WHAT'S IN: innovation in emerging urban living environments


QUAD Competition


“Quad”, short for “Quadrangle”, is one term for the public square at the center of a college campus.  It’s a space to take naps in the grass on a sunny day, throw a Frisbee with friends, or where inspirational lectures are given on a warm spring afternoon. The experience of the quad is one of vibrancy, playfulness, and connectivity. In our increasingly dense urban habitats, city dwellers seek to discover similar environments in the places they live, work, and play.

The Quad Competition is an international call for a social space installation. The competition is hosted by WHAT’S IN, a multi-disciplinary research initiative that advocates for urban density and housing affordability through design and policy. Since 2012, WHAT’S IN has built traveling exhibits annually to host research content. Past exhibits were all self-supporting structures designed for ease of travel and deployment, and built with inexpensive materials. Proposals should aim to create an installation with similar approaches.

The winning installation will be premiered at Greenbuild / ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX 2017) from November 8-9, 2017. ABX is an annual event held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC), and will be co-located with Greenbuild this year, creating one of the largest events for the building community in North America. The installation will then travel to other locations in the city as a mobile exhibit.


QUAD 2017 is seeking design proposals that capture the essence of social sustainability by addressing the various factors contributing to the three pillars of sustainability: Environment, Economy and Equity.

Environmental sustainability, promotes a more conscious urban living with lower carbon footprint. In a built environment where resources are scarce, your proposal should consider efficient use, as well as post-installation applications of building materials.
Economic sustainability, encourages an efficient use of resources. the exhibit should achieve the greatest visual and experiential impact with the least amount of resources. The proposed design should also address ease of travel and speed of assembly.
Social sustainability, occurs when current and future generations are actively supported to create healthy and livable communities that are diverse and socially just. Proposals should envision meaningful and impactful spaces that facilitate social interaction, allow exposure to diverse backgrounds and create an environment leading to mutual respect and acceptance. Low-cost and/or digital interactive features are highly encouraged.


During ABX, the winning installation will inhabit a 20’ x 70’ space in Northwest corner of the exhibit hall, surrounded by exhibitor booths. It should act as an informal gathering space that draws the exhibit attendees towards the back of the exhibit floor. In addition, the design should include a prominent area to display the latest research findings from WHAT’S IN, in a format suitable to your installation concept.

Check out some of WHAT'S IN's past research here.

ABX 2016 Exhibit Hall with the winning competition by   KiKi ARCHi

ABX 2016 Exhibit Hall with the winning competition by KiKi ARCHi


This competition is open internationally to design professionals, installation artists, and students. Submitters may be teams or individuals. No professional qualification is required; however, submitters must demonstrate experience producing large-format installations. Only one entry per person/team is permitted.


We are assembling a judging team of architects, artists, landscape architects, designers & policy game-changers.


PHASE 1   DUE DATE: May 3rd, 2017 

The first phase seeks proposal entries that not only satisfy all programmatic needs and demonstrate experience and capabilities in fabrication, but also create a lively social space. Six finalists will be awarded a $300 USD stipend to develop a full-scale physical mock-up of their proposals.


PHASE 2   DUE DATE: July 26TH, 2017

Up to six finalists from phase 1 will be required to develop their design and produce a full mockup of a portion of the full design as the submission content for phase 2. In the second phase, one final winner will be selected with a $7,000 USD award towards the final execution.



The final installation MUST:

  1. Be a self-supporting structure, not hanged or rigged on surrounding structures.
  2. Draw exhibit participants towards it, having substantial presence on the exhibit floor.
  3. Provide prominent surface areas to house research content provided by WHAT'S IN.
  4. Winner is responsible for final deployment at ABX.
  5. Consider use of sustainable building materials, or develop strategies to reuse the material post the life of the installation.


Download the call for entries poster here.



WHAT’S IN’s core urban living model is “living small and sharing more,” a strategy to lower the rental cost per unit by reducing the square footage of individual living spaces. In parallel, this model also hints at the importance of shared spaces, to compensate the reduced living areas within the units as well as to motivate a more engaged social experience for the residents.

Over a third of the Boston population pays over 30% of their annual income on housing, and rental cost is especially high near urban cores.  WHAT’S IN is interested in finding urban housing solutions that are more accessible to the workforce. One of these solutions is Compact Living, reducing cost by lowering individual living areas, while increasing the social spaces shared by multiple residents. Proposed design should embody the spirit of WHAT’S IN’s focus of housing affordability in the setting of a booming sharing economy, where Uber and co-working spaces are becoming the new norms.


*WHAT’S IN is sponsored by the Stantec R&D fund. For additional questions, please contact see.whats.in@gmail.com