Hacking Google: Co-opting a Competition for Social Good

07/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Cameron Sinclair Co-founder of Architecture for Humanity and the Open Architecture Network

In honor of Frank Lloyd Wrights' birthday (June 8) Google SketchUp partnered with The Guggenheim Museum to launch a competition to design a simple shelter. By using Google SketchUp and Google Earth you can choose any site and create any basic dwelling (without water, gas or electricity). While it is a great creative initiative, it could go one step further by challenging participants to design with purpose.

While a treehouse dymaxion treefort would be super fun (see below) my organization, Architecture for Humanity, is upping the ante by urging entrants to add a social component to the competition and asking them to select a community that could utilize the developed design to improve their living standard. This year has seen Hoovervilles on the rise in the United States; tens of thousands of Tamils displaced in Sri Lanka; refugees camps swelling in Chad; displaced families in Myanmar; increased need mobile health services in South Asia; the list goes on and on. Let's use this global initiative to shine a light on the basic human right of shelter for all.

The competition currently offers two prizes - The Peoples Prize and the Jury Prize. We are unofficially adding a third - The Community Prize - which will be reviewed by Architecture for Humanity design fellows working from India, Ireland, Kenya and Myanmar. We are hosting the complimentary challenge on the Open Architecture Network, the worlds' first open source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design.

Step 1. After submitting to Google, log onto the Open Architecture Network.
Step 2. Upload your design here. Be sure it include Jpegs of your design.
Step 3. Add project information in your project info block (max. 200 words) and select a Creative Commons License
Step 4. Tag your project with the words 'Shelter it' and submit.

On October 21st we will announce the best designs both here and on the Open Architecture Network website. Award includes $500 and a custom-made Moleskine Folio by Rickshaw Bagworks. Good luck.

Here is how you enter (the Google competition):

Dymaxion Treefort by Andrew Birch