2020 BLTa Student Design Competition

Competition Overview

BLT Architects (BLTa) is pleased to announce its 9th Annual Student Design Competition will take place at on February 29, 2020 from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm at its Philadelphia headquarters. Structured as a hackathon-style partner challenge, the competition is open to all undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in an architectural program graduating in 2021 or after at a qualifying school outlined under eligibility below.

Potential interns will enter the Student Design Competition as a team, completing the entire project in pairs on-site. A maximum of twenty teams will be accepted.

Each two-person team will be assigned a coach from BLTa to provide guidance and support. Additionally, students may engage current or former professors or internship supervisors to act as a virtual coach, available via phone or video chat.

For more information check the FAQ.


Each member of the winning team will be awarded $1,000 and an internship with BLT Architects for the summer of 2020.

Challenge Description

Competing teams will be tasked to develop a mixed use development on a specific site along one of Philadelphia’s emerging waterfronts.  The challenge will align with current local and global concerns of urbanism and sustainability.  A more detailed competition prompt and a list of materials to bring will be released a week before the competition date on February 21, 2020.


  • The competition is open to students enrolled in an architectural program at predetermined NAAB or CACB accredited school during the 2019-2020 academic year.
  • All participants must be eligible to work in the United States and over the age of 18
  • Participants must registered student at one of the following schools:
    • Carnegie Mellon University
    • Catholic University
    • Columbia University
    • Community College of Philadelphia
    • Drexel University
    • Jefferson (Phila U.)
    • Howard University
    • NJIT
    • New School / Parsons School of Design
    • Penn State University
    • Pratt University
    • Princeton University
    • University of Maryland
    • University of Pennsylvania
    • Temple University

Rules and Regulations

  • All participants must provide a scanned copy of his or her student ID and proof of major upon registration.
  • Each team must have exactly two individuals.
  • Participation assumes acceptance of these regulations. Entrants who do not adhere to any competition rules may be immediately disqualified.

Judges and Judging Criteria

The judging panel will be released prior to the competition. Coaches will not be involved in the judging process.
Teams will be judged on the following criteria:

Creative Approach:
• The design response is innovative and inspirational
• The design addresses any critical issues

Response to Site:
• The design responds to the physical aspects
• The design responds to site context

• The design considers the environmental impact and energy use
• The design considers social sustainability, occupant lifestyle and well-being

• Planning and building organization is clear and appropriate
• There is a clear structural, technical and constructional rationale


Registration has reached its 20 team limit. Any team registering after February 14, 2020 11:59 pm will be put on a waiting list. You will be notified only if you are selected to compete.

Registration will remain open until February 14, 2020 at 11:59pm ET, or until twenty teams have registered. After this time, students may add their name to a waiting list.

Team participants must register separately.

Please upload a photo of your student id and proof of major

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I have to be a student in the United States?
A: Yes. The competition is only open students enrolled in approved architectural programs. Additionally, students must be eligible to work in the United States.

Q: Are graduate students eligible?
A: The competition is open to both graduate and undergraduate students graduating in 2021 or later

Q: How many people are allowed per team?
A: Each team will have exactly two individuals, both of whom must meet eligibility requirements.

Q: If I don’t have a partner, can BLTa assign one to me?
A: While BLTa cannot assign partners, individuals looking for team members are encouraged to post a query on BLTa’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/BLTarchitects/.

Q: What is an employee coach?
A: Each team will be paired with a BLTa employee to serve as their coach and provide strategic guidance.

Q: What is a virtual coach?
A: Students may register one virtual coach per team in advance. Admissible coaches can be current or former professors or internship supervisors and must be available via video chat during charrette hours. Virtual coaches will be contacted by BLTa to confirm availability and consent to serve as such. Each team may call their virtual coach no more than twice, for no more than five minutes per call.

Q: What is the grand prize this year?
A: The grand prize consists of a paid internship at BLT Architects for the summer of 2020, as well as a $1,000 per each individual. The winning entry will be posted on the BLT Architects website.

Q: I’m a student in an accredited architecture program, but don’t see my school on the list. Am I still eligible to enter?
A: For questions of eligibility and exceptions, email [email protected]

Q: How much does registration cost?
A: Participation in the Student Design Competition is free of charge.

Q: When is the deadline for registration?
A: Registration closes on February 14, 2020 at 11:59pm ET or when twenty teams are reached.

Q: Are there any requirements on what I have to submit as a registrant?
A: Entrants must submit a scanned copy of student ID as a JPEG (maximum size of 10 MB) Proof of major must be provided. Both partners must provide all materials at the time of registration.

Q: Where do I sign up to get the prompt?
A: All those who register will receive notices on when the prompt will be released.

Q: When will winners be announced?
A: Winners will be announced onsite at the end of the competition on February 29, 2020.

Q: In the case of inclement weather, will the event be postponed?
A: A snow date for the charrette is scheduled for March 2, 2020.

Q: Should I bring lunch?
A: Boxed lunches and snacks will be provided free-of-charge.

Q: Do I need to bring anything?
A: One week prior to the competition, all registered competitors will receive an email outlining required and prohibited items.

Q: When and where will the competition take place?
A: The competition will take place on February 29, 2020,­ from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm. It will be held at BLTa’s Philadelphia headquarters: 1216 Arch Street, 8th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107.