final header 2010 Kids Design Contest

Design Brief

Architect Mason Kirby Inc. is pleased to announce the Second Annual Kids’ Digital Design Contest. With the help of parents, our goal is to provide a venue for kids (ages 0-15) to demonstrate, develop and reveal their capacity for creative three dimensional thinking using the digital modeling tool SketchUp (free to download, simple to learn, and amazingly difficult to put down). This year’s theme is intentionally aligned with the theme of the AIA’s Architecture in the City Festival: “Investigating Urban Metabolisms” and features an historic local.

This site and program were chosen for the opportunity they offer participants to interpret and develop both site based and program based opportunities. We know that the idea of a “design brief” will probably be lost on younger participants but it is our hope that parents and our older entrants will use the brief to enhance learning opportunities and develop meaning in the context of their designs. Age based judging ensures fair competition and lots of cool prizes.

Located in the neighborhood near Potrero Hill, the site’s legacy is that it formerly existed as the foundation for a rail line.  In its early days, the line diagonally cut from 25th and Iowa up to the railway depot on 9th and Bryant.  The installation of this line required that a great portion of Potrero Hill be cut away.  In 1903, the Santa Fe Railway removed a large quantity of earth from the area stretching between Iowa Street and the intersection of 22nd and Missouri.  This excavated earth was then used to fill an area of marshland between Iowa Street and Massachusetts Street.  The tracks are said to have been in existence through the 1950s, and although they no longer exist, a remaining cut through the landscape can still be seen in aerial views.

Our Second Annual Kids’ Digital Design Contest is a digital ideas competition that asks parents and children (ages 0-15) to explore a specific instance of “Urban Metabolism” right in our backyard. Participants are asked to develop and express alternative uses, plans, and strategies for this under-utilized urban circumstance that defies categorization but begs for enhanced utilization.

Although the original site is now interrupted with roads and buildings, the entirety of the original footprint is yours to work with. You can choose to utilize the entire site or just a small portion—the choice is yours. Using the free digital modeling tool SketchUp, it is up to you to decide how the site is further metabolized! Your site intervention should challenge the concept of “urban metabolism” and propose its next evolution. Do you build up, dig down, or remain on the ground surface? How can you rethink what exists to create something new? Does your intervention change the character of the site or does it relate to its surroundings?

As you design, remember to consider the meaning of urban metabolism and how your intervention impacts the life cycle of the site. The possibilities are endless, so use your imagination and a lot of creativity!

View Competition Site in a larger map


  • AIA Architecture in the City Festival: here
  • Historical Map of San Francisco: here
  • Potrero Hill History: here
  • Download Competition Site Photos: here

Contest Directions

  • To participate in this competition, you must fill out an online registration form.
  • Next, you must submit a $10 payment through PayPal.  All proceeds from the competition will be donated to the San Francisco Food Bank. Upon receipt of registration and payment, you will be sent a confirmation email with a contestant number and detailed instructions for design submittal.
  • You’ll need a copy of SketchUp.  Download your free version here.
  • Next, you’ll need a copy of the digital site model.  Download your copy here.
  • Once you have the site model open, choose your site area boundary in the model and start modeling!  You are free to choose between the red, blue, purple, and green box boundaries.  Remember, your work needs to fit within the box of your choice.

red – you can build in an open area that cuts between two buildings.
blue – you can build where the old railroad tunnel used to exist.
purple – you can build in an area which includes existing structures.
green – you can build within the entirety of the site.

  • After registration and receipt of payment are received, you will be emailed instructions for submitting your project. Remember, you will need submit your project to before Wednesday, September 15, 2010.
  • Stay tuned for information updates by email. Questions can be fielded to
  • Competition Schedule

    • Site Tour – Soon to be announced!
    • Registration Deadline – August 15th
    • Submission Deadline – September 15th
    • Winners Announced – September 22nd


    • Age Category 0-5
    • Age Category 6-9
    • Age Category 10-12
    • Age Category 13-15

    Selection Criteria

    The projects will be judged on the following criteria:
    1. Creativity – The originality of ideas will be praised. This criteria focuses on the idea of the model rather than the construction of it.
    2. Story – What does your structure do? How does it relate to and the site? How does it interpret the concept of “urban metabolism”? Why did you design your structure the way you did? What it is made of and what parts do you find the most interesting?
    3. Modeling Skill – Great models will speak for themselves in a lot of ways. A well presented, aesthetically pleasing model takes time and is necessary to place in the top three.


    currently in formation


    soon to be posted!


    1. I’ve never used SketchUp before. Can you teach it to me?

    Use the built in tutorials or check out these SketchUp Tutorials on Youtube– you’ll be up and running in no time…

    • SketchUp Concepts – link
    • Drawing Shapes – link
    • Push/Pull Tool – link
    • Creating a simple object – link
    • More Tutorials … – link

    2. What are the age groups again?

    There are four age groups: 0-5, 6-9, 10-12 and 13-15. Please make certain that you enter the correct contest depending on your child’s age.

    3. Is there really an age group for 0-5 year olds?

    We aren’t entirely sure what the winner is going to do with a SketchUp Pro license but, yep you read it right, there is an age group from newborn to 5 years old. We’re darn serious about letting kids show off how they can manipulate stuff in 3d well before they can gain full control of a pencil and paper. So watch out for animal crackers and grape juice in your keyboard, but be prepared to be patiently amazed at what your little three year old might do with a little guidance and support.

    Note: This is a kid’s contest but parents and guardians are required to register on their child’s behalf.  Like any kid’s contest (think coloring contest at a diner) parents and guardians should feel free to assist in the preparation and delivery of their kid’s entry–they are going to need your help–just know that the jury is interested in acknowledging the child’s effort, and not the parents! Have fun!

    Winning Entries from 2009

    Your charge is to develop a “structure for living”. We ask that you challenge the idea of structure and permanence with your design by thoughtfully engaging our aquatic/intertidal site which is at once constantly changing due the factors that are both man made and of natural consequence. Labeled as a Marine Reserve, our site is caught within an apparent paradox of preservation: it sits at the intersection and periphery of a nearby residential neighborhood, a sewage treatment plant, a lock system, a retired army fort, and finally a civic park. By “structure”, we mean that which has a physical permanence associated with an element that is here today, here tomorrow, and most probably here in a few years or so – most literally it is the thing you make. In a broader sense, structure can include those temporal constructs we find within society and our culture as well as those physical constructs that float, rest, or otherwise reside on the site. By “living” we mean broadly the processes that distinguish organisms and inorganic objects from dead organisms. This can also be taken to mean and include any plants, animals, or mixture thereof either naturally found in and around the site or imported/foreign. This is not expressly a contest to design a place for humans to live.

    Our site reference boundary is located on the Puget Sound shoreline within the city limits of Seattle, Washington within Discovery Park. Our site is located smack dab in the middle of an intertidal zone that is exposed to air at low tide and left underwater at high tides.
    Age Category 0-5

    Age Category 6-9

    Age Category 10-12

    Age Category 13-15

    Updated 6/16/10

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