Urban Adaptation - Architecture competition the worl

The results of the Urban Adaptation competition show how modular construction using engineered wood products like Kerto LVL (laminated veneer lumber) enables adaptable, sustainable and cost-competitive construction.

"We've seen many interesting entries, with sites located across the world, showing how universally applicable a modular wooden system can be," says Rahel Belatchew from the competition jury, Chief Architect and founder of Belatchew Arkitekter, Sweden. 



THE URBAN ADAPTATION COMPETITION challenges architects and students from around the world to  find a way to create multi-use buildings which can adapt to the changing needs of the urban community.  Entrants are asked to select a centrally-located empty plot in a city area and develop an innovative modular wood design for a public building that easily adapts to the changing needs of the community.

Too often buildings are static and focus only on the current needs of the community. They serve the purpose they are designed to serve, but when cities grow and the needs of the community change, this becomes a problem. There might also be a need to quickly adapt to the changes of lifestyle, like moving to work from home office.

For example, a community might need less office space and a kindergarten instead because of a change in the demography. Or vice versa.

We need buildings that can be adapted to new needs during the building’s lifecycle.

We need urban adaptation.

Urban Adaptation architects' competition


Competition time:

Start: 1 September 2020
Deadline: 31 December 2020 at 24:00 CET

Winners announced:
February 2021

1. PRIZE: €15,000
2. PRIZE: €5,000

Prizes before taxes. Participants outside Finland are responsible for paying possible taxes in accordance with local legislation. The organiser reserves the right to allocate the prize money between the best entries if it sees fit.


The competition is organised by Metsä Wood, Aalto University and the Ministry of the Environment of Finland.

Criteria for entries
The design should be a multi-purpose building or a building system for an urban environment. The designs are required to have public services, but can also have other functions.

The competition entry should show different scenarios and how the building or the building system can be adapted and re-configured based on the changing needs during the lifecycle, for example in 3, 20, 50 years after the building has been taken into use.

In addition to visual and functional criteria, the designs need to show
(1.) adaptability;
(2.) modularity; and
(3.) sustainability.

Location and the building site
There is no specific site or city for this competition.

Entrants must choose a neighbourhood and a plot that provide an exciting platform for an urban building showcasing the future of construction. The concept should be based on using flexible wooden structures that adapt to the changing needs and uses of the community. Entrants should use the existing context of the city to reinforce the character of the proposal.

The primary programmatic element included in the proposal should be a multi-purpose building that addresses the particular needs of the surrounding community (housing, working, commerce, industry, culture, care services, learning, etc.) should be included.

The competition entry should show different scenarios and how the building adapts to changing needs during the building’s lifecycle, for example, in 3, 20, 50 years after the building has been taken into use.

The design doesn’t have to be a new design for this competition. Previous projects and designs of already built buildings are also accepted.

Main building material: Engineered wood

Entrants are expected to propose construction systems that draw on the performance characteristics of lightweight engineered wood products and a variety of wood technologies. Design solutions are required to use engineered wood products, such as Metsä Wood’s Kerto® LVL (laminated veneer lumber), as the primary structural system. Otherwise, material selection is up to the entrant. Solutions that devise new and innovative ways of using and combining different kinds of wood products, like beams, columns and panels, are encouraged. The competition seeks bold and ambitious plans that push the limits of prefabricated wood construct .


Submission format
The entrant is required to submit the final project ONLINE. It must be uploaded through the Urban Adaptation competition website at www.urbanadaptation.com by 24:00 pm CET, on 31 DECEMBER  2020.

No separate registration needed.

Drawings and format
Submissions must be designed on no more than four A2 digital boards maximum file size 10MB. The names of participants must NOT appear on the boards. All boards must be uploaded through the website in Portable Document Format (PDF). The key visual image should be an image JPEG file 3840 × 3840 px and 300 dpi (maximum file size 15MB).

Required drawings
Each presentation must directly address the criteria outlined in the Design Challenge and Criteria for Judging sections and must include (but is not limited to) the following required drawings. All drawings should be presented at a scale appropriate to the design solution and include a graphic scale and north arrow.

  • CONCEPT DRAWING describing the main idea
  • SITE PLAN showing the surrounding buildings, topography, and circulation patterns
  • FLOOR PLANS in scale 1:100
  • SECTIONS AND FACADES of the whole building/site sufficient to show site context and major programme elements.
  • DETAILED SECTION (as 2D or 3D) clearly showing the main structural idea 
  • 3-DIMENSIONAL REPRESENTATION(S): 1. main views, 2. interior space, 3. building shown in the neighbourhood context and 4. bird’s-eye view (optional) 
  • SCENARIOS of the changes during the building’s lifecycle, for example, in 3, 20 and 50 years.

Writing and formats
A brief essay (500 words maximum, in English) is required as part of the submission that describes the most important concepts of the design. Keep in mind that the presentation should graphically convey the design solution and context as much as possible, and not rely on the design essay to convey a basic understanding of the project. This abstract is included in the final online submission, completed by the entrant(s) in a simple copy/paste text box.


