Winners Announced!

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The Challenge

The aim of the 19th Annual CISC Architectural Student Design Competition is to challenge architecture students to design an all-steel observation tower located in a significant environment.

Towers have always fascinated for their iconic quality as well as their attraction to reach their top. Sometimes integrated within the architecture of a building like a church spire, sometimes a political symbol like the Berlin Tower, the competition aims to create an open and public freestanding observation deck overlooking scenery.

The objective is to present an elegant structure made of exposed structural steel. The height, site and expression are left to the student’s discretion. The tower must be made of structural steel members and plate, used in any combination. There must be an observation platform connected to the base with a stair. A lift and all-steel toilets can be included but are not necessary.

The submission should demonstrate talent and creativity in the expression of the structural framing elements as well as in the more architectural steel components of the stairs, handrails and surfaces.

In architecture, appearance is of great importance. Thus, the type of steel (carbon, weathered, stainless…), the surface finish (natural, brushed, gun blue, galvanized, painted) and the finish quality (AESS categories) must be specified.
Connections can be welded or bolted, seamless or expressed.

The proposal must include:

– 1 site plan at a scale that includes significant elements of the context
plans of accessible levels (1:50)
– 1 elevation (1:50)
– 1 cross section (1:50)
– 2 connection details (1:5)
– 2 rendered views images of the type of steel and its finish
– 1 list of AESS categories (there can be more than one AESS specification, indicate to which part of the tower each category applies)

The submission should be presented on a maximum of three A1 size boards.

2019-2020 Program
Submission Criteria
Submission Site

The intention of this design competition is primarily to provide students of architecture in Canada with a unique opportunity: to enter into a design process that brings together, of necessity, concept and reality. It is important for students of architecture to grasp the fact that structural design lies not just in the realm of the engineer but can be a means for architects of arriving at a meaningful realization of architectural ideas. It is when theory meets physical necessity that architecture can become really interesting.

To that end, this competition calls upon students to conceptualize, and realize in detail, a structure of simple program that explores the qualities of steel. The exploration will include issues related to program and site, but the emphasis in this competition is upon the architectural exploration through form and material, on the essential relationship between architecture and structure.

The reality of this competition comes in two forms: through the requirement for buildable details utilizing structural steel; and through the collaboration with the steel fabrication industry on those choices and details. This collaboration is an important component of this competition, as a secondary objective is to expose students to both the opportunities and restraints inherent in realizing steel conceptual design.

The conceptual component of this competition will come through the recommendation that this competition be run through either a studio, or a lecture-based course, most probably within a structures course. Under the guidance of faculty sponsors, students will conduct the design process as an academic exercise, within the guidelines set out in this brief. As an academic project, the design process will adhere to the standards set forth by the students’ school of architecture.

The ultimate goal for a team’s submission should combine excellent architectural design with sound structural considerations and material choices. The presentation of the design should provide easy understanding of all components of the project clearly and creatively.

Entries in this competition must exclusively use steel in the design for structure and surfaces. By specifying structural steel as both architectural and structural elements, the designers must demonstrate an understanding of the building properties and the architectural possibilities of the material. Entries that include specifications of steel sizes, shapes and/or product specifications will be given stronger consideration by the jury.

Teams should also consider the practical application of their design. The potential for buildability will be given strong consideration, as the potential exists to build the winning entry. While theoretical studio projects are strongly encouraged, submissions should reflect a clear vision of the project’s place and purpose.

Collaboration between designer(s) and fabricator(s) is encouraged as a reflection of architectural practice, as a means of enhancing students’ ability to realize conceptual design within the framework of real construction. Students and faculty sponsors are encouraged to draw upon the experience and expertise of their local steel fabricators as part of the design process. For a list of local fabricators interested in participating with students, please contact Manon Gagnon at the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction.

This competition is open to all current full-time students registered in a Canadian school that offers an accredited or non-accredited program of architecture of at least 3 years duration. Students may work individually or in teams. Entries that include students in Engineering are encouraged. Each entry must have at least one faculty sponsor from the architecture program.

The full submission requirements are posted on the CISC website ( Submissions not conforming to these requirements will be disqualified.
Although copyright of design is maintained by the entrants, submission of design images as part of this competition releases the right of use of submitted images to CISC. Entrants will be appropriately credited when their images are used.

• Incorporation of the competition theme
• Creative approach to interpreting the competition theme
• Demonstration of the potential of structural steel
• Buildable details

Award of Excellence:student team $3,000
faculty sponsor $1,500
Awards (2) of Merit:student team $2,000
faculty sponsor $1,000


October 2019Competition announced
May 15, 2020Deadline for receipt of entries
June 19, 2020Announcement of winners and publication of winning entries
September 2020Award of Excellence presented
October 2020Touring exhibition of finalists


For more information, please contact:
Education & Research

Details and Past Winners

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