2016 Recipient

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AIA SPP Small Project Design Competition 
POP-UP 2016

Tactical Urbanism-Creating Place

The AIA Small Project Practitioners invites architects and architecture students to submit design ideas to the 2016 SPP Small Project Design Competition – POP-UP 2016: TACTICAL URBANISM – CREATING PLACE. In this unique design competition, submitters are asked to: Create a sense of place within the confines of a 10’-0” x 10’-0” x 10’-0” space.

This year's winning design was displayed in Philadelphia during the 2016 AIA National Convention.

2016 Recipient

A Sense of Place is...Context
Michael Wacht | IntuArch

Project Concept + Description

Architects typically envision how their designs would fit within the context of a given site.  Frequently, we create diagrams with abundant arrows to indicate how a design fits into the existing and proposed circulation network. But, this can be a very abstract exercise. Do we pause to imagine what it’s like to experience the environment incrementally, as part of the user experience? “A Sense of Place. . . Is Context” proposes we view the surrounding environment of a site cinematically, analyzing where we’ve come from and where we are going. Once sitting inside of the installation, a convention attendee would view the surrounding environment through oversized “prop” arrows in single frame views to determine whether destinations are inviting or discouraging to a potential user.

Another way to describe the project: The installation asks Architects to "embody" the arrows we use in diagrams and drawings when we design.  Those arrows aren't just contextual cues and visual linkages, they are actual people standing in those positions, being inspired or discouraged by the environments we build.

Please note that due to budget constraints, the size of the project was reduced.

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Within architectural space it is important to establish a sense of place. This is true not only for the architecture to be good but also for your experience within that space to be memorable. Creating an environment involves designing for meaningful experiences — to do this, establishing a sense of place is key.

It seems that both memory and sense of place prominently involve the same part of the brain – the hippocampus. “Our memory of events may depend upon a strong sense of place, and by extension, our sense of place may be influenced by the integrity of the memories formed there.” - Sternberg, Esther M. and Wilson, Matthew A. “Neuroscience and Architecture: Seeking Common Ground

A key factor in distinguishing place from space is the ability for humans to interact. This provides occupants with a feeling of belonging to the environment, instead of just “passing through it.” Also, establishing a connection between spaces is important. This provides opportunity for the incorporation of landmarks and other architectural features that can make a place memorable.

Can you remember being in an architectural space that had a strong sense of place? Is your memory of that place linked to an experience that happened there? Odds are that that place also had a strong sense of orientation. As landmarks and other architectural features come together in one’s mental map, your sense of place becomes stronger.

"Buildings that guide you through them while providing you with enough information to make meaningful decisions along the way can make for quite profound experiences. Embed within your architecture a succession for a meaningful sense of place – where memories can be shaped and built form can transcend the senses." -Maria Lorena Lehman

Architecture is to create a sense of place. Throughout urban areas, opportunities exist for social interaction, moments of reflection, and instances of pure joy. We want to challenge the design community to activate a small footprint and create creating a space for the people – for them to enjoy, play, discuss, speak out, and be.

Within a 10’-0” x 10’-0” x 10’-0” confine, all designs must be:

  • Able to be built and de-constructed by volunteers within a few hours
  • A temporary structure must be temporary – anchoring to the floor is not possible
  • Use environmentally responsible materials
  • Project to be de-constructed and materials to be donated to local organization



  • Alan Brake | US Editor, Dezeen
  • Peter Exley |  Architecture is Fun, Inc
  • Jane Frederick, FAIA | Frederick Architects
  • Eduardo LaCroze, AIA | Lacroze Miguens Prati
  • Marc Manack, AIA | SILO AR+D LLC