SHIFT2021 Challenge Invites OAA Members to Think About RESILIENCY and Positive Change

Jury Announced for Awards Program, Carrying a January 18 Deadline

TORONTO, ON – This year has asked us all to be resilient. The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has tested our resilience as individuals, as professionals, as families, and as community members. As we confront these and other pressing global challenges, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) invites its membership community to harness its architectural-thinking powers and respond creatively to this critical concept—resiliency—for the biennial SHIFT Challenge.

The OAA is calling on all its members—Architects (practicing, non-practising, retired), Intern Architects, Student Associates, and Licensed Technologists OAA—to push the limits of what’s possible and demonstrate how the architecture profession is uniquely positioned to inspire positive social change. Members are asked to explore the intersection of architecture and resiliency—be it physical, economic, environmental, cultural, social, virtual, or spiritual. 

Whether in a literal sense or in a figurative one, the concept of resiliency involves flexibility, inherent strength, and elasticity. It is a quality in objects to hold or recover their shape; it is an ability in people to face challenges or rebound from difficulty. The goal is to propose innovative, yet practical and feasible ideas that advance architectural thinking at scales from small spaces to entire ecosystems.

Project ideas must be submitted by Monday, January 18, 2021, and include written, visual, and video components showcasing how architectural thinking can advance insight and innovation. While submissions are welcome from teams of varied skills and professional backgrounds, the team leader must have status with the OAA. 

The SHIFT Challenge is a juried program, with a diverse group of experts both within and alongside the architecture profession. The OAA is thrilled to welcome a new panel of jurors for the 2021 challenge, including:

  • Building science expert, researcher, and lecturer, Aylin Ozkan, whose design approach and research interests include energy efficiency, passive systems, and early design stages in architectural practice, with a specialization in thermally autonomous and resilient building design.
  • Engineer, lecturer, and principal at Blackwell, David Bowick, whose inventive approach to design has earned him accolades and awards, and made him a highly sought expert in the industry. Bowick is a frequent guest speaker on the topics of architecture and engineering, and contributes to the industry through committees, events, and written publications. 
  • Placemaker, author, and urban planning lecturer, Jay Pitter, whose award-winning practice mitigates growing divides in cities across North America. Pitter spearheads institutional city-building projects specializing in public space design and policy, forgotten densities, mobility equity, gender-responsive design, inclusive public engagement, and the healing of fraught sites. 
  • Intern Architect Sophie Mackey, whose project, Immigrant Landscapes: Architecture in the Age of Migration, was a SHIFT2019 selection. It explores how the City of Greater Sudbury can better accommodate new immigrants by centralizing many of the services critical to this population demographic.
  • Professor, researcher, and engineer Ted Kesik, whose research interests include resilience, sustainability, durability, high-performance buildings, life cycle assessment, and building performance simulation, with a current focus on the development of design guidelines for low-carbon buildings. 

These jurors will be joined by our facilitator, architect Toon Dreessen—an OAA past-president and the recipient of this year’s Order of da Vinci, which recognizes exceptional leadership in the profession, education, and community. Together, they will evaluate submissions against five key criteria:

  • Innovation: Does the project defy convention and push thinking forward in a creative and original fashion? 
  • Social Responsibility: Does the project promote values of social responsibility, human rights, and sustainability? 
  • Inspiration: Does the project spark new ideas and capture the public imagination, taking into consideration the quality of its visual materials and public-facing communication? 
  • Inclusivity: Does the project promote a spirit of inclusiveness, situating architects as master collaborators? 
  • Holistic Approach: Does the project represent a programmatic solution that goes beyond the built form, taking into consideration economic, sociological, and ecological factors as well?  

The jury will convene virtually in February to choose their top selections, which will be announced prior to the OAA’s digital Conference events in the spring. The OAA is also exploring opportunities to share the SHIFT2021 ideas next year while respecting physical distancing recommendations.

In its inaugural year, SHIFT2019 drew many imaginative and cutting-edge submissions. The 2019 theme—infrastructure—motivated ideas like railway corridors transformed into cycling paths and linear parks, buildings as self-sufficient energy nodes, and community-supported modular libraries. The seven 2019 selections and four honourable mentions formed the basis for broader conversations promoted by the OAA, including a book publication, media outreach, and events in Toronto and Quebec City. The OAA is excited to see what new ideas come forward in 2021.

To learn more about previous participants or find out how to participate in the SHIFT2021 Resiliency Architecture Challenge, please visit, email, or check out our YouTube channel for interviews with past participants. 

Further Information

OAA President Kathleen Kurtin, and other representatives of OAA Council, may be available for phone or email interviews. Additional information and high-resolution photos may also be available. Please contact:

Media Contact
Erik Missio, OAA Communications Manager
416-449-6898, ext. 241

About the Ontario Association of Architects

The Ontario Association of Architects is a self-regulating organization under the Architects Act, a statute of the Government of Ontario. It is dedicated to promoting and increasing the knowledge, skill, and proficiency of its members, and administering the Act, in order that the public interest may be served and protected. This year, its Council set three priorities: climate stability, membership engagement, and a comprehensive approach to education for both the public and the profession. All these priorities are viewed through a lens of equity, diversity, and inclusivity. For more information, visit

About the SHIFT Challenge

The SHIFT Architecture Challenge is an aspirational, biennial Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) program created to highlight the distinct contribution architects and architectural thinking bring to addressing key societal issues. It invites Ontario architects, interns, architecture students, and their collaborative teams to respond to an identified area of concern using their skills and insights. The program runs biennially, having begun with the SHIFT 2019 Infrastructure/Architecture Challenge. For more information, visit