AECOM and Van Alen Institute Announce Finalists For “Urban SOS: Fair Share” Competition

Multidisciplinary student teams asked to find solutions to critical urban issues

LOS ANGELES (Dec. 7, 2016) — AECOM and Van Alen Institute today announced the four finalist teams in the annual Urban SOS competition, which asked university students to address some of the most pressing challenges faced by cities worldwide. The contest is presented in partnership with 100 Resilient Cities — pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC).

This year’s competition, “Urban SOS: Fair Share,” invited students to apply the tools and technologies of the sharing economy to create more equitable access to resources, sustainable built environments and enriched lives for urban residents. The competition is the seventh in a series of student competitions organized by AECOM and builds off of Van Alen Institute’s 120-plus-year history of organizing design competitions. Over 80 student teams from 31 countries worldwide submitted proposals. Qualified submittals were vigorously reviewed and scored by AECOM professionals and subject matter experts in 14 global office juries resulting in the selection of 16 semi-finalists. The semi-final proposals were then reviewed by prestigious panels of local thought leaders in Hong Kong, Sydney, New York and London. Each panel included experts from academia, urban planning, design, technology and architecture from public and private sectors.

The winning team will be announced at the final jury in Los Angeles on January 10, 2017.

“Urban SOS: Fair Share has activated a multidisciplinary, global network of student teams to rethink how our cities distribute food, collect waste, create jobs and address migration,” said David van der Leer, executive director of Van Alen Institute. “We’re thrilled to build on our long tradition of supporting forward-looking visions through innovative student competitions.”

“We are pleased and inspired to have received such an array of creative and socially impactful ideas by students from across the world,” said Stephen Engblom, Senior Vice President and Global Director of AECOM Cities. “We look forward to hosting our finalists along with a prominent jury comprised of creative leaders from the public sector, private-sector shared economy companies, and academia in Los Angeles to determine who will take the top prize and how AECOM will help bring their idea to life. Everyone who participated demonstrated great vision and brilliance, which bodes well for the future leaders of our world.”

“The best ideas often come from unexpected places, and we’re seeing creative and ground-breaking ideas from the students participating in Urban SOS,” said Michael Berkowitz, president of 100RC. “Here at 100RC, we encourage the adoption of holistic thinking in addressing urban challenges – we’re thrilled to partner in a competition that fosters this kind of thinking.”

This year’s finalists developed an array of creative, entrepreneurial strategies to leverage local resources to address a variety of social issues and needs. Details can be found at: Read on to get a flavor of their proposals:

• WELP (Waste Help System) – Durban, South Africa. The team proposes a municipal sharing platform that connects households in Durban, South Africa that want to get rid of bulk waste with collectors who earn income for hauling the waste away. Mari Smith, Vivian Ly, Lixin Wang, Kate Maxfield of Monash University, Australia.

• The Living City – Athens, Greece. Responding to Europe’s migration crisis and stalled economies, the team proposes to transform Athens’ abandoned buildings and lots into common spaces of commerce, learning and social services for local Athenians, Syrian refugees and tourists. Team: Ho Ting Liu, Harvard University, Faranak Khas Ahmadi, University of California, Berkeley, Anduria Espinosa, University of Oxford, Jenny Lee, Columbia University.

• First Class Meal – Los Angeles, California. This proposal is a prototype to harnessing the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) under-utilized distribution/storage infrastructure to improve local food access and equity and reduce food waste. Team: Anu Samarajiva, Irum Javed and Lanxi Zhang of Washington University in St. Louis.

• En Comúna – Quito, Ecuador. Currently an active pilot project engaging residents in 18 of Quito’s communes, this initiative has established a website that allows people to map and collectively address needs and resources. Team: Mateo Fernandez-Muro, Polytechnic University of Madrid and Francisco Miranda of Parsons The News School for Design.

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Twitter: @AECOMUrbanSOS
About Van Alen Institute
At Van Alen Institute, we believe design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. We collaborate with communities, scholars, policymakers, and professionals on local and global initiatives that rigorously investigate the most pressing social, cultural, and ecological challenges of tomorrow. Building on more than a century of experience, we develop cross-disciplinary research, provocative public programs, and inventive design competitions.
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Twitter: @van_alen
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About 100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation
100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC provides this assistance through: funding for a Chief Resilience Officer in each member city who will lead the resilience efforts; resources for drafting a resilience strategy; access to private sector, public sector, academic, and NGO resilience tools; and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices and challenges. 100RC currently has 66 member cities.
Facebook: /100ResilientCities
Twitter: @100ResCities

AMERICAS 16-1204

AECOM Media Contact:
Michael Chee

Van Alen Institute:
Steven Thomson
Programs & Communications Manager
1.212.924.7000 x 12

100 Resilient Cities:
Andrew Brenner
Senior Manager, Global