Future Ground is a design competition inviting multidisciplinary teams to generate flexible design and policy strategies to reuse vacant land in New Orleans, transforming abandoned landscapes into resources for the current and future city.

Designs and plans for cities can create visions that will take decades to be fully realized. While no one can predict the future, we can outline multiple futures: rigorous scenarios for a changing population, market, and climate for the next 1 year, 10 years, and 50 years. These alternatives can help elected officials, businesses, philanthropic organizations, and residents understand what is possible, and make realistic, informed decisions about investments.

This approach is particularly important when addressing vacant land. In countless neighborhoods, cities, and regions across the country and the world, abandoned parcels—as small as a house lot or hundreds of acres large—may not be developed for decades to come.

Too often, vacant land has been seen only as a remnant of or absence within the 20th century city. Today, with a critical mass of designers, policymakers, scholars, artists, activists, and residents creating pilot projects, thoughtful studies, and new kinds of urbanism on abandoned properties, it is possible to imagine this land as an integral part of the future city.

In October 2014, three teams will be awarded $15,000 to participate in a six-month research and design process. Working closely with local stakeholders and national experts, teams will forecast changes in density, demand, and climate over the next half-century in New Orleans, and will tackle the social, economic, and ecological challenges underlying reuse of the most prevalent types of vacant land in the city. The project will produce implementable, replicable solutions that NORA can apply to specific sites citywide, and can help catalyze change in cities around the world.

Future Ground will develop strategies to bring small, piecemeal projects to scale at the neighborhood and citywide level; craft policy to support promising design strategies; make these strategies flexible and participatory enough to be sustained into the next generation; and share resources with a growing network of innovators who are reusing vacant land in cities around the country.

Future Ground is open to multidisciplinary teams of individuals and firms with expertise in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, graphic design, policy, engineering, finance, real estate, community development, and other fields relevant to the topic. Entrants are encouraged to partner with at least one individual or organization in New Orleans.

The Call for Submissions is now closed. For more information on the submission process, rules, and evaluation criteria, view the Request for Qualifications→

The Teams

A jury of national leaders in design and policy selected the Future Ground teams from a pool of more than 180 individuals from 17 countries around the world who responded to an open Request for Qualifications.

The teams include architects, landscape architects, urban planners, engineers, lawyers, brownfield experts, and community development and finance specialists from New Orleans and six other cities in the U.S. and Canada.

Kristi Cheramie

Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture

Jacob Boswell

Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture

Mattijs van Maasakkers

Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture

Jennie Miller

Andrews Kurth LLP


Led by Kristi Cheramie of Ohio State University with Jacob Boswell, Mattijs van Maasakkers, and Jennie Miller. Team LEX proposes The New Orleans Land Exchange (NOLEX), a projective framework designed to move vacant parcels from tax deficiency to productive lands in order to protect public health and safety.

James Dart AIA


Deborah Gans FAIA

Gans Studio

LoriAnn Girvan

LoriAnn Girvan Consulting

Marc Norman

UPSTATE: A Center for Design, Research, and Real Estate


Led by James Dart of the New Orleans-based design firm DARCH with Deborah Gans, LoriAnn Girvan, and Marc Norman. Team PaD will explore policy as a design tool, considering alternative property, development, legal, and fiscal structures to reconsider the city’s established design policies in the context of its collective post-Katrina capital of ideas.

Chris Reed


Scott Bishop


Amy Whitsides


Ann Yoachim

Tulane University School of Architecture & AY Projects

Byron Stigge

Level Infrastructure

Jonathan Tate

Office of Jonathan Tate

Kate Kennen


Liz Ogbu

Studio O

Jill Desimini

Harvard GSD

Teresa Lynch

Mass Economics

Michael Brady

Detroit Land Bank


Led by Chris Reed, Scott Bishop, and Amy Whitesides of the Boston-based design firm STOSS Landscape Urbanism with Ann Yoachim, Byron Stigge, Jonathan Tate, Kate Kennen, Liz Ogbu, Jill Desimini, Teresa Lynch, and Michael Brady. Team Stoss will focus on developing strategies for New Orleans that build on local energies; that leverage the ecological, infrastructural, and civic values of landscape; and that catalyze new social, cultural, environmental, and economic dynamics throughout the city.


