the girls on a technical and practical level, I designed something that I thought that they would enjoy instead. Ultimately, though I did not place in the competition, I am pleased with the quality of the work that I produced in such a brief period of time, and I genuinely believe that my school would have been a very special place for those girls.