“First Class Meal” Student Team Secures Top Prize in AECOM and Van Alen Institute’s Latest “Urban SOS” Competition for Imagining New Roles for the U.S. Postal Service in Addressing Los Angeles’ Food Deserts
LOS ANGELES — AECOM and Van Alen Institute, with 100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, today announced the winner of the Urban SOS: Fair Share student competition, which challenged multidisciplinary student teams around the world to explore the nexus of the sharing economy and urban infrastructure to solve our cities’ most urgent issues.
The winning team, students at Washington University in St. Louis, proposed reusing United States Postal Service (USPS) post offices slated for closure and their underutilized distribution network to help collect, store, and redistribute surplus food to neighborhoods with limited food access. Team members included Irum Javed, Anu Samarajiva and Lanxi Zhang, students in public health, architecture/urban design and landscape architecture/urban design. The team will receive a cash prize in addition to implementation support from AECOM.
“The caliber of this year’s entries was exemplary, and we were challenged to select a single winner,” said Stephen Engblom, senior vice president and global director of AECOM Cities. “We were inspired to see how these student teams merged the shared economy with urban infrastructure to respond to some of the most challenging issues in the world today. The winning team, First Class Meal, addressed the food desert issue, which is so critical to many of our cities and really resonated with our jury members based in Los Angeles, who are keenly interested in helping to implement the team’s concept.”
The student teams pitched their proposals to a live audience and a jury of 10 leading professionals from the design, government, business, and tech sectors at AECOM’s office in downtown Los Angeles, including Bill Hanway, executive vice president/global sports leader, AECOM; David van der Leer, executive director, Van Alen Institute; Josh Emig, head of research & development, WeWork; Greg Lindsay, senior fellow, New Cities Foundation; Leah Hanes, executive director, Two Bit Circus; Marissa Aho, chief resilience officer, City of Los Angeles, and 100 Resilient Cities representative; Shahram Mehraban, marketing director, Intel; Skylar Olsen, senior economist, Zillow; Stephen Engblom, senior vice president/global director of Cities, AECOM; and Vince Bertoni, director of planning, City of Los Angeles.
The jury also selected the following teams to receive honors:
2nd place: En Común(a) — Quito, Ecuador: creates a website in partnership with residents in dozens of Quito’s communes to map needs and resources, and develop a new cooperative to promote local farmers in one of the city’s main public markets.
3rd place: WELP (Waste-Help System) — Durban, South Africa: connects households that want to dispose of bulk waste with waste collectors who earn income and gain access to temporary housing for removing the waste.
Honorable mention: The Living City — Athens, Greece: brings together refugees, long-time residents and tourists to activate abandoned buildings and vacant lots with pop-up restaurants and markets.
Urban SOS: Fair Share invited students to combine physical design with the tools and technologies of the sharing economy to create more equitable access to resources, envision more sustainable built environments, and enrich the lives of urban residents. AECOM, a premier, fully integrated global infrastructure firm, launched Urban SOS in 2009 to address significant urban challenges, and for the last two years has partnered with Van Alen Institute, a design nonprofit with a 120-plus-year history of organizing design competitions.
“Cities today face opportunities and challenges that require holistic, interdisciplinary solutions,” said David van der Leer, executive director of Van Alen Institute. “We were proud to guide some of tomorrow’s thought leaders to imagine such creative visions for the future of urban life and public space.”
“This year’s finalist teams addressed some of the most pressing resilience challenges facing cities today, including mitigating economic and social impacts of the global refugee crisis, creating access to housing and jobs, providing healthy food to neighborhoods with limited food access deserts, and fostering connectivity to critical social and economic resources,” said Michael Berkowitz, president of 100 Resilient Cities. “The students’ ideas have real potential to change how cities address these issues in the years ahead.”
Student teams from 31 countries worldwide submitted proposals. Qualified submittals were vigorously reviewed by prestigious panels of global experts from academia, urban planning, design, technology and architecture from public and private sectors through juries held in Hong Kong, Sydney, New York and London, as well as the final jury held in Los Angeles.
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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.
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.