Life at the Speed of Rail

Competition Launch: March 2011
Competition Website: Life at the Speed of Rail

How will high-speed rail change American life in the coming decades? At this critical moment for American infrastructure, Van Alen Institute: Projects in Public Architecture announces Life at the Speed of Rail, an open call for design ideas that envision the cultural, environmental, and economic impact of a new rail network in the United States.

This multimedia competition seeks the visions of the architectural design community, planners, graphic designers, artists—anyone who wants to contribute to the discussion surrounding high-speed rail. In this Call for Design Ideas, entrants are asked to produce projects and narratives picturing the wide-ranging impacts that a new transportation network will have on the nation’s communities, whether urban or rural, rail-riding or car-centric, heartland or borderland. By collecting these ideas and images of a transformed America—be they specific, pragmatic, or speculative—we’ll better understand the hopes and fears of our current moment and be better equipped to decide whether and how we build this new infrastructure.

With the Obama administration’s recent pledge of $53 billion for the construction of a high-speed rail network, and its goal of connecting 80 percent of Americans to the service by 2050, the topic of transportation couldn’t be timelier. By helping to develop our visual narrative of technology and infrastructure, Life at the Speed of Rail will add complexity and depth to a discussion that has thus far excluded the design community and been driven largely by politics.

Ten winning submissions will be awarded $1,000 each. A selection of additional submissions will receive honorable mentions and inclusion in an online exhibition. Van Alen Institute and VAI’s 2011 High-Speed Rail Fellows Diana Lind and Andrew Colopy will select the winning entries. During the summer, a curated selection of submissions will be discussed with winning entrants in a series of public forums hosted at partner organizations located in contested high-speed rail megaregions around the United States.

To ensure broad participation and to guide these regional conversations, Van Alen Institute has appointed a multidisciplinary advisory committee including:

Carol Coletta (President and CEO, CEOs for Cities)
Keller Easterling (Associate Professor, Yale University)
Christopher Hawthorne (Architecture Critic, Los Angeles Times)
Gary Hustwit (Director, Helvetica)
Michael Lejeune (Creative Director, L.A. Metro)
Thom Mayne (Founder and Design Director, Morphosis)
Petra Todorovich (Director, America 2050)
Sarah Whiting (Dean, Rice School of Architecture)

Entries are due by May 21, 2011. Please visit www.vanalen.org/lifeatthespeedofrail for full competition details and submission guidelines and be sure to follow @thespeedofrail on Twitter for more info!

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