2020 Edmund N. Bacon Urban Design Awards Student Competition

Date: August 1 – November 22, 2019
Time: Self-Paced
Location: Online
  • FREE | Sign Up For Updates
  • $25 | Per Entry At Time Of Submission

Click here to join the competition email list for updates and announcements
The Full Competition Packet (with rules + regulations) will be emailed to all who sign up by Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

Full Competition Packet Released: August 1, 2019
Entries Due By: November 22, 2019 @ 11:59pm EDT

This competition was formerly known as the Better Philadelphia Challenge.

THE EDMUND N. BACON URBAN DESIGN AWARDS STUDENT COMPETITIONwas founded in 2006 in memory of Philadelphia’s iconic 20th century city planner, Ed Bacon [1910-2005]. This annual competition, with a $5,000 first prize, challenges university-level students (undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral) from around the world to address real-world urban design issues in Philadelphia that have application not only to our city, but to urban centers around the globe. The competition is organized by the Ed Bacon Memorial Committee of the Center for Architecture and Design.


  • WHO: This student competition is open to undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students in any field of study who will be matriculating during the fall semester coinciding with the competition. Recent graduates are not eligible to participate unless they will be matriculating at a college or university during the fall semester coinciding with the competition. The most successful entries tend to come from diverse teams which include individuals from a variety of fields: architecture, urban planning, design (industrial, graphic, etc.), landscape architecture, public health, economic development, environmental science, real estate law, business, or other fields which might bring innovative ideas to your proposal.
  • HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Sign up to receive updates about the competition and awards ceremony. When the competition launches, a link to the Full Competition Packet will be emailed to all who have signed up – and will also be available via a link at the top of this page. Entries can be submitted via an online webform at any time before the submission deadline. The submission link will be included in the Full Competition Packet.
  • COST: a $25 per-entry fee is charged at the time of submission.


Chelten Avenue is the heart of the Germantown business district in northwest Philadelphia. The most economically diverse neighborhood in the city, Germantown is an African American community which bridges the economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of North Philadelphia to the east with the wealthier Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill neighborhoods to the west. The Chelten Avenue shopping district benefits from two regional rail stations (along different train lines) and one of the busiest bus stops in the city, located midway between the stations. In addition, the southern end of the shopping district is just steps from the expansive Wissahickon Valley Park, one of the most wild places in Philadelphia, visited by over 1 million people each year.

Since the 1950s, many factors have reshaped the Chelten Avenue shopping experience from a pedestrian one to a more car-centric one. There is a high concentration of empty storefronts, neglected properties, buildings modified with inexpensive materials, parking lots, and fast food restaurants. In contrast with nearby Germantown Avenue, which features a greater density of historic building stock, the buildings along Chelten are typically low density one- to three-story structures with massive expanses of surface parking and vacant parcels. In addition, some property owners are preventing development by holding onto vacant buildings and underutilized lots, speculating that their investment will increase in value – while simultaneously adding to depreciated property values and a lowered quality of life. Despite the level of commercial vacancy, this thoroughfare serves as a connector and maintains a high volume of pedestrian and transit-oriented activity.

How might this shopping district be designed to better support the local community, improve safety and accessibility for pedestrians (and all modes of transit), and help reveal the existing nearby amenities available to residents and shoppers: from public parks and swimming pools to historic attractions and urban farms?

EDMUND N. BACON [1910-2005] is recognized as one of the most significant city planners of the 20th century. As Executive Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission from 1949-1970, his design concepts shaped the physical landscape of the post-World-War-II city. Bacon’s work had such national significance that he was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1964, and brought Philadelphia into the national spotlight as a city that was ambitiously planning for its future.

Need some inspiration? Check out these winning entries from past competitions!