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HOK’s Philadelphia Office Announces Winners of 2018 Futures Design Challenge

The winners are in for the second-annual HOK Futures Design Challenge. The competition challenged Philadelphia-area undergraduate and graduate students to design a solution for the abandoned Broad Street Pier in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, a dynamic urban waterfront development with a mixture of new development and historic buildings.

Interior design students were asked to create plans for a 12,000-sq.-ft. transportation hub linking the Navy Yard to other Philadelphia and New Jersey destinations. The diverse program required the interiors teams to design public areas including a café and experience center as well as office space to support new water taxi operations on the pier.

Architecture teams were asked to design a civic destination on the Broad Street Pier that would serve as a new landmark for the waterfront development. The program included a proposed Navy Yard history museum with a welcome center, exhibition space, food and dining areas, and an outdoor public park.

Drexel University graduate students Natala Covert and Xiao Long submitted the winning interior design entry, “Ilexenci.” Jurors lauded the design’s “cohesive solution that extended all the way down to lighting and furniture detail” and demonstrated “an outstanding color palette and thoughtful research.” Covert and Long also won a $6,500 cash prize and an opportunity to intern in HOK’s Philadelphia studio.

University of Pennsylvania graduate students John Dai and Xiangyu Chen  created the winning architecture entry, “River Gate.” Their first-place award included a $6,500 cash prize and the opportunity to participate in a paid internship in HOK’s Philadelphia office. Jurors praised Dai and Chen’s design for its “strong site analysis and thoughtful building design that responded to the physical, historical and future context of the site.” Jurors also noted the contemporary, yet formal, massing and strong unifying theme that related to its context.

The jury for the interior design competition included Lila Allen, managing editor at Metropolis magazine; Mark Strauss, strategic advisor at IWBI/ WELL; and Richard Mark, owner and design principal of Richard Mark Design.

Jurors for the architecture competition included Brad Fiske, artist and former design principal of KlingStubbins and Cesar Pelli and Associates; Sarah Weidner Astheimer, principal at James Corner Field Operations; and Alex Smith, city planner and urban designer for the City of Philadelphia.

“I was so impressed with all of the teams. The fact that they were able to respond to the program and create such thoughtful, well-rounded responses in two weeks’ time—while being in school—says a lot about the talent coming out of local schools,” said juror Lila Allen.

The Futures Design Challenge was open to teams from eight Philadelphia-area universities: the Art Institute of Philadelphia, Drexel University, Harcum College, Moore College of Art & Design, Penn State University, Jefferson University, Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania.

At an awards ceremony held Feb. 20 at HOK’s Philadelphia office, jurors handed out prizes to both first-place teams as well as to second-place and third-place teams in the architecture and interiors categories. Second-place teams took home $4,500; third-place teams earned $2,500.

Interior Design Finalists

  • First Place: “Ilexenci” by Natala Covert and Xiao Long from Drexel University
  • Second Place: “Urban Pier” by Autumn Stuart and Daniela Cintron from Jefferson University
  • Third Place: “Crystal’ine” by Neha Basavaraj and Jasmine Jia from Drexel University

Architecture Finalists

  • First Place: “River Gate” by John Dai and Xiangyu Chen from University of Pennsylvania
  • Second Place: “A Fantastical Fiction of the Lighthouse’s Furnace” by Patrick Danahy and Caleb Ehly from the University of Pennsylvania
  • Third Place: “Non-End” by Yefan Zhang and Yi Zhang from the University of Pennsylvania


The Futures Design Challenge could not have happened without the generous support of its generous sponsors, including McGrory Glass (event partner), Hunter Douglas, Haworth, Mohawk Carpet, Interface, Teknion, Milliken, Diversified Lighting, Skanska, Coalesse/Steelcase/Designtex, Knoll/CFI, Atlas, Donia, Duet Design Partnership, Humanscale, Metalwërks, Tutor Perini, Tandus Centiva, Intech, Mannington Commercial, Armstrong and Construction Specialties IWP.

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