Architecture in a Precarious World

Thoughts on the Theme

The global pandemic has exacerbated the ongoing social, economic, and ecological crisis; a world of extreme precariousness that has grown increasingly widespread over the last few decades. Its effects are well-known, from massive income and social inequality to sea level rise, catastrophic flooding, and increasingly powerful hurricanes and wildfires. The early 21st century is defined by omnipresent fragility. More recently, economic and social changes are becoming increasingly apparent. The term “precariat” (precarious proletariat) has been coined to describe the urgent problem of the unstable conditions of a new class of workers lacking predictability and security. This accumulation of crisis, with its magnitude so vast, complex, and varied, demands definitive action and change. Perhaps one positive aspect of this pervasive condition is that we are confronted with endless numbers of issues and compromised sites all around us which we can immediately reassess and upon which we can begin to develop strategies of intervention. In response to these acute changes, we are forced to grapple with fundamental questions: Is architecture a relevant tool for addressing such a precarious world? If so, how might it be used to respond to these overwhelming challenges?

This competition is a call to broadly survey and identify various fragile sites, precarious social and ecological conditions, that urgently need to be addressed and cared for while seeking alternative approaches to resilience through design. It is also an appeal to imagine new forms of commons that, in turn, could inspire a hopeful and bold new path for future architects.

The following working strategies, or modes of observation, are meant to help instigate new approaches to design. Participants should feel free to explore these ideas, explicitly or implicitly, as a point of departure for developing design interventions that could range from the micro to the macro scale.

Although the same pandemic has spread across the globe, the various approaches to dealing with it have fluctuated widely depending on the specific social, political, and cultural conditions of each country. The current unprecedented immobility caused by this calamity can be utilized as a unique opportunity to closely examine the world around us and seek the hyper-specific conditions that define the precarious nature of a local site. At the same time, we urge one to remain keenly aware of the “universalizing” forces at work. Since World War II, the proliferation of the world economy, technology, and commodity markets on a global scale, increasingly commodifies all aspects of social life. The last few decades have witnessed a new paradigm defined by what some have called “surveillance capitalism.” Silicon Valley and other corporations are mining information of users to predict and shape their behavior, constructing seemingly inescapable “algorithm ghettos.” The technocratic state has systematically restructured our lives, enticing us to incessantly “socially interact,” shop, and entertain ourselves, but as we retreat further into isolated bubbles, what are the consequences for the world beyond? Arguably, architecture and urban planning have played a minor role in this development. As a way of engaging this radical global transformation, we promote an aggressive hyper-specific approach to local conditions, issues, and knowledge to move beyond the prevailing model which is defined by extensive and persistent forces of homogenization. New forms of local engagement are key. Again, while the scale of the intervention may range from large to extremely small, what matters most is the ability to situate one’s design within the specific conditions of the site.

The non-anthropocentric view maintains that other subjects should be regarded as having equal significance as human beings. The pandemic has revealed the obvious fact, which has often been ignored, that we are not the only protagonists on this planet. We coexist with non-human subjects. For example, the Whanganui River in New Zealand has been granted the legal status of a person while “Sophia,” a robot brought to life by artificial intelligence (AI), has been given citizenship. These contrasting cases exemplify the ways in which our former ethics have, necessarily, evolved. Architecture and urban planning have long been, until now, rather hopelessly human-centric disciplines that have remained oblivious to this fragile condition. The world is defined by relationships between humans and non-human agents, including animals, plants, landscapes, and other subjects that still demand recognition, which require careful observation, understanding, and constant nurturing. Now we must urgently reform our old viewpoint and explore the design implications of this new way of thinking as a matter of our own survival.

Architecture has contributed significantly to the proliferation of objects and images in an oversaturated world. Overconsumption, or excessive unsustainable consumption, has resulted in widespread resource depletion. A new generation of political activists have initiated the “deconsumption” movement. Yet architecture remains deeply implicated in the status quo. The proliferation of commodities, including architecture as a commodity, has reached new heights. In response to these developments, we encourage one to imagine the opposite, the “absence” of production and consumption. The idea of undoing, or erasure, removal or stripping things down to their bare essence, may offer a productive strategy to imagine a less precarious, more sustainable, future. Reimagining the world may help instigate the emergence of new environments. For example, what might happen if private cars disappear from the city? What would then happen in all those parking spaces?

In order to systematically compare and assess proposals, we suggest this simple sequence of work. Each project will be judged on its ability to articulate these key points.

