Every year, Perkins + Will challenges its multidisciplinary studios to participate in the Phil Freelon Design Competition, in which they innovate design solutions to society’s most pressing problems. (The firm renamed the competition after design director Phil Freelon, who championed democratic design that honors humanity, after he passed away in 2019.) The post-pandemic landscape was top of mind this year, as the competition explored how London’s dense Culture Mile creative district could be transformed across urban, building, and interior scales into a more inclusive and sustainable place. The firm zeroed in on London for its resilience—the city has endured numerous disasters during its 2,000-year history, the most recent being pandemic-induced social unrest.
Entries were judged by an esteemed panel including architect Amanda Levete and critic Jeremy Melvin on how well they align with Perkins + Will’s Living Design framework, by which the firm aims to create high-performing spaces that prioritize human and ecological well-being. Taking home top honors is “Mudlarking,” a proposal that advocates for restoring key segments of historic London rivers through daylighting interventions that would allow for regenerative ecosystems to thrive. The second-place winner, “Lanterns of Hope,” puts forth a mixed-use development marked by playful, lantern-like cubicles that respond to community needs and respect social distancing.