Mobile Architecture


Mankind’s first venture into architecture thousands of years ago wasn’t exactly high-rise buildings or incredibly ornate structures. The very first structures that mankind constructed were portable, allowing them to be built, dismantled and rebuilt as they moved from one location to another as the seasons changed.

This form of nomadic architecture still influences design to this day, often falling into one of several categories, two of which we have incorporated into our past and current architecture competitions: mobile structures for events or exhibitions; and mobile/temporary shelter in extreme conditions, such as remote environments (e.g. the Himalayas) or in the aftermath of natural disasters.


Exhibitions and entertainment

Mobile architecture is vital in order to support traveling/temporary exhibitions; they usually need to be demountable, and portable temporary structures that don’t need to conform to the style and restrictions of permanent structures in the area. As such they are an opportunity for exciting architectural experimentation which can be used to make a statement, grab attention or even prototype the design for regular use.

Designs for mobile architecture need not always be complex and extravagant. Beijing-based designers People’s Architecture Office created a simple ‘people’s canopy’ which can be thought of as architecture for events and architecture as an event itself. The people's canopy is set on bicycle wheels so that it can be stretched, resized, and then cycled by citizens around the city. When parked, it can be opened like an accordion to 12-meters in length at a span of ten meters, thus turning unused areas into ones for pedestrians and events.

New York-based architect John Locke looked to make a dynamic and informational addition to the New York City landscape with his ‘Inflato Dumpster.’ The portable unit’s interior was to be fitted with a table for discussion and conversation, allowing city dwellers an alternative access to a temporary learning space, as public spaces in the city become increasingly privatised.


Image source: ark-nova.com

The Ark Nova project was created in response to the devastating earthquake and catastrophic tsunami that took place in March 2011 in Japan. The mobile concert hall was designed to be easily transported to various locations within the devastated area with the intention of bringing hope and promise to those struggling to deal with the after effects of the earthquake. Designed by Indian born UK-based artist Anish Kapoor and Japanese architect Arata Isozaki as an initiative of the Lucerne Festival, the Ark Nova has operated for three years in a row, showing the endurability of what a unique project and inspired idea can achieve.

[Create your own ideas for a mobile exhibition in our Charlie Hebdo Portable Pavilion architecture competition.]


Extreme locations and situations

Creating intricate or expansive structures in extreme conditions is all but impossible, with serious limitations on resources, access and stable foundations. Therefore mobile architecture becomes increasingly important for those working or traveling in extreme locations. Our Himalayan Mountain Hut competition - created in conjunction with the Nepal government and local charity SMARTH - was run with the intention of making the Himalayan mountains more accessible to tourists and boost the country’s economy.

Soon after this competition Nepal faced a series of devastating earthquakes which left thousands homeless and many stranded in the mountains. Mobile architecture like the designs created by the Facultad de Arquitectura looked to support communities in the wake of such natural disasters such as this. They created the ‘deployable emergency module,’ a housing structure that was responsive to the characteristics of its environment, yet was also modular and transportable. The self-supporting structure achieved this thanks to its radial distribution that restricts movement. The module is composed of a PVC circular base with an aluminum framework attached and unfolded to turn into a dome-like unit. The second layer was made of thermal insulation foil to protect the whole structure against extreme weather.

However, mobile architecture is often used to support communities in situations where weather conditions are not the main concern. ‘Weaving a home’ by Jordanian/Canadian designer Abeer Seikaly proposed a disaster shelter for refugees based on temporary huts of nomadic tribes. The use of structural fabric references ancient traditions of joining linear fibers to make complex three-dimensional shapes. The structure was simple to erect and could be scaled according to various functions. While ‘Weaving a home’ did provide shelter from the elements, it’s main purpose was to help people weave their lives back together as they construct the mobile pieces into a home.

The exploration of the idea of a sanctuary in the city led London designer Natasha Reid to weave art and architecture into the socially engaging project. Reid’s ‘Embassy for refugees’ consisted of two modular pavilions constructed as part of ‘refugee week’ in the UK. Constructed on London’s South Bank in June 2013, the design was developed through art workshops with children to create the cocoon-like structures that were constructed from over 700 machine-cut timber pieces.


The ‘Embassy for refugees’ looked to combine the worlds of design, art and engineering with those of performance and human rights advocacy. A concept we look to emulate in our Charlie Hebdo Portable Pavilion, and integrate fantastic mobile architectural design with an important social message.

Open architecture competitions

  • Closest Deadline first
  • Project competitions first
    Selected winning projects have the potential to be constructed
  • Ideas competitions first
    Experimental competitions with the focus on pushing the boundaries of creativity
ideas COMPETITION
The Last Nuclear Bomb Memorial

Design a memorial that speaks to the cause of ending all nuclear weapons programs

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 15
Jan 27
Apr 21
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ideas COMPETITION
Toronto Affordable Housing Challenge

Design affordable housing solutions for Toronto

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 16
Jan 28
Apr 22
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project COMPETITION
Omuli Museum of the Horse

Reimagine a historical primary school into a museum for horses

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 14
Jan 26
Apr 23
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ideas COMPETITION
SKYHIVE 2021 Skyscraper Challenge

Fourth annual competition to redefine the modern-day skyscraper

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 17
Jan 29
Apr 23
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project COMPETITION
Sleeping Pods on a Cliff

Design a series of sleeping pods for a Portugal yoga retreat

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 18
Feb 01
Apr 27
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project COMPETITION
Tiny Kiwi Meditation Cabin

Design a meditation space in New Zealand

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 21
Feb 02
Apr 28
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project COMPETITION
Spirala Community Home

Create a community home for the Spirala Ecological Village

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 22
Feb 03
Apr 29
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ideas COMPETITION
Berlin Techno Booth

Bring back techno music to the streets of Berlin by designing individual dance booths

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Mar 23
Apr 20
Jul 06
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ideas COMPETITION
Modular Home Design Challenge 2021

Design a modular dream home

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Mar 24
Apr 21
Jul 07
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essay COMPETITION
Essay: Modular Architecture

How modular design has impacted architecture?

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Mar 25
Apr 22
Jul 08
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ideas COMPETITION
Hospice - Home for Terminally Ill

Design a safe and supportive space for those struggling with a terminal illness

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Mar 30
Apr 27
Jul 13
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project COMPETITION
Romantic Cabin For Two

Design a romantic and secluded cabin for two in New Zealand

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Mar 31
Apr 28
Jul 14
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ideas COMPETITION
MICROHOME 2021 - Small living, huge impact!

Design a new concept of small-scale architecture

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN MAGAZINE
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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May 11
Sep 07
Nov 02
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project COMPETITION
Legendary Bird Home 2021

Design a bird home to fund wildlife charities

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PRODUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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May 11
Sep 07
Nov 02
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ARCHITECTURE COMPETITIONS

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