1) Define a precarious state. Identify precarious conditions that need nurturing, care, and improvement as it relates to nature, civic life, society, culture, education, knowledge, and digital information, especially in terms of what used to be considered as the commons. Engage the tensions between a market economy and new experimental models that explore the possibility of de-commodified land, food, and housing, etc. as new forms of commons.

2) Situate oneself as an engaged architect. It is evident that architects cannot solve such complex issues alone. Therefore, we suggest engaging in research related to diverse groups representing the public sector, as well as private companies, including activists, community leaders, workers, academics, and NGOs, that are critically addressing current problems. Engaging in, or speculating upon, new forms of collaborations can help distinguish one's approach from the more typical design methodologies.

3) Locate the intervention in a specific context. Participants are free to choose any site. Look around and observe everyday life to discover potential sites. Explore the idea of “new ground,” an imaginative way of finding territorial opportunities in a post-capitalist city and beyond. Consider spaces above, below, or in-between existing programs of the overly commodified urban landscape. We encourage one to explore local conditions and their specific qualities in an imaginative way. In contrast to the dominant idea that “something that has no price has no value,” the 21st century calls for a new valuation, outside of the prevailing model of an economy of consumption.

4) Design with intention, which can manifest itself as buildings, non-buildings, landscapes, or new forms of organization, etc. Adding to or subtracting from existing conditions, along with various other forms of manipulation, are encouraged to generate diverse proposals. This approach may not result in the typical architectural response (i.e., built form) but we welcome the outcome if it serves the purpose. At the same time, we maintain that architecture has the power to make significant contributions to the commons.

The Role of the Future Architect
We hope that this approach of imagining and actively engaging in a broader spectrum of the design process can help address some of the more fundamental questions of our time, while creating concrete proposals, which may help encourage future architects to expand what architects and architecture can do.

Minsuk Cho is an architect and founding principal of the architecture firm Mass Studies (2003). He studied at the Architectural Engineering Department of Yonsei University and the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University. Mass Studies has been committed to a discursive architectural practice through socio-cultural and urban research and mostly built works that are widely recognized, with representative works including the Pixel House, Missing Matrix, Bundle Matrix, Shanghai Expo 2010: Korea Pavilion, Daum Space.1, Tea Stone/Innisfree, Southcape, Dome-ino, and the Daejeon University Dormitory.

Mass Studies’ buildings have received multiple awards, both domestic and international, including the annual Korean Institute of Architects Award (Bundle Matrix, Daum Space.1, Daejeon University Dormitory), a Silver Medal from the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) for the Pavilion Design Category to the Korean Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo 2010, and was a finalist for the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) Highrise Awards (Missing Matrix). Cho has received the Hwa-Gwan Order of Cultural Merit (2014) of Korea.

In September 2020, the Space K Seoul Museum of Art was completed in the Magok District, Seoul. Current in-progress projects, all selected through competitions, include the new Seoul Cinematheque, the Danginri Cultural Space, the Yang-dong District Main Street, and the Yeonhui Public Housing Complex. Active beyond his practice, he co-curated an exhibition at the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale with Anthony Fontenot and was the commissioner and co-curator of the Korean Pavilion for the 14th International Architecture Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia, which was awarded the Gold Lion for Best National Participation.

In late 2014, PLATEAU Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, held its first and only architecture exhibition, highlighting his works in a solo show titled "Before/After: Mass Studies Does Architecture." Cho is an active lecturer and speaker globally.
Anthony Fontenot is a historian, theorist, and curator of architecture and urbanism. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Louisiana, a Master of Architecture degree from Southern California Institute of Architecture, and a Ph.D. in the history and theory of architecture from Princeton University.
Fontenot was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Scholars fellowship (2008-2010) at Princeton, a research fellowship (2010-2011) at the Getty Research Institute, and a Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts grant in 2014.
His books include Non-Design: Architecture, Liberalism, and the Market (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2021), Gregory Ain: Low-Cost Modern Housing and the Construction of a Social Landscape (MIT Press, forthcoming 2022), (co-author) New Orleans Under Reconstruction: The Crisis of Planning (Verso, 2014), (co-author) Berlin: City Without Form (forthcoming 2021).