Criteria for judging
Criteria for the judging of submissions will include:

  • Creative use of engineered wood, for example, Metsä Wood’s Kerto LVL columns, beams and panels as the primary structural material. 
  • Creative and innovative use of wood in the design solution.
  • Integration of the structure and concept into surrounding urban context.
  • Innovativeness of the structures, modules and components that are adaptable according to the changing needs and uses of the inhabitants and the community.
  • Demonstration of the overall environmental benefits: use of sustainable wooden materials, the design’s carbon footprint and the long life-cycle.
  • The efficient use of material is a central criteria for sustainability. Although the created carbon storage is an important sustainability target, it should not be created at the expense of material efficiency.


The jury members are 

Rahel Belatchew

Rahel Belatchew, architect MSA/SAR, DESA is the founder of Belatchew Arkitekter. Trained at the Ecole Speciale in Paris, and active as an architect in France, Japan and Luxemburg. Belatchew is based in Stockholm where the office was established in 2006. 

Rahel Belatchew has been appointed Architect of the Year and Belatchew Arkitekter and Belatchew Labs have received several awards, including the Architecture Masterprize, World Architecture News Awards, Architectural Review MIPIM Future Project Award, Smart Living Challenge and the Swedish national design award Design S. The works of Belatchew has been displayed at several museums and Rahel has represented Sweden at architectural events around the world, such as London, Reykjavik and Mumbai. Rahel has also participated in juries of many prestigious awards in Sweden and internationally. In 2019, the book “Attitude as Style” about Rahel Belatchew and the work of Belatchew Arkitekter was published.

Minna Riska

Minna Riska, Architect, M.Sc SAFA, is a founding partner at MDH Arkitekter. She has studied in Finland, Denmark and Norway, where she has been working after graduation from the University of Oulu in 2003. MDH architects work with all scales and types of projects of the built environment from urban planning, public transport projects to public buildings and private villas.

Starting with the transformation of the Moholt student village in 2013 the office has gained a lot of experience with projects built in CLT in a very short time. The “Moholt project” has received many national and international architecture and urban planning awards and MDH is frequently invited to share their experiences in building with CLT through lectures both nationally and internationally. Minna has been teaching at the Oslo school of architecture and design and is often invited as an external sensor both at the Oslo school of architecture and NTNU in Trondheim.  



Do I receive a confirmation e-mail after having submitted my work?
You won't receive any automatic confirmation. We will send a personal confirmation within couple of working days after we have received and viewed your entry. If you have problems with loading the documents and you are not sure if the documents were submitted, please send e-mail to urbanadaptation[at]metsagroup.com.

When and how will teams be able to submit their documents?
Online submission is available until December 31, 2020. Teams will be able to upload pdf and jpg files according to the requirements outlined on the competition website. Click here to submit your design.

Is there a registration fee?

Do I have to register in advance?
No, there is no advance registration. You just submit your documents.

Can I choose freely the city for my design?
Yes. However, we recommend that you choose a site (and city) that in your experience is well placed to address the challenges of global urban housing needs.

Who is on the jury?
The jury members are

Andrew Scott, a Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rahel Belatchew, Chief architect and founder of Belatchew Arkitekter, Sweden and
Minna Riska, Architect and partner at MDH Arkitekter, Norway.

Is it possible to use materials other than wood in the building?
Yes. However the purpose of the competition is to explore the possibilities of wood in modular construction. Please use your own judgement and refer to the Judging Criteria on the Requirements page for further information

Does the project need to meet local code requirements?
No. There are no specific restraints or building codes that you need to follow. The design should generally take into account issues of life safety and best practice.

Is there a proposed budget as part of the program guidelines?
No. There is no budget constraints.

Will the winning projects be built?
No. This is an idea competition intended to promote innovation in wood design and architecture.

Does the design need to be a new design for this competition?
No. You can also send project you have already been working on or designs of already built buildings are also accepted.

Can teams be made up of one individual?
Yes. Individuals can submit projects on their own.

Is there a limit to the size of teams?

Can a student(s) team up with professionals to submit to the competition?

Why is Ministry of the Environment of Finland supporting the competition?
The Finnish Government enhances the use of wood in building and construction aiming at the reduction of the carbon emissions from the construction sector and the development of more material and energy efficient industrial wood construction system.

Technical support

If you have any questions please send an email to address urbanadaptation[at]metsagroup.com. More information about Kerto® LVL is available on Metsä Wood’s website and free online Timber Academy courses.
This page will be updated periodically for clarification as additional questions are submitted. Please contact us if you have any questions.


By entering the URBAN ADAPTATION competition, entrants accept that the organisers – Metsä Wood, Aalto University and the Ministry of the Environment, Finland – may publish and disseminate the submitted projects and photos of the entries in printed and digital form for marketing and media visibility purposes (for example, in press materials and social media).