The AMD Open Architecture Challenge launches TODAY– Architecture for Humanity’s biggest and most ambitious design competition to date. The open, international design competition is co-sponsored by AMD, which hopes to connect 50% of the world to the Internet by 2015. The Challenge aims to develop not one but many solutions—for building sustainable, multi-purpose, low-cost technology facilities for those who need them most.

Three community sites have been announced for the competition, and designers of all types have until January 15, 2008 to submit their visions. These will be real solutions, not just ideas and concepts—the winning designs will actually be built. And the communities, not a celebrity panel, will help choose the winners.

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Funding for one project’s construction is already secured, from AMD’s 50×15 initiative, which aims to provide 50% of the world’s population with Internet access by 2015. And Architecture for Humanity is working to find funding for the other two sites. AFH will also make site visits this fall and help facilitate blogs for all three so that ideas, images and video can be shared during the design process. Cameron Sinclair, director of AFH, estimates that if all three sites are built, 35-40,000 lives could be affected.

“AMD really wanted appropriate solutions for creating equal access to information based on the location,” Sinclair said of the competition. And while technology is key to this effort, Sinclair is most excited about developing comprehensive social programs that will allow communities to benefit.

From 115 proposals, AFH and AMD selected three communities on three continents for 3 separate challenges:

Challenge – South America Connect a cooperative of indigenous chocolate producers and artisans in the Ecuadorian Amazon (Kallari, Ecuador) with the global marketplace by building a chocolate factory and fair trade exchange and off-site satellite technology hubs.

Challenge – Africa Empower the youth of Mukuru Kwa Njenga, an informal slum settlement of 250,000, to connect with other youth and create positive change in their community by building a technology media lab and library.

Challenge – Asia Enable families in a remote rural area of Nepal where there is only one doctor for a population of 250,000 to access to health care from top physicians and medical professionals all over the world by building a telemedicine center.

In addition to the three sites and the three winners, all of the competition entries will be a project within the Open Architecture Network. They will remain private until the jurying begins, and under this framework, Sinclair hopes that more funding may come later, direct to the designers. If organizations decide they want to build similar projects in the developing world, Sinclair can simply point to all the OAN projects, ready-to-go designs.

Localized sustainability is also an important emphasis. Sinclair noted that the best submissions will be those that put the community first. Integrating the environmental and financial viability will be especially important, to ensure that the new facilities can operate nearly or fully off the grid. “I think the winners will be modest buildings that use local materials and marry ethics with aesthetics,” Sinclair said.

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