Bigger than a Breadbox, Smaller than a Building


The Intent

During the last several decades architecture has been deeply affected by the profession's continued interest in the spatial medium of installation. While its accessibility, expediency, and ephemerality have been central to its general appeal, its ability to encapsulate emerging aspects of architecture has made it especially attractive to those seeking to expatiate the multivalent nature of architecture. Resulting in an artifact located in the design space between objects and buildings, installations have been used by artist and designers around the globe to expound upon the minutiae of the spatial condition.

During the 1960s and 1970s installation art first gained value as an artistic medium due to its ability to integrate emerging technologies and hybrid artistic-spatial mediums into the traditional categories of the fine arts, calling into question the premise of art itself and resulting in a dramatic shift in the way that artists are able to engage their craft, the physicality of space, and the participatory agency of the audience. The medium has proven similar value to architecture, allowing for the spatial condition to respond to and incorporate new technology, cultural/social agency, material experimentation, and theoretical agendas in a manner which challenges traditional connotations of the profession itself.

The Exhibition

From June 17th – October 4th of 2015 the Boston Society of Architects' BSA Space gallery will host 'Bigger than a Bread Box, Smaller than a Building,' a gallery exhibition that will examine the appropriation of installation in contemporary architectural practice. While in no way the first excursion into the topic, the exhibition will specifically focus on projects which leverage the medium as an investigative tool, exploring ideas and phenomena that extend beyond the physicality of the installation itself. Although the exhibition will include multiple curated projects from the greater Boston region, an international competition will be held to gather examples of work indicative of the global scope of installation's application within contemporary practices.

It is the curators' hope that submitted projects not only showcase how the medium can be used to explore architectural ideas, but also its ability to provoke questions pertaining to the state of contemporary architecture. While the competition does support the broad interpretation of installation, it does so within the very specific context of the iterative design/research process.

Unlike most design competitions it does not solicit wholly new work, nor does it simply request documentation of prior project; rather it supports a hybrid of the two, asking participants to iterate and reimagine previous installation projects, revisiting the agenda of the earlier work within the specific context of the competition brief. This new iteration is meant to further the research at the core of the previous project, responding to and incorporating the knowledge gained from the prior work. This aligns the emphasis of the competition with that of the Breadbox exhibition, focusing on the ideas being investigated by the installation rather than the installation itself.

The Challenge

The location for the proposed installation is the building lobby at 290 Congress Street in Boston, MA, a double-height space which presently serves as a the primary building lobby to a number of professional offices and a “pass-through" space to adjacent buildings. The location provides limited seating to an adjacent café, as well as access to a large internal staircase and elevator. The staircase provides an immediate connection (physically and visually) between the lobby space and the BSA gallery space on the second floor.

Interested parties are encouraged to visit the building lobby at 290 Congress Street during its public hours of 7am – 10pm.

The competition requires that two projects be submitted:

  1. A past built installation project that used the medium to engage a topic (disciplinary or not) external to the installation itself.
  2. A proposed installation for the lobby at 290 Congress Street that builds upon the work done in the first project.

The thread of the external idea should tie the two projects together and be evident in the proposal for 290 Congress Street, furthering the depth of its exploration rather than just re-applying it.

In addition to the two projects, the competition also requires the submission of an abstract which concisely discusses the idea(s) being investigated and how the installation showcases this. Applicants are encouraged to also include this abstract as part of their presentation of the proposed installation, but it is not required.

Please see below for further details on the submission itself.

The proposed intervention should strive to activate the existing space as well as actively engage gallery visitors and building occupants.

The intervention should not disrupt the day-to-day circulation through the lobby and should have a limited footprint of approximately 150 square feet on the ground level with the possibility of expanding outward at a level above 8 feet. Proposals can be double height and extend to the ceiling.

The proposed intervention can either be supported at the ground level lobby floor or, in the case of a lightweight system, suspended; a combination of dead loading and suspension is possible as well. Suspension is to be achieved through the use of beam clamps and metal rod connected to the concealed structure above the ceiling. Access to the steel beams is possible between the exposed wood beams and the white suspended ceiling.

The competition is open to (but not limited to) architects, designers, students, engineers, and technologist that engage the medium of installation as an exploratory tool. All interested parties, regardless of geographic location, are strongly encouraged to submit entries.

The professional practices and/or collaborations of the competition jurors and exhibition curators are not eligible to participate in the competition.


Project brief – a PDF document containing all the information regarding the competition itself, including copyright and publication details.

Project files – a ZIP file containing both CAD drawings (dxf format) and a 3D model (3dm format) of the space.

Project photos – a ZIP file containing photographs of the building lobby (jpg format).


All inquiries should be directed to the 'Bigger than a Bread Box, Smaller than a Building' exhibition curators at Any requests/questions that may pose useful to others will be posted on the competition website.


