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The Main and Safe City Prizes Winners Selected in the SDGs-inspired international design competition by BE OPEN and Cumulus

The international expert jury of the “Design for Sustainable Cities” student competition, co-held by BE OPEN and Cumulus in support of the United Nations SDG Programme, has selected two of the four competition winners – the awardees of the Main Prize and the Safe City Prize.

“Design for Sustainable Cities” collected hundreds of submissions from students and graduates of all art, design, architecture, and media disciplines of universities and colleges worldwide. The competition aims to encourage the 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. Cities and metropolitan areas are powerhouses of economic growth. However, this growth goes hand in hand with increased carbon emissions, escalating resource consumption, lack of decent and affordable housing, unplanned urban sprawl, inadequate and overburdened infrastructure and services, and many more issues.

BE OPEN and Cumulus strongly believe that creativity is integral in the shift to sustainable existence, that design has a crucial role to play as an instrument or vehicle for the implementation of the goals. The objective of the competition is to recognize and promote top design projects developed by the younger creative generation that are able to tackle the tasks set by the United Nations’ SDG Programme; to produce new ideas with the potential for true impact.

Ban Ki-moon, the former United Nations Secretary-General stressed the importance of the SDGs by saying “We don’t have plan B because there is no planet B.”


The international jury that featured designers, architects, academics, and experts in the relevant fields scored the projects based on such competition criteria as viability, feasibility, and desirability of the design, evidence of a rigorous research process informing the design solution proposed, and its creative value. Successful projects, therefore, answer to the needs and aspirations of its intended audience, have a clear plan of what is needed for its realization, are sustainable and efficient, very well researched in terms of the problem to be solved, the stakeholders and purpose, and most certainly innovative and out of the box.

The Main Prize of €5,000 was allocated to the project with the highest jury score – that is ’Renova’ by Hacer Beril Beden from Politecnico di Milano, Italy. The solution consists of salvaging good, conditioned materials through deconstruction and setting up a platform to bring them together with potential buyers, turning waste into resources. This project aims to design a sustainable business model for city regeneration.

The Safe City Prize of €2,000 was allocated to another high-scoring submission by Zhixiang Yang from Shandong University of Art & Design, China – ’Urban renewal design around Qilu Hospital’. The project offers a plan of renovation and redesigns for the Qilu Hospital area, guided by the principles of urban renewal and historic protection; micro-introduction of ‘big data, ‘smart city’ and community management; as well as the ‘sponge city ‘ technology, which can further be employed for solving similar issues elsewhere in the world.

All the scores were systematized into a general ranking, from which the jurors selected 52 more projects as honorable mentions that are currently featured in an online gallery on the competition website.

The Public Vote prize will go to the project with the most ‘likes’ from the general public. The last winner and the awardee of the Founder’s Choice prize will be selected by the Founder of BE OPEN Elena Baturina.

Founder of BE OPEN Elena Baturina congratulated the winners and thanked all the contestants for their hard work and creativity: “Design for Sustainable Cities” competition has been an incredible journey that has brought us to the most stunning results of dozens and dozens of carefully researched beautifully designed projects. I was glad to see how many contestants focused on the Safe City category and developed solutions that may serve to relieve urban life in the time of pandemic – we hope such desperately needed ideas will inspire actual change very soon. Each of the submissions has the best of humanity at heart, strives to make a real difference for us all, and therefore deserves to be applauded and celebrated in every possible way.  BE OPEN shall continue developing programs aimed at supporting young creative talent worldwide.”

On behalf of Cumulus, Eija Salmi, Secretary-General & Dr. Mariana Amatullo, President: “We are thrilled to celebrate the creative breath of the winning submissions of the Design for Sustainable Cities co-organized by BE OPEN and Cumulus. Cumulus has a long tradition of championing sustainable and responsible design. This competition was an opportunity to invite the next generation of design leaders among our member institutions—our students—to propose novel solutions for the future of our cities. We are deeply inspired by the excellence of the winning entries and their alignment with fulfilling the mission of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.”

The competition’s prestigious international jury chaired by Dr. Luisa Collina, Cumulus Honorary President, reviewed a very diverse set of submissions from around the world and commented:” As we emerge from the global pandemic, our cities will need to be placed for economic regeneration, community, and wellbeing. The winners of this competition show us that they understand these values. Their designs lead the way for us to live in desirable urban environments that everyone can enjoy.”