He is the author of numerous chapters and articles, including “Activating Medellín and the Politics of Citizen Engagement” in All-Inclusive Engagement in Architecture, eds., Farhana Ferdous and Bryan Bell (Routledge, forthcoming 2021),“The Battle Over Bauhaus Design: Hannes Meyer Versus László Moholy-Nagy” in Hannes Meyers Bauhauslehre – Von Dessau nach Mexiko, ed. Philipp Oswalt (Birkhäuser, 2018).

Fontenot has organized numerous international symposia and exhibitions. He was co-curator, with Minsuk Cho, of the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale in South Korea, Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196X – 197X (2007-), and Pedro E. Guerrero: Photographs of Modern Life (2012).
He curated Gregory Ain: Low-Cost Modern Housing and the Construction of a Social Landscape (2015) and Exposing New Orleans (2006) at Princeton University.

He organized Sustainable Dialogues (2007-2008), a series of symposia on the reconstruction of New Orleans and co-organized the symposium Questioning the Standard: New Narratives of Art in Los Angeles (2011) at the Getty.

Architecture in a Precarious World is in partnership with the Korean Pavilion Future School at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia. (



Architecture in a Precarious World


Space Group


Minsuk Cho (Principal, Mass Studies)
Anthony Fontenot
(Professor, Woodbury University School of Architecture)


  • University / Graduate School (Master) students
    (Students on leave of absence are eligible; open to all students regardless of major)
  • Must have student status on day of award ceremony.
  • Team composition maybe of three students or less


Grand Prize
(1 team)
7,000,000 Korean KRW + Award Certificate + Plaque
(1 team)
2,000,000 Korean KRW + Award Certificate
(3 teams)
1,000,000 KRW each + Award Certificate
(10 teams)
Honorable Mention Certificate + 1-year subscription to [SPACE] Magazine

Timeline / Submission

Briefing on Main Theme
1st Briefing on Main Theme 4 PM. March 10, 2021
Online video release due to COVID-19.
2st Briefing on Main Theme Both offline and YouTube live.
If you want to visit offline, you can receive 30 people on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at 1:00 PM (UTC+09:00)
Places: Space Group 1F

Please refer to the notice for details.
Entry Date June 1, 2021 1 PM - August 27, 2021 1 PM
1st Submission of Works August 30, 2021 1 PM - September 24, 2021 3 PM
1st Announcement of Stage 1 Results October 6, 2021
Selection/Award Ceremony
2nd Submission of Assignment October 7 - 20, 2021 1 PM
For teams selected in Stage 1
Stage 2 Selection and Award Ceremony October 22, 2021
Winners Exhibition October 25 - 29, 2021 (Location: Space Group 1F)
* Schedule and submission dates may be adjusted.
* All times are in Korean Standard Time(UTC +09:00).


    FAQ Bulletin Board (Coming soon)



  • Register at:
  • Entry Fee: 45 USD per team
  • Bank: KB Kookmin Bank
  • Account Number: 817268-11-001654
  • Account Holder: SPACE GROUP
  • Swift Code: CZNBKRSEXXX
  • Bank Address: 88, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea
  • Entry fee must be paid to complete the registration process.
  • This fee is non-refundable. Modifications to the application can only be made during the registration period.
  • * Team members cannot be added or replaced after the application deadline.
Register to Participate Check/Modify Registration Information

Submission Requirements

[First Submission]
    - A3-size, 14 pages (horizontal direction, single digital file)
    The exhibition layout will be 2 columns and 7 rows of A3 panels (840mm x 2,079mm)
    - File Name and Format:
    Registration number_title of work.PDF
    e.g.) 1234_abcd.PDF
    - File Limitations: 600 DPI or higher, high resolution PDF files. 60Mb or less.
    - All texts should be written in English, but when necessary, can be written in Korean.
    - Do not include any information related to the applicant's identity in the submission files.
    - The Registration Number and Title of the Work should be marked in a white box (4cm×2cm) on the lower right corner of the last page. However, the Title of the Work can also be included on the panel(s).
    - Confirmation of Registration
    - Scan file of Certificate of School Enrollment (all team members).
    - Certificate of Leave of Absence if you are taking a leave of absence.
    - In the case of those in the military service, submit a Certificate of Concurrent Employment provided by the Head of Service, a Certificate of Service, and a Certificate of Leave of Absence.
    *Selected Winners will participate in an open review after the announcement of the Stage 1 results; requirements for publication will be announced separately.
Register First Submission
[Second Submission]
    - Presentation file should be no more than 20 pages (including cover page)
    - File Name and Format:
    PPT File: 2nd_registration number_title of work.PPTX
    e.g.) 2nd_1234_abcd.PPTX

