Architects, Students Compete in Iron Designer Challenge

June 8, 2011

By Laura Mirviss

Emergency shelters being assembled
Photo courtesy School of Design and Construction
During last year's competition, teams built emergency shelters that could be assembled within hours of a natural disaster.


Watch video of last year's Iron Designer Challenge.

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Professional and prospective architects and engineers will live life in the fast lane as they compete in the second annual Iron Designer Challenge in New York on Thursday, June 9. Patterned after the cooking show Iron Chef, eight teams consisting of three high school students and four professionals will go head to head as they build life-size and freestanding “Portals”—structures that mediate two spaces—in less than three hours.

The team rosters and specifications were released a month ago to enable teams to brainstorm and create a theme for their structures. However, competitors will have access to building materials—cardboard, plastic, or wood—only after the clock starts running. After 90 minutes, each team will receive a “secret material” to incorporate in its final design. Last year’s material was glass tile, which teams integrated into their design of emergency shelters for post-disaster situations. 

The 2011 Iron Designer Challenge, hosted by WABC television reporter Lauren Glassberg, will have submissions assessed by a jury including Harvard University Graduate School of Design lecturer Robert Marino, a practicing architect who has worked on many residential projects in the greater New York City area. The professionals represent architecture and engineering firms Cerami & Associates, Gensler, Northern Bay Contractors, Omni Architects, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Robert Silman Associates, Thornton Tomasetti, and Turner.

The competition, also a fundraising event, is organized by the School of Design and Construction (SDC), a public high school in Midtown Manhattan offering pre-professional classes in design, construction, architecture, and engineering.

Opened in 2004, the SDC is a member of a consortium of 21 middle and high schools throughout New York City managed by The Urban Assembly, a non-profit organization focused on college preparation for underprivileged students. The New York City Department of Education reports that the SDC enrolls more than 370 students.

The event, located at the SDC at 525 West 50th Street, opens to the public at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for $50. The competition will take place on the SDC’s rooftop (or gymnasium if there is inclement weather).

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