Designers rise up to the challenge by building homes using squares and squares only.

January 12 00:03 2022
Results announced for – ‘Squared Up’ – Housing Design Challenge by UNI.

Flexible Square - Winning Entry

Curves add a touch of excitement to anything static, but when it comes to functionality; straight elements are a crucial part of structures that are made anywhere. Most buildings in ancient times used right angles in resonance with stable structures and were the only possible approach with the technology available back then. Right angles have been attributed to efficiency in every aspect of our planet and this universe, right from laws of physics to human skeletal structures.

With times and technology shifting to curves as an aesthetic (Eg. Parametric Architecture), the power of rectilinear forms is overlooked with attribution to budget and mundaneness. What if squares are all we had? What if the only option to deliver a concept space for you was only rectilinear?

The exercise was focused on getting back to the basics, what if – all we had a single shape to design our buildings on? What if this shape’s positives and negatives were balanced out to make things work spatially and architecturally?

The challenge here was to construct every element of a house to just one shape, a Square. How would one as a designer interpret the qualities of the form in the physical realm of geometries translated into real forms? How would the shape limitations help one shape a new experience through this form of limitation? 

Squares as an element in a parametric design - An example seen in BIG’s serpentine pavilion

The competition was to design a villa that is all squares right from the furniture to windows. The square shape could be embodied at least in 2D to carve out the architectural concept. The forms necessarily did not require to be cubic and could take liberty in locking only two-dimensional square embodiment. 

The minimum requirements for the house were- three bedrooms, one kitchen and dining space, one living area, and a swimming pool. The site for this project was located in the Encino precinct of Los Angeles, CA. The jury for the competition consisted of esteemed designers, professionals, and academicians from around the world.

The Lead Jurors for the competitions were as follows: 

Eric Logan, Principal, CLB Architects, United States

Tolya Stonorov & Otto Stonorov, Principals, STONOROV WORKSHOP, United States

Juan Saez Pedraja, Principal, Saez Pedraja, United States

Robert M. Gurney, Owner / Principal, Robert Gurney Architect, United States

Some of the best entries are:

Winning Project: Flexible Square

By: Genc Blakaj      

Description: During our lives, we experience many changes, so it is often necessary that the spaces we use also change. The house is one of those spaces that we usually buy/build once in a lifetime and use it forever, but due to the fact that the family changes over the years, modular houses which are flexible depending on our requirements are very necessary nowadays.

Editor’s Choice: The Ascent

By: Jeffery Li

Description: The Ascent is a modernistic cubicle-style three-story house with a semi-basement garage and a swimming pool. The concept behind the Ascent is its connectivity to its surroundings and nature. Given that the site overlooks the city, the building consists of curtain walls expanding from slab to glass to provide the user a clear full view of the scenery.

Editor’s Choice: Squared Up

By: Vikram Ghattora

Description: The brief of the competition was what if – all we had a single shape to design our buildings on? What if this shape’s positives and negatives were balanced out to make things work spatially and architecturally? The challenge here would be constructing every element of a house to just one shape, a Square.

Editor’s Choice: SQUANGLE

By: Marta Kloch

Description: SQUANGLE is the project of Willa, which is based on the creation of living space by squares. One of the main assumptions is to create a comfortable space for a family, which fully uses the existing resources of the landscape and nature. Future inhabitants of SQUANGLE is a family of five persons which consist of father, mother, and 3 children.

Squared Up is a competition hosted on is a global network of architects and designers who are solving some of the most challenging problems around the globe. UNI brings together world’s largest pool of design challenges that are curated by the finest architecture academicians and professionals globally. With over 200,000+ registered members, UNI brings academia and professional spheres of architecture together through a unique knowledge-sharing web platform. Since 2017, UNI has hosted more than 200+ architecture competitions for various idea level to realization level briefs. In past, UNI has helped 50+ organizations, universities, and government bodies to use our platform to generate architecture and design solutions through competitions. UNI aims to create a seamless information exchange within the architecture industry with this one-of-a-kind community. It foresees a future where architects and consumers are getting real-world design deployed over the internet through sophisticated software and applications from anywhere in the world.

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