“Design for Sustainable Cities” is an international student competition, being held by BE OPEN and Cumulus. It is open to students and graduates of all art, design, architecture and media disciplines of universities and colleges worldwide.

The competition aims to encourage creation of innovative solutions, by younger creatives, for more sustainable cities.

The focus of the competition is the United Nations’ SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. According to UN data, 2007 marked the shift to an urban world, with more than half of the world’s population now living in urban settings, cities and communities, and urban inhabitation is projected to rise to 60% by 2030. Cities and metropolitan areas are powerhouses of economic growth. However, this growth goes hand in hand with increased carbon emissions and escalating resource consumption.

Consequences of rapid urbanization are evident in growing number of slum dwellers, lack of decent and affordable housing, unplanned urban sprawl, inadequate and overburdened infrastructure and services (such as water and sanitation systems, waste collection, communication systems, energy sources, road and transport infrastructure, food supply chains), worsening air quality and access to clean water.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a direct response to the consequences of urbanization, with SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities putting particular focus on urban settlements. However, all 17 UN SDG’s are relevant when addressing urban sustainability.

To attain the UN SDGs we need to think out of box the goals. We need creative thinking – design thinking - and creative action. Design has a crucial role to play as an instrument or vehicle for the implementation of the UN SDGs.

BE OPEN and Cumulus, and all of the stakeholders involved in this international competition programme, strongly believe that creativity is integral in the shift to sustainable existence.

The objective of ‘Design for Sustainable Cities’ is to recognize, showcase and promote the best design ideas and projects that embody and can advance the principles, aims and implementation of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Cities are burdened with many challenges in terms of sustainability. But we cannot turn our backs on the urban age. Cities are also the base for more sustainable approaches and solutions. When we speak of sustainability this encompasses environmental, economic and social sustainability. And all important is a human-centric focus.



With ‘Design for Sustainable Cities’, we are specifically calling for submissions of design solutions for SDG 11* Sustainable Cities and Communities, focusing on one or more of the following three urban themes: Co-Created Cities; Sharing Cities; Safe and Sound Cities. While the focus of this competition is SDG11, no single SDG is the ultimate goal in terms of sustainability, nor is one goal more important than the other. Cities are part and parcel of all 17 SDGs. So, when addressing SDG11 you are also welcomed to think of the intersection with other SDGs.

The solutions to support Design for Sustainable Cities SDG11 must relate to one or more of the following three submission categories:

1. Co-created Cities:

The city is humankind’s greatest collective work of creativity. As such the city is co-creation par excellence. We come together in cities to meet, greet, exchange and co-create. Cities are all important as fora for critical mass of critical thinking and tangible solutions. As our urban challenges increase, we need to do our utmost to enhance and innovate how we interact, both in the physical and virtual world. We can go further in creating sustainable cities if we do so collectively. Collective action can better offer and accelerate value. Co-creation is the path to collective impact.

Key words: co-created, co-design, value co-creation, collective impact, interactive, bridged services and facilities, user-centred design, service design

SDGs: SDG11 plus SDG13 Climate Action, SDG17 Partnership

2. Sharing Cities:

The city is based on co-existence, shared resources, on shared space, shared thinking, shared respect.

The sharing city goes beyond pure consumption. The sharing city is a city and society seeking to optimize resources, making the most of recycling, repurposing, retrofit, reuse of resources. The sharing city is regenerative. The sharing city is inclusive, striving to make room for everybody, striving for urban ecologies, striving for healthy balances between humankind, built environments and natural environments. The sharing city is the caring city. The sharing city is also about sharing the intangible, sharing cultures, sharing insight and knowhow, sharing responsibilities, sharing blood, sweat and tears, sharing celebrations, sharing experiences happy, sad and sublime, sharing creative forces. This includes sharing designs. This is embracing open source. We are better when we do things together.

Key words: resources, recycling, repurposing, retrofit, reuse, lifecycle, circularity, optimization, increase of the utilization

SDGs: SDG11 plus SDG12 Responsible Consumption

3. Safe and Sound Cities:

Safety, security, health and well-being are at the crux of urban co-existence. The greatest individual concern is health and well-being. The greatest collective urban concern is public health and welfare. First and foremost, access to clean air and provision fresh water (ref. access to fresh water is the Achilles heel of any and every city and settlement). There next food and shelter are vital for a sound city. Any infringement on our health and security directly impacts our levels of happiness and well-being. Our sense of security is certainly being put to the test with current COVID-19 worldwide health crisis. Some are turning their backs on cities, seeing cities as problematic places to be. But urban density is not necessarily to blame for the pandemic. We confuse social distancing with physical distancing. We need to be creative about how to be together apart, how to sustain and foster social interaction while maintaining safe distance. We need to adapt and adopt pre-cautionary practices so that we can safely co-exist in meaningful ways.

Solutions for safe and sound cities are more important than ever! To highlight this urgency, this competition includes the Safe City Prize.

Key words: safety, security, health, well-being, happiness, trust, social distancing, physical distancing, nudging

SDGs: SDG11 plus SDG2 Zero Hunger, SDG3 Good Health, SDG6 Clean Water


Students may enter as individuals or as part of a multidisciplinary team (there is no limit to the number of members in the team). Students are invited to submit up to 1 individual project. They can also submit 1 team project for a total of 2 projects entered in the competition.