RFQ Phase

August 6: RFQ released
September 12: Deadline for questions and optional preregistration
September 15: FAQ’s posted online
September 29: RFQ submission deadline

Research and Design Phase

October 10: Winning teams selected
October 22: Kick-off meeting in New Orleans
December 2014: Interim presentation in New Orleans: Design research
February 2015: Interim presentation in New Orleans: Strategies and scenarios
April 2015: Final presentations in New Orleans
June 2015: Van Alen Institute and NORA release final report

Jury, Futures Team & Advisory Committee

Please submit any questions about the competition via email by September 12, 2014 to: Stephen Klimek, Competitions Coordinator, Van Alen Institute, sklimek@vanalen.org.

Key questions and answers will be posted to the FAQ section of the competition website and emailed to registered team leads once per week during the RFQ Phase.


Nicole Barnes
Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative, New Orleans

Maurice Cox
Tulane City Center, Tulane School of Architecture, New Orleans

Renia Ehrenfeucht
University of New Orleans, New Orleans

William A. Gilchrist
City of New Orleans, New Orleans

Jeff Hebert
New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, New Orleans

Arthur Johnson
Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement & Development, New Orleans

Dan Kinkead
Detroit Future City, Detroit

David van der Leer
Van Alen Institute, New York

Elizabeth Mossop
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

Terry Schwarz
Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, Cleveland

David Waggonner
Waggonner & Ball Architects, New Orleans

Futures Team

Richard Campanella
Tulane University, New Orleans

Renia Ehrenfeucht & Marla Nelson
University of New Orleans, New Orleans

Elizabeth Mossop & Wes Michaels
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

Allison Plyer
The Data Center, New Orleans


Future Ground is a collaboration of Van Alen Institute and The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA).

Advisory Committee

Robin Barnes
Greater New Orleans Inc., New Orleans

Sonja Beeck
University of Kassel, Berlin

Adrian Benepe
Trust for Public Land, New York

Toni Griffin
J. Max Bond Center, Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York, New York

Laurie Johnson
Laurie Johnson Consulting, San Francisco

Maggie Hansen
Tulane City Center, Tulane School of Architecture, New Orleans

Angela Lawson
State of Louisiana Comprehensive Resiliency Program, New Orleans

Alan Mallach
Brookings Institute, Washington, D.C.

Michael Marrella
Waterfront and Open Space Planning, New York City Department of City Planning, New York

Tom Murphy
Urban Land Institute, Washington, D.C.

Emily Rauh Pulitzer
Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis

Robert Rivers
City Planning Commission, New Orleans

Brent Ryan
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Tamar Shapiro
Center for Community Progress, Washington, D.C.

Mitchell J. Silver
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, New York

Stephen Zacks
Amplifier Inc. & Flint Public Art Project, Flint


Are students and faculty of a Jury Member’s home institution eligible to participate in an RFQ submission?

Students and faculty of a Jury member, Advisory Committee member, or Futures Team member’s home institution are eligible to participate. Direct employees who may assist a member’s involvement in the competition are ineligible to submit a RFQ.


Is preregistration required to submit an RFQ?

No, preregistration is optional. Whether or not teams preregister, qualified entrants can submit an RFQ proposal via the submission website by 11:59 p.m. EDT on September 29, 2014.


Can an individual be a member of multiple teams submitting an RFQ to the competition?

No, individuals can only participate in one RFQ submission.


Can teams have international members and is there a limit on the number of people outside the US participating in the team?