The jurying process will take place in two stages. The preliminary stage will narrow the field of entrants, which will then be ranked and awarded by the final jury. Announcements regarding the results of the primary and final jury will only take place after the final jury has made their decision.

The preliminary jury will include:

  • Robert Trumbour, AIA - exhibition curator, Khôra (Boston, MA); Wentworth Institute of Technology
  • Aaron Willette - exhibit curator, Khôra (Ann Arbor, MI); University of Michigan
  • Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA - Past President, Boston Society of Architects
  • Mary Fichtner - Director of Programs and Exhibits, BSA Space
  • Representative from (TBD)
  • Representative from Boston Properties (TBD)

The final jury will include:

  • Benjamin Ball - Ball-Nogues Studio (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Shauna Gillies - Smith, RLA - Ground (Boston, MA); Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Monica Ponce de Leon, AIA - MPdL Studio (Ann Arbor, MI; New York, NY; Boston, MA);
    University of Michigan
  • Jenny Sabin - Jenny Sabin Studio (Philadelphia, PA); Cornell University
  • J. Frano Violich, FAIA - Kennedy Violich Architecture, Ltd. (Boston, MA)

Projects will be evaluated by the jury based on both how well they respond to the competition brief and the quality of the proposed installation for the building lobby at 290 Congress Street. The target audience for the exhibition is the general public, so the legibility of ideas/intent to the layperson is paramount and should not be overlooked.

The winning design team will receive $3000 towards the completion and installation of their project in the building lobby at 290 Congress Street. The curatorial team will work with the winning design team to identify and pursue additional funding sources as necessary.

Additionally, up to ten entries will be selected to fabricate a small to medium scale component of their competition entry, receiving $500 towards expenses. These components will be displayed alongside project information as part of the gallery exhibition.

Jury Bios

Shauna Gillies-Smith

Shauna Gillies-Smith is the principal of GROUND a landscape architecture practice focusing on the creation of artful and sustainable landscapes in urban settings. Trained first as an architect and urban designer, Shauna's shift to landscape practice was motivated by the desire to reveal the potentials of surprise and pleasure in the urban realm.

GROUND's landscapes play a protagonist role in the experience of the city – creating unexpected moments of joy and engagement that craft the stage for the drama of urban life. The work strives to balance exceptional detailing and execution with comfort and openness in use, fully believing that urban landscapes need the dynamic (and unpredictable) participation of the public to be successful.

Ms. Gillies-Smith has been honored with numerous awards and has taught and lectured widely; for the 2014/ 2015 academic year she will be a Visiting Design Critic at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She received a MAUD degree from Harvard's GSD, a MArch from the University of British Columbia, and a BA (Econ) from Queen's University.

Benjamin Ball

Benjamin Ball grew up in Colorado and Iowa where his mother's involvement in theatre proved influential. While studying for his degree at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, Ball logged stints at Gehry Partners and Shirdel Zago Kipnis. Upon graduation, he sought work as a set and production designer for films (including the Matrix series) as well as music videos and commercials with such influential directors as Mark Romanek and Tony Scott. His experience ranges from work on the Disney Concert Hall and small residential commissions for boutique firms to complex medical structures and event design.

In 2004, Ball, along with Gaston Nogues, established Ball-Nogues Studio, an integrated design and fabrication practice operating in the territory between architecture, art, and industrial design. The studio's work is informed by the exploration of craft. Essential to each project is the "design" of the production process itself, with the aim of creating environments that enhance sensation, generate spectacle and invite physical engagement.

Monica Ponce de Leon

Monica Ponce de Leon, AIA, was appointed Dean and Eliel Saarinen Collegiate Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning of University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning in September, 2008. In 1991, she co-founded Office dA and in 2011 launched her own design practice; Monica Ponce de Leon Studio. Dean Ponce de Leon received a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1989 from the University of Miami and a Master of Architecture in Urban Design degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1991. She joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design faculty in 1996, where she was a Professor of Architecture and the Director of the Digital Lab. She has also held teaching appointments at Northeastern University, the Southern California Institute of Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design and Georgia Institute of Technology among others. She has received honors from the Architectural League of New York (Young Architects Award, 1997, and Emerging Voices, 2003) the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Award in Architecture, 2002), the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper- Hewitt National Design Museum (National Design Award in Architecture, 2007), and the United States Artists (Target Fellows in Architecture and Design, 2007). Her practice has received over 60 design awards including the AIA's Institute Honor Award for Architecture (Macallen Building, 2010), Honor Award for Design Excellence, AIA New York Chapter (200 West Street Project Team (including Office dA), 2010), Wallpaper Design Awards Best New Restaurant (Banq, 2009), the AIA/LA Design Award (Helios House, 2007), the AIA/ALA Library Building Award (Fleet Library at RISD, 2007), the AIA/Committee on the Environment's Top Ten Green Projects (Macallen Building, 2008), five I.D. Magazine Annual Design Review Awards and eight Progressive Architecture Awards.