Students and teams are encouraged to seek academic and professional mentorship/advisement.


  • Main prize of €5,000
  • Founder’s Choice prize of €3,000
  • Public Vote prize of €2,000
  • Safe City prize* of €2,000

*The impact of COVID-19 will be most devastating in densely populated urban areas, where it is difficult to follow recommended measures such as social distancing and self-isolation. By setting this prize we encourage the participants to develop their projects with the pandemic in mind, and aim to relieve urban existence in this situation. Entries in all three categories will be considered for this prize.


  • Open for submission of entries on October 1st, 2020
  • Deadline for submissions is January 31st, 2021
  • Announcement of winners in April 2021
  • Celebration of winners at Cumulus Roma in June 2021


The winners of the competition are the student(s) or recent graduate(s) of a higher education institution. The winners (apart from the Public Vote prize) and their home institutions will be notified by email in April 2021 of their prize category award and/or honorary mentions. The Public Vote prize will be allocated in April 2021. The winner(s) will need to confirm the acceptance of the award and those student(s) involved in the winning projects. Failing such confirmation within a period of 7 days from BE OPEN or Cumulus making contact, the entrant(s) selected will be considered to have simply relinquished the prize and it may be awarded to another entrant with no reward for those deemed to have relinquished it. The public announcement of the winners will be made through digital channels by April 2021 (for Public Vote Prize – in April 2021) and will be accompanied by an online exhibition of the winning submissions and honorary mentions.


‘Design for Sustainable Cities’ is a chance for the next generation of committed designers in to be recognized on an international stage. The competition will reward the best works with different categories of prizes as well as travel grants and certificates.

Please note that the main prize awardee will be selected out of all submissions within the 3 submission categories. This means that the jury will decide amongst the strongest submissions and evaluate entries first and foremost based on the criteria for submissions outlined (see entry expectations section).

The jury will also select the winner of the Main and Safe City prizes, as well as top 50 honourable mentions. The Founder’s Choice prize is allocated by the Founder of BE OPEN Elena Baturina who will select the awardee out of 50 honourable mentions. The Public Vote prize winner will be decided upon by the majority of votes in an online open vote from 50 honorary mentions.

The winning submissions will be unveiled by April 2021 and an online exhibition will showcase the best projects and honorary mentions.

A live awards ceremony shall take place during the Cumulus Conference Roma 2021: Design Culture(s) at Sapienza University of Rome in June 2021.

Winners in all prize categories will be expected to attend the Rome celebrations. In addition, winners and 50 honorary mentions will be highlighted in BE OPEN, Cumulus and competition websites and publicised via the partners’ social media platforms, gaining many opportunities to see their designs showcased to a worldwide audience.


The award ceremony will be part of the official program of the Cumulus Conference Roma 2021: Design Culture(s) at Sapienza University of Rome in June 2021. At least one student representative (in case of team submissions) of each prize category shall participate in the award ceremony at the conference.


BE OPEN will issue the monetary prize award to the winner(s) by name(s) shortly after the winners are notified in April 2021. The award is non-transferable. In the case of a student team winning, the monetary award is transmitted to the lead submission entrant. He/she will be responsible for any further transactions to disseminate the award to other team members. The award may not be altered, exchanged or reimbursed. The value of the award is determined at the time of writing these rules and it may not be disputed in any way with regard to its valuation or amount. The award may not be the subject of any request for financial compensation not provided for, any exchange or any return for any reason whatsoever.


A travel grant for an individual winner will amount to EUR 1,000.

In the case of winning teams, a maximum of EUR 2,500 for the team will be awarded.

Travel grants for the awards ceremony will be processed in 2021. BE OPEN will issue the travel grant to student winners in the form of a bank reimbursement. The travel grant recipients are responsible for the delivery of receipts and proofs of payment to BE OPEN as requested and within the deadline that will be indicated. A travel grant issue is not applicable in case of cancelled travels or no show to the awards ceremony.

Winners will be expected to manage themselves the logistics of their trip organization. Coordination arrangements will include obtaining travel insurance coverage and travel cancellation insurance for the whole duration of their participation in the Cumulus Conference Roma 2021: Design Culture(s) at Sapienza University of Rome in June 2021.

The travel grant that is given to the winners is intended to partially cover expenses that will be incurred when participating in the conference. The travel grant can be applied to cover transportation (air, train) or/and accommodation/housing during the conference, travel insurance and if needed, a visa. Winners are encouraged to apply for additional travel support from the home university or any other source available to them. Winners are responsible for any taxes that may be associated with their prize award and travel grant, if any. Costs not related to the conference participation, such as any other travel than the route between home institution and conference venue, free-time activities, travel equipment, etc. are not covered nor organized by BE OPEN or Cumulus.

Winners waive any and all claims of liability against BE OPEN or Cumulus, its employees and representatives, for any personal injury or loss which may occur from the conduct of, or participation in, the program, or from the use of the travel grant. No responsibility is assumed by BE OPEN or Cumulus for any injury and/or damage to other persons, property as a matter of liability, negligence, or otherwise recognized reason caused by the participating student or the institutions or any third party participating in the program.