Challenge Overview


The history of modern architecture can be tracked through the lineage of the single-family home. Each generation has sought to improve upon earlier iterations, rethinking and reinventing this seemingly simple building type. At certain historic moments, new ideas about domesticity have given form to radically different configurations of home and community. With worldwide interest in green design and the necessity for sustainable communities, a powerful opportunity to design affordable houses that respond to current economic, social, and environmental challenges presents itself.

From the Ground Up seeks to provide a new model for formerly vital, urban residential neighborhoods throughout the United States through the creation of sustainable, affordable housing. Selected teams will work on infill sites, proposing designs for an 1,100 to 1,500-square-foot, single-family home. The goal of the competition is to create innovative designs for cost efficient, green prototypes that are sensitive to the scale and composition of the existing conditions, while providing a new vision that is legible to a wide array of existing and potential residents.


The site for this competition will be Syracuse's Near Westside, a declining area adjacent to the city’s center comprised of 550 acres of industrial, residential, and commercial properties. This competition, through the advanced design approaches it yields and the resulting built work, will demonstrate the feasibility of bringing a high quality of design to a typically underserved, demographically diverse group of clients. Its ambition is to wed high design standards and advanced technology in the development of small domestic projects that will act as catalysts for improving our neighborhoods, creating innovative green homes, from the ground up.


Teams will have eight weeks to develop designs for a low-cost, sustainable home capable of being built for $150,000, inclusive of fees and site work. (The Syracuse Center of Excellence has committed to additional funding for those aspects of the design that support the realization of sustainable features.) Competing teams will be notified at the beginning of October with submissions due mid December. The winning team will have four months to develop construction documents before the groundbreaking in late Spring 2009. Construction on at least one residence is expected to be completed by Winter 2009|10.


Stage one: Design teams are invited to submit a booklet of relevant past projects and qualifications for consideration. A committee will review the submissions and choose up to three teams to advance to the next stage of the competition.

Stage two: Teams will travel to Syracuse for a day-long information session and tour of the neighborhood and selected site. Teams will have eight weeks to develop their designs. Each participating team will receive a $25,000 stipend for the competition.


The intention of the competition is to draw out the most advanced thinking about design, sustainability, and cost-effective building practices. The competition sponsors intend to see the winning scheme(s) realized and will endeavor to build the jury’s top ranked design Summer/Fall 2009. However, competition sponsors reserve the right not to build any of the submitted projects, or to select one of the alternate designs, depending on the strength of the submissions, the resources available, and how the mechanics of the project unfold.