Teams with international members are allowed and encouraged. There is no limit on the number of team participants from outside of the US.


Is there a limit to the number of team members participating in a submission and for the events in New Orleans?

There is no maximum number of team members; however, the travel budget covers a maximum of two members per team who are not based in the New Orleans region to participate in New Orleans-based workshops during the Research and Design Phase. Additional team members who wish to attend these workshops must cover their own travel and accommodation costs.


Will teams selected for the six-month Research and Design phase of the competition be required to complete work on-site in New Orleans?

Selected teams will need to send representatives to attend four key meetings in New Orleans: the launch on October 21-24, interim presentations in December and February, and the final presentation in April. There is no requirement to complete other work in New Orleans.


Can the competition sponsors facilitate partnerships between prospective teams and relevant organizations or individuals in New Orleans?

Teams should do their best to reach out to New Orleans based organizations to join their team for the RFQ submission; competition sponsors will not provide pre-submission facilitation with New Orleans-based organizations/individuals. However, competition sponsors will work with the selected teams to connect them to local resources, organizations, and individuals throughout the Research and Design Phase.


Is it necessary for a member of the team to be from New Orleans?

Local representation is not a requirement but is encouraged. Teams who are selected for the Research and Design phase of the competition will work with local partners to further engage community organizations and local stakeholders beyond their team.


How will the Jury evaluate teams’ capacity to deliver implementable, replicable solutions?

As stated in the “Teams” section of the RFQ, the Jury will evaluate many factors, including the strength of teams’ initial approach, ability to address the challenges of re-using vacant land, fluency with forecasting and phasing, multidisciplinary nature of the team, and other factors related to the team’s overall vision and competency. We encourage teams to draw from a broad range of professions and expertise. Additionally, we encourage teams from public, private, and academic institutions (including students), either based in New Orleans or elsewhere, to apply.


Are there additional digital resources and references including maps on the vacant land and parcels described in the competition brief?

The Resources and References section of the competition brief provides several key links to organizations, projects, and digital resources which can provide the foundation to a team’s research on the project. More spatial reference data can be found at data.nola.gov, including shapefiles of building outlines and city parcels and a map of residential market strength. The City of New Orleans Property Viewer allows users to explore zoning districts and property information. A robust packet of data will be provided to selected teams to use during the Research and Design Phase.


Is there a page limit for the RFQ submission?

There is no maximum number of total pages for the RFQ PDF submission. Please review the submission guidelines as detailed in the brief as several sections of the RFQ brief have page limits, ie. Cover Sheet is one page and Previous Work is 5 pages total. Team Description as well as Project Approach and Initial Findings do not have a page limit. Teams should consider Jury members are limited in their time to review each proposal and should emphasize their best assets.


Can the previous work section of an RFQ submission include projects which were completed as part of an office or larger team who are not part of the competition entry?

Your previous work should reflect the entire teams’ capacity and work experience including relevant academic and/or professional projects where team member(s) involved held a leadership role. Be sure to identify team members roles in each project included in this section.


Will a winning team be selected from the three participating in the Research and Design phase?

Once the Research and Design phase is completed teams will present their final proposals to the Jury who will select a winning team.


Once selected teams complete the Research and Design phase what is the next step in the competition?

NORA is committed to implementing initial phases of winning designs that emerge from the Future Ground competition, and to scale its existing work to reuse vacant land. NORA estimates that in 2014 and early 2015 it will have invested nearly $800,000 on landscape projects on 40 vacant lots covering close to 10 acres. In addition to these projects, NORA has sold 1,300 vacant properties to adjacent property owners since 2007 through its innovative Lot Next Door program, and has incentivized approximately $7.5 million to date in landscaping improvements to those properties through its Growing Home program.


How will teams be paid their stipends?

The three selected design teams will invoice their stipends to Van Alen Institute at three milestones coinciding with the interim, mid, and final presentations of the Research and Design phase.