    Submit PDF files of the same content:
    e.g.) 2nd_1234_abcd.PDF

    Video File (Optional):
    2nd_registration number_title of work.MP4
    e.g.) 2nd_1234_abcd.MP4
    - File Limitations:
    No more than 60MB for PPTX, PDF file.
    No more than 500MB for MP4 file.
    - Avoid animation effects in PPTX files.
    - Texts can be freely written in a combination of English/Korean or Korean.
    - The video file should not exceed 3 minutes screening time.
Introduction of Work
    - File Name and Format:
    2nd_registration number_title of work.DOCX (MS Word compatible)
    - Two A4 pages, approximately 1000 words; in both Korean and English.
Register Second Submission


  • 1. Selection process will be done in two stages (Stage 1, Stage 2). All projects will be evaluated, and the selected projects will proceed to the next stage. The second and final stage will be further evaluated by the jury members in an open evaluation process.
  • 2. Projects that have been previously submitted to other competitions and plagiarized entries will be automatically disqualified.
  • 3. Violations of the guideline will automatically disqualify the submission during the evaluation process.
  • 4. Organizers display submissions to the contest. It has the right to publish, duplicate and distribute, and submitted materials will be provided to the Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition, and the Archive of the Korean Culture and Arts Council (ARKO).
  • 5. Submission materials will not be returned to the participants.


Title Date
Notice regarding the 2nd submission. 2021-10-18

Congratulations on your first acceptance of the 34th SpaceGroup International Student Architecture Award. 

Those who pass the first submission must check and submit the following regarding the second submission. 

1. Presentation requirement.

- Filename: Registration number_Name of the work.

           EX) 20000000_Architecture in a precarious World

- Presentation file format: Within 20 pages (PPTX, PDF (same content) not more than 30 MB each)

- Video for presentation (presentation inserted video): MP4 file, the capacity of 500MB or less, length of 3 minutes or less

  : The video is not required, and the video is included in the presentation time.

2. Introduce your work.

- 4 sheets based on the manuscript. (Page 1/2 of A4)

- File format is DOCX or TXT.

3. Due date.

- October 7th, 2021 (Thursday) ~ October 20th (Wed) 13:00 (UTC+09:00)

4. Regarding the final judge.

- Judgment date and time: Friday, October 22nd, 2021. 

- Awards ceremony: Friday, October 22nd, 2021.

- Presentation format: 10 minutes for presentation, 5 minutes, Q&A.

- Presentation location: ground floor auditorium in the SpaceGroup building.

- The order and time of the presentation will be contacted separately. 

Please take care of your health.

Announcement of the results of the first screening 2021-10-18

Thank you to those who participated in the 34th Space Prize for international Students of Architect Design.

The results of the first evaluation is released.

21610263 Rebalancing Scale

21718292 Oblique Street

21730307 Vuffer

21802312 New Paradigm on the Block

21805314 Shapes of Material

21805315 Deus Ex Machina

21812322 Otter Assimilation

21814324 New Noah's Ark

21815329 No Country for Old Men

21817333 Separate; To Coexist

21820342 Bee:gin Again

21820345 Towards an Alternative Nature

21824357 What if there’s a RUIN?

21825367 Wetlands in the City

21826379 Nomadic Architecture

Those selected for the 1st evaluation, please submit the 2nd submission according to the announced schedule.

An additional notice has been made regarding the submission of the second submission, so please check it.

Competition's second Briefing video script (Korean+English) 2021-10-18

Competition's second topic presentation meeting video script(Korean+English) is released. 

Competition's second Briefing video script(Korean+English) Download

The 34th Space Prize for International Students of Architecture Design : 2nd Briefing on Main Theme 2021-05-17

The 2nd Briefing on Main Theme will be held offline and YouTube lives together.

To prevent the spread of Covid-19, there are 30 people offline on a first-come, first-served basis. Receive offline attendance pre-registration via email.

If you didn't apply in advance, you won't be able to attend on the same day, so please be aware of this.

Date : Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at 13:00

Location : Space Group 1F Multipurpose Conference Room

                 (30 people first come first served and pre-received by e-mail)

On-site attendance : (specify a school, attendance, representative contact information)

Space Architecture YouTube Channel Shortcuts

Competition's First Briefing video script (Korean+English) 2021-03-12
First briefing video script (Korean+English) will be released online.

