Beverley Mitchell

Cameron Sinclair Launches the Dead Prize for Designs That Harm Humanity and the Planet

by , 08/09/14

Architects for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair has just launched the Dead Prize, an award “to celebrate engineering, architecture and designs that have had a negative impact on the planet.” Sinclair believes that there are plenty of prizes celebrating good design, but nothing that acknowledges when something has miserably failed its end users or the environment. The prize is intended to become an annual event, with submissions closing on 1 November each year. Read on to see how you can nominate the design you think is most (or is that least?) worthy.


Far from coming from a negative position, Sinclair is at pains to stress that the prize aims to get “a better understanding of how a design failed or was intentionally harmful,” so we can learn from and avoid repeating past mistakes. He says he been mulling over the idea of the prize for around 25 years, since he first moved to Bath in the UK as a 16-year-old. There he read an article in the local paper proclaiming “the 10 worst buildings in Bath.” With youthful fervor he decided “to track down every architect mentioned and ask why their project was deemed as a failure. Just imagine a 16-year-old at your office asking why your project sucks.” He continues, “The results were eye-opening, from ‘Yup, we screwed the pooch on that one,’ to tales of protracted bureaucratic involvement in a social housing solution. It became apparent that the failures of design could have just as big an impact as our successes.”

Related: INTERVIEW: We Talk with Architecture for Humanity Founder Cameron Sinclair

The prize aims to set benchmarks to design against, to understand how a design developed with good intentions could fail those intentions, and to understand why someone would purposefully design something that is harmful (such as weapons, for example). Sinclair states: “It is our hope that like-minded designers see these failures as a challenge to create something new, to correct the mistakes of the past or to find the antidote for the project in question.” He is also hopeful that if the prize can receive financial support, a further competition could be thrown open to the design community to come up with a solution to each year’s Dead Prize recipient.

From bad urban planning, through environmentally unfriendly building design, to artfully devious weapons, nominations for the inaugural Dead Prize are due on November 1, 2014. Finalists will be announced in early December, with the winners to be announced at the beginning of 2015. The prize will be adjudicated by an as-yet-unnamed panel. Making a nomination is easy: simply send them to @deadprize on Twitter. And while nominations for the prize technically don’t open until 1 September, it seems the Tweets have already started, so don’t be shy! The Dead Prize website also suggests that particularly good nominations may be rewarded by a request to write a blog post for the prize, outlining why you deem it a failure. Thinking caps on!

+ The Dead Prize

Via The Daily Mail and Treehugger

Photos via The Dead Prize, and Rafael Viñoly

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