The Challenge

2019 Theme

The OAA challenges the profession to identify and address an infrastructure issue, either physical or social, where using architectural thinking can advance insight and innovation.

Infrastructure can include anything from transit, water systems, housing, hospitals and electrical grids to planning regulations, definitions of family, immigration laws and the status of First Nations, Inuit and Metis. It encompasses the foundational aspects of society, profoundly structuring and governing our daily lives. Unfortunately, the disconnects between our modern demands and our existing infrastructure systems can create fundamental gaps in experience, accessibility, safety and quality of life.

These disconnects reflect the realities of physical infrastructure and organizational structures/processes (policies, people, ideas and communities). Many of these essential elements have failed to keep pace with transformative technological, economic, demographic and social changes.

The OAA challenges the architecture profession to examine these systems and propose new ways to understand, create or support infrastructure that links our communities in order to address these connective elements. The goal is to show how architectural thinking can promote social equity, reduce isolation or embody social justice.


The 2019 SHIFT Infrastructure/Architecture Challenge is seeking unique, inventive ideas that promote public dialogue, shift public consciousness, affect society and drive change.

The following examples can illustrate an approach to the challenge statement, but the possibilities are virtually endless.

Idea: How could transit design change the layout of a city?

Infrastructure issue: Urban transit

Idea: How can urban design combat loneliness and social isolation?

Infrastructure issue: Mental health

Idea: Could rethinking streets and roads improve livability? Designing roads and streets to embrace and accommodate green spaces and natural habitats.

Infrastructure issue: Livable spaces

Idea: How can the design of public washrooms link human rights, public health and social equity?

Infrastructure issue: Dignity and public health

Idea: How can architectural thinking create a more equitable environment for families and children?

Infrastructure issue: Social equity

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