Jenny Sabin

Jenny Sabin's work is at the forefront of a new direction for 21st century architectural practice — one that investigates the intersections of architecture and science, and applies insights and theories from biology and mathematics to the design of material structures. Sabin is Assistant Professor in the area of Design and Emerging Technologies in the Department of Architecture at Cornell University. She is principal of Jenny Sabin Studio, an experimental architectural design studio based in Philadelphia and Director of the Sabin Design Lab at Cornell AAP, a hybrid research and design unit with specialization in computational design, data visualization and digital fabrication. Sabin's clients and funders include companies and foundations such as Nike Inc., the National Science Foundation, the American Philosophical Society Museum, the Exploratorium and the Frac Centre. She is co-founder of LabStudio, a hybrid research and design network, together with Peter Lloyd Jones. Sabin holds degrees in ceramics and interdisciplinary visual art from the University of Washington and a master of architecture from the University of Pennsylvania where was awarded the AIA Henry Adams first prize medal and the Arthur Spayd Brooke gold medal for distinguished work in architectural design, 2005. Sabin was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts 2010 and was named a USA Knight Fellow in Architecture, 1 of 50 artists and designers awarded nationally by US Artists. She was recently awarded the prestigious Architectural League Prize for Young Architects by the Architectural League of New York. She has exhibited nationally and internationally most recently at Nike Stadium NYC, the American Philosophical Society Museum and at Ars Electronic, Linz, Austria. Her work was recently exhibited in the internationally acclaimed 9th ArchiLab titled Naturalizing Architecture at FRAC Centre, Orleans, France. Her work has been published extensively including in The Architectural Review , Azure, A+U, Mark Magazine, 306090, 10+1, ACM , American Journal of Pathology, Science , the New York Times, Wired Magazine and various exhibition catalogues and reviews. She co-authored Meander, Variegating Architecture with Ferda Kolatan.

J. Frano Violich

As a Founding Principal at KVA Matx, Frano Violich has created an interdisciplinary design practice which engages material fabrication, digital technology and the conservation of natural resources to expand the public life of buildings and cities. Violich studied Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and received his Masters of Architecture from Harvard University. Violich has served as Design Commissioner with the Boston Society of Architects, co-chaired the Design Industry Group of Massachusetts' (DIGMA) Advisory Board, and currently serves on the Editorial Board of Architecture Boston. Starting this year Violich begins a three year-term on the BSA Honors & Awards Committee. Violich was elected to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows in 2009.



  • 12/17/2014 : Submission period opens
  • 02/15/2015 : Submissions due
  • 02/16/2015 – 03/8/2015 : Jurying period
  • 03/11/2015 : Winners announced

Development & Installation
It is the curatorial team's intention to work with the winning design team to proceed with the following schedule:

  • 03/2015 : Design development commences
  • 04/2015 : Detailed design commences
  • 05/2015 : Off-site fabrication commences
  • 06/08/2015 – 06/15/2015 : On-site installation period
  • 06/17/2015 : Opening event
  • 06/17/2015 - 10/5/2015: Exhibition duration
  • 10/6/2015 – 10/10/2015: Exhibition breakdown

The curatorial team reserves the right to adjust the schedule as necessary in order to ensure the completion of the winning proposal and the exhibition in a timely manner.



The submission process will be handled online via Archinect, opening on December 17, 2014. There is a non-refundable registration fee of $30, which will be handled as part of the submission process.

Entrants are asked to submit two (2) 24" x 36" posters (orientated vertically), a project statement, and individual project images via the online submission system hosted at Archinect. The jurying process will be a blind review, so submitted text and images should make no reference to firms, individuals, or organizations associated with the submitted work.

The 24" x 36" posters should address the following:

  • One poster should explain the originating project, a prior project by the design team that stands as a strong example of how the medium of installation has been used by the profession of architecture a means to engage a topic exterior to the installation itself. Attention should be given to what was learned from the process.
  • The second poster should explain the derivative project that was developed as an iteration of the originating project mentioned above, responding to the specifics of this competition brief and the building lobby at 290 Congress Street. The derivative project should further expand upon the knowledge base gained from the originating project while showcasing what was gained from the prior efforts.

The project statement should discuss the relevancy of the ideas being explored by the projects presented in the poster, clarifying their value to the design team and/or architectural profession, along with supporting the value of further exploration via the derivative project. The document should be written in a clear and concise manner, being no longer than 500 words. Portions of the statement can be included in the project poster(s), but the statement should be able to stand as a complete document.

Individual project files should be high-resolution copies of any images used in the submission, and will be made available to the jury member alongside the project posters as part of the jury process.

The submission website will close at 12am (midnight) PST on February 15, 2015.