Fentress Global Challenge Unveils Winning Student Workplace of the Future Designs

The Workplace of the Future winning team has been awarded a $10,000 prize including $3,000 in cash and a Summer Internship at Fentress Architects

October 25, 2012 — After reviewing close to 200 student submissions from around the globe, Fentress Architects is excited to announce the winning entries for the 2012 Fentress Global Challenge: Workplace of the Future. The international competition was created to give the global design community an opportunity to showcase their talents. World renowned jury members narrowed the submittals to 11 finalists, and then to the top three. Honorable Mention was also selected by the jury, and a People’s Choice award was bestowed to the entry that collected the most votes from the public. 

The objective of this year’s competition was to encourage young architectural talent to explore scenarios for the future of the workplace, focusing in particular on the architectural potential of distributed intelligence and of universal, instantaneous communication. The five winning projects demonstrate in very different and revolutionary ways how information technology, intelligently applied, can be harnessed in very different cultures to transform both urban and rural environments.

Evaluated for their creativity, sustainability, functionality, and benefit to the employee experience, the grand-prize winner will be awarded a prize valued at USD10,000, including USD3,000 cash, and a paid summer internship at Fentress Architects. Second place, third place, and the People’s Choice winners will receive cash prizes of USD1,000; USD500; and USD300 respectively. All winning designs will be displayed at the Architecture and Design Museum in Los Angeles, California.

1st PLACE:


Students: Chi Hsiao, Hung-Yu Lin, Po-Yu Chao

University: University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Citizenship: Taiwan

2nd PLACE:

Concept: FactoryHome

Student: John Killock

University: University of Westminster, United Kingdom

Citizenship: United Kingdom

3rd PLACE:

Concept: Seed Your Office

Student: Monika Wiecek

University: University of Art, Poznań

Citizenship: Poland


Concept: Space without Space

Students: Sebastián Vélez, Juliana Vélez, Monica Suarez

University: Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia

Citizenship: Colombia


Concept: Patch WorkCube

Students: Jing Liang and Li Zhang

University: The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Citizenship: China


  • Chase Rynd, Executive Director, National Building Museum
  • Christian Sottile, AIA, NCARB, Dean School of Building Arts, Savannah College of Art & Design
  • Frank Duffy, CBE, PPRIBA, Founder of DEGW
  • James P. Keane, President, Steelcase Group
  • Michael Winters, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Design and Interiors, Fentress Architects
  • Sabret Flocos, IIDA, LEED AP, Founding Principal, FOX Architects

GRAND PRIZE WINNER:AGRI-AGENCY,” by Chi Hsiao, Hung-Yu Lin, Po-Yu Chao

This proposal focused on how climate change and the green revolution are combining to create a global crisis in land use. To use land more effectively, communities will have to learn to become more self-sufficient. The environmentally appealing qualities of the traditional Chinese house and farm provide a model for a potentially revolutionary inversion of the drift to the city provided that: 1) ubiquitous information technology is harnessed to complement and enrich the quality of rural life and, 2) the countryside itself can be farmed more intelligently.

The proposal is highly original and beautifully illustrated. What emerges is not just the revolutionary idea of using information technology to shift radically the balance between urban and rural ways of life, but a glimpse of what could be a new rural landscaping aesthetic based on a way of life transformed and enhanced by technology.

A Word with Fentress Global Challenge Grand-Prize Winning Team: “Through our ideas, we try to break the boundary between rural area and city area by Internet and related technologies. In addition, we intend to bring the potential farmers back to countryside by increasing the profit while reducing their essential cost.” - Chi Hsiao, Hung-Yu Lin and Po-Yu Chao

2nd PLACE:FactoryHome” by John Killock

This proposal is intended to reshape urban living as part of a third industrial revolution made possible by powerful and ubiquitous information technology. The idea is to transform the existing urban fabric of an area in inner London by inserting relatively low rise, but very high density, structures made up of a complementary mix of living accommodation, studios, workshops, and social spaces. The author demonstrates a profound understanding of the changing nature of both living and working based on wide reading of the architectural and social science literature. Their typological approach to both social structure and architectural form is rigorous, but highly realistic and establishes the basis of what could become a practical project.

The presentation is dense, but well researched, clearly argued, and beautifully illustrated. Best of all it is impressively thorough in its realistic integration within a gritty urban context of a rich and ever changing mix of living, working, and social interaction. 

“I spent a considerable amount of time looking at how to address a number of different social needs in this project. While the FactoryHome takes account of changing technological developments, the primary focus has been placed on how to facilitate a thriving live/work community. This, I feel, is not only vital to the success of small businesses and sustainable living environments, but is also likely to outlast the relatively fast turnover in workplace technologies and trends.” - John Killock, 2nd Place Winner

3rd PLACE:Seed Your Office,” by Monika Wiecek

This proposal provided an abstract concept that the design of urban structures can learn from the forms and patterns of growth and change found in nature: buildings should not just be regarded as lifeless constructional entities, but should be conceived as living and learning organisms. The metaphor is powerful and has been well articulated in a stunning series of three dimensional diagrams and drawings which are beautifully suggestive as well as convincing intellectually. 

“My purpose was to combine rules of management with the power of parametric design and my fascination with nature. It’s about learning from biological organisms embodying technologies that are equivalent to those invented by humans.” - Monika Wiecek, 3rd Place Winner

HONORABLE MENTION:Patch WorkCube,” by Jing Liang and Li Zhang

The unforgettable backdrop to this proposal is a pair of contrasted plans of Beijing. The first is a map of the city showing traffic congestion at its strangulated peak. The second is a diagram of a reconstructed and decongested city where traffic and activities are dispersed evenly over the entire urban fabric.

From this grand scale the proposal jumps to a very simple and realistic proposition: inserting into the existing urban fabric of Beijing a series of new supplementary structures designed to accommodate whatever is missing in both old and new Beijing. These “WorkCubes” are purposely non-specific in their program and complement what already exists by providing a multitude of calm and complementary spaces designed to accommodate the wide range of communal social and economic activities that are missing in the existing urban fabric. 

“(This competition) gives us the opportunity to work under any present-day constraints, in order to explore and create possible proposals for our future built environment. Our concept is taking Beijing as a testing ground, and it suggests a new micro intervention working style in response to existing fabric for the future.” - Jing Liang and Li Zhang, Honorable Mention 

PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD:  “Space without Space,” by Sebastián Vélez, Juliana Vélez, Monica Suarez

“Space without Space” provides users with everything they need to accommodate their work needs while turning their personal network of technology and peers into something tangibly productive. Users would be able to work on their projects as they navigate throughout the city and carry on their lives, using public spaces as the workplace of the future. “Space without Space” had over 1,300 votes from online users.

“It´s unbelievable! It makes us truly happy to learn that people liked our proposal. We put a lot of heart into it, and want to thank everyone who voted for us and made this dream possible.” - Sebastián Vélez, Juliana Vélez, Monica Suarez, People’s Choice Award Winners

For more information, please vist our Past Winners page here.