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About the EFL Design Challenge 2021: Affordable Community Design in Smart City Kalasatama

In collaboration with partners Living in Metropolises (LiM) and Village Co-Living, The European Federation for Living (EFL) is giving student teams around Europe the chance to design