Young Architects Studio Competition 2022

Image credit: Walt Haim & Oyuki Sulu

Frick Park Fern Hollow Bridge Future-Fit


The Young Architects Studio Competition

Now in its 12th year, the goal of this competition is to engage young architects, emerging design professionals, and students to find new and innovative ways to approach a regional design challenge.


Enter the competition as an individual or create a design team!

Entrants are welcome to submit individual entries or design team entries. Individual entries must come from either an architecture graduate, or undergraduate/graduate student.

Architecture Graduates: 

Individual architecture graduates, who have been out of school for no more than ten years, are eligible to enter this competition. Entrants may or may not be licensed to practice architecture. AIA membership is not required, however, entrants must be located within AIA Pittsburgh’s 11-county chapter area

Architecture Students:

Individual architecture undergraduate or graduate students, who are currently enrolled in an architecture program, are eligible to enter this competition. AIAS membership is not required, however, entrants must be currently studying in or have a home address within AIA Pittsburgh’s 11-county chapter area. [see KD comment in email] 

Design Teams:

The teams must be led by an architecture graduate and/or student. Teams can include graduates, who have been out of school for no more than ten years, or undergraduates/graduate students in a design industry related field which can include, but is not limited to, engineers, landscape architects, or artists. All team members must be located within AIA Pittsburgh’s 11-county chapter area.



Frick Park Fern Hollow Bridge Future-Fit

In the early morning of January 28, 2022, the 450’ long Forbes Avenue “Fern Hollow” Bridge in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park collapsed without warning just hours before President Joe Biden was due to arrive in the city to discuss the importance of infrastructure for our country.  The event made headlines around the country focusing great attention on how our “City of Bridges” would respond to the instant loss of one of the 450 bridges that connect the community across the rich Appalachian landscape of Western Pennsylvania.  

“The Fern Hollow Bridge collapse is a painful reminder of the condition of our bridges and a call to action to address our aging infrastructure,” said Mayor Gainey. “As the City of Bridges, we know how critical our infrastructure is to working families. They are the connectors to jobs, to schools, to childcare, and more. As Mayor, I want the people of Pittsburgh to know that I will be working tirelessly to secure additional funding for our infrastructure needs. With the support of our county, state, and federal partners, we will build back better.”

By February 1st, the federal government had provided $25.3 million dollars to Pennsylvania and the City of Pittsburgh established a partnership with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to pursue the emergency replacement of the bridge.  That the bridge was one of only three roadway connections across the 2 miles of Frick Park between the Mon River and Point Breeze which meant the replacement project was able to forego typical design, bidding, community processes, reviews, and dialog in the interests of restoring connection as quickly as possible.  PennDOT and the City established a project team including Swank Construction and HDR Engineering who advanced the site conditions and engineering, sharing an initial design and construction approach by March 8th. 

Later that week representatives from the adjacent neighborhood met with the bridge replacement project team to share their insights about the location and the people and places that the replacement bridge could serve and advance through design objectives that strengthen community connections under the bridge, across Forbes Avenue, and connecting the Forbes-Braddock Playground with the Frick Park Nature Center.  Over subsequent weeks the group built consensus around goals and – happily – the project has integrated or agreed to accommodate some of these goals where they intersect the bridge site, however, because of the emergency mandate and the limitation on fund use, the bridge project is effectively limited to the bridge width and span.  While the city is intent on cycle track continuity on the road, so much more design and connection work remains beyond these boundaries.


Design Challenge

In the wake of the bridge’s collapse, entrants are asked to reimagine an ambitious future to build upon the new bridge as a community connector, an extension of the park spaces that surround the bridge, and a meaningful destination that adds to the environmental, social, and aesthetic value of Frick Park. Competition entrants should consider:

  • the daily users of this bridge
  • the users of the park and playground
  • the surrounding neighborhoods, schools, the trail networks,
  • the park assets such as the Frick Environmental Center Living Building

How can this emergency infrastructure and international news story become a story about Pittsburgh’s resilience, vision, and leadership building upon the extraordinarily rapid construction of a narrowly focused replacement structure? At this time of social division and inequity, amidst an unprecedented breakdown of natural systems, how can this site become a new environment that lifts up all people and supports all living things?