Competition's First Briefing video script (Korean+English) Download
1st Briefing on Main Theme 2021-03-19

Competition’s First Briefing and Question & Answer session on main theme

1. Competition’s First Briefing video release 
- Due the outbreak of Covid 19 and to further ensure the safety of the participants and organizers. First Briefing and its contents will be released online.

2. First Briefing question and answer information
- To answer and clarify competition queries, first question and answer session will be carried online.
- Q&A session 1 registration period: From 12th through 26th of March (Queries registration will be available for two weeks).
- Answers to Question release: April 2, 2021 (Scheduled) 

- Queries registration: Email all questions to No phone calls. In the subject heading please include “[Topic presentation Queries]”.


2nd Briefing on main theme Information

Q1. Do I have to write an introduction, PPT, and video in English?

Please fill it out freely, such as using Korean or English

Q2. Are the presentation and inquiry take place in English?

By default, it is scheduled to proceed in Korean. Participants who are difficult to proceed in Korean can also speak English.

Q3. Can I submit either a PPTX file or PDF file?

To prepare for PPTX file errors, please submit both of them with the same content.

Q4. Can I add a new image to the presentation in addition to the contents of the first panel?

It is okay to add additional images or diagrams to help you understand. However, the content of the existing submissions should not be different or irrelevant.

Q5. How many pages are there in the presentation documents exactly?

limited to 20 pages.

Q6. Can I use the PPT animation effect in the PPTX presentation?

The animation effect inside PPT is not applied when converting PDF files, so please avoid other than screen conversion effects.

Q7. What is the video for the presentation?

Presentation videos are inserted to help you understand during the presentation and are not required. You can understand it as a reference video. Also, the video time is 3 minutes and is included in the presentation time. The presenter can freely show it at a reasonable time or attach it to the PPT automatically when presenting.

Q8. I can't attend because I live abroad, is there any way?

Please participate in a zoom conference at the time of the announcement. We will provide the link later.

Q9. There is a team member who can't participate inevitably, is there away?

Please send us the list of participants and absentees. As possible as one person should participate in the presentation. Also, it will be possible to visit online through YouTube Live.

Q10. Can only one member of the team present and answer the questions or anyone can free to do it?

Please proceed freely within the time limit.

Q11. How much is the amount of 4 pages based on the manuscript paper? Also, do I have to submit a manuscript form?

The standard four pages (page A4 1/2) means four pages in the form of manuscript paper and half pages in A4. You can calculate 200 characters per copy of the manuscript and fill it out with about 800 characters (including offsets) for 4 pages. You can submit the form as it is without applying the form of a manuscript form.

Q12. Is it possible for outsiders such as relatives and friends to attend the screening?

Due to Corona 19, only a minimum number of people can attend. It will be possible to visit online through YouTube Live.


Q1. In the 1st Submission, are the 14 A3 panels (horizontal) composed of independent panels, or one panel divided into 14 sheets?

Each A3 panel should be composed independently and should not be understood as one panel only when combining several panels.

Q2. Is it okay to submit a single panel (840X2,079)?

No. 14 separate A3 panels should be submitted.


Q1. Is it possible to expand on concepts used in other/prior (non-architecture) contests?

There is no problem submitting a more architecturally developed proposal based on a concept from other/prior non-architecture contests to the Space Award. However, it should consist of newly expanded work and images, not previously generated images.

Q2. The Brief mentions three [Strategies] and four [Methods] ways for the teams to decide on and select their topics: [Strategy] 1. LOCAL AND HYPER-SPECIFIC, 2. NON-ANTHROPOCENTRIC, 3. ABSENCE. Is it necessary to apply all three strategies, or just one or two?

The Strategies provided are intended as a guideline. You may choose to use one, two, or all three.

Participation Qualification

Q1. Is it okay for the participants in a single team to attend different schools?

Yes, it is okay for teammates to be from different schools.

Q2. Can those who are scheduled to graduate before the day of the award ceremony participate?

Participants must be attending (or on a leave of absence) on the day of the award ceremony.

Q3. Can I participate even if I'm on a leave of absence?

Yes, it is possible to participate while on a leave of absence. Please submit a certificate of leave of absence provided by your school.

Q4. Can I participate even if I'm on an alternative service due to military leave?

Yes, it is possible to participate. Please submit a certificate of leave of absence, a certificate of service, and a concurrent work permit from the head of the service organization.