  • Propose an adaptation, complement, or supplement to the established bridge and park design being built at present.
    • There is no set limit to the scope or location of intervention, as part of the proposal. Entrants are encouraged to think holistically about their proposals and how they can connect to the greater context.
    • Entrants are encouraged to consider multiple scales (see diagram below), modes of travel, and wide range of park use and users.
    • Entrants are encouraged to consider uses and features not yet considered through the historical uses, the replacement bridge project, or the community feedback provided to date.
    • Designs should consider the three dimensional traits of the site as well as the natural and human systems of the location.
  • Highest and best use shall be determined by the participant.
  • No specific drawing types are required. Participants must determine the best way to visually communicate their proposals.



The project location is an active construction site and entrants must obey all rules, access limitations, private property, common courtesy, and common sense.



All judging will be completely anonymous.

Judges will consider the following:

  • Comprehensive quality of the design proposal, including the written statement
  • Clarity of the narrative. How and why did you choose your scope/criteria?
  • How well the design solution communicates its vision and details of the proposal
  • Creativity of the design, materials, explanation, and solution
  • The rigor and level of detail expressed in the design proposal, relative to the chosen scale of inquiry




The YASC entries will be judged by measuring the architect’s performance against each project’s potential and not in competition with each other. Thus, each project will be assessed based on the designer’s skill in optimizing their unique design opportunity. 

  • Award of Excellence ($300) – One Award of Excellence will be given to the participant that demonstrates a mastery of design in responding to the competition design prompt, and creates the most inspiring, innovative, and creative overall proposal. 




All project entries will be submitted via DropBox.

  1. Submit a submission request form along with the entry fee. See submission request form for details.
  2. Once AIA Pittsburgh has received your submission request form, you will receive an email inviting you to your personalized YASC DropBox folder.

Note: If you do not have a DropBox account, you will be prompted to create one when you receive the invitation. Those who submit a proposal per the submission requirements below will receive a complimentary ticket to the Design Awards ceremony.




Friday, September 9th, 2022- 4:00PM: Submission Request Forms must be submitted to the AIA Pittsburgh office by 4PM. Please submit by email to with subject “2022 YASC Submission Request”

Friday, September 16th, 2022, 11:59PM: Project submissions must be received by AIA Pittsburgh via DropBox by midnight to be eligible for judging.The winner will be announced at the PIttsburgh Design Awards (September 29th).




For each project entry, please include the following items in your electronic submission folder via

  1. Design Submission:  For Jury Use. There should be no reference to the author’s identity in any of the Design Submission files.
    • One file formatted to 34” x 34” at 300 dpi, saved as a PDF. This file can contain text and imagery. It should focus on visual impact, as this will be displayed in the Design Pittsburgh exhibition viewed by the general public and the architecture community. This is also the main exhibit which will be accessed by the jury.  File name shall be labeled: 
      • YASC22_ProjectTitle_Exhibit.pdf
    • The written summary sheet must synthesize the Design Submission as an at-a-glance synopsis, which includes the Thesis Statement (see below). This should be a written work, without any images, not to exceed one 8.5 x 11 sheet. File name shall be labeled: 
      • ASC22_ProjectTitle_Summary.pdf
  2. Publication & Print Images:  Images used for print, web, and exhibit publication should be the best representation of the designer’s solution to the design challenge. These may be shared with media outlets, shown in an AIA digital gallery, or shown in AIA social media channels.
    • Two image files not to exceed 2000 x 2000 pixels each, at 150 dpi, saved as a JPG or PNG. File name shall be labeled: 
      • YASC22_ProjectTitle_Media_01.JPG
      • YASC22_ProjectTitle_Media_02.JPG
    • Thesis Statement – Description of the proposal in 40 words or less, to be quoted for publication (print, web, social media, etc).
      • YASC22_ProjectTitle_ShortDescription (word or text file)




AIA Pittsburgh assumes no liability for original drawings and other submission materials or loss or damage to any part of the submission. AIA Pittsburgh retains the right to reproduce any of the submission materials in its publications, educational programs, and web site, and guarantees that credit will be given to the designer. Please check all information for correct spelling and accuracy since it will be used for publication. By making a submission, the entrant agrees that the information contained in this form is correct and complete, and that the entrant will hold harmless AIA Pittsburgh for any and all damage arising out of the use of the information contained herein. Any errors or omissions are the complete responsibility of the entrant. The entrant further certifies that permission has been obtained from the owner, developer, and photographer of the project to publish photographs, drawings, and other information included in the submission (and releases and authorizes AIA Pittsburgh to use all such materials).



View a variety of past proposals from AIA Pittsburgh’s Young Architects Studio Competition (YASC) that focus on design solutions for urban voids and underutilized places and spaces along the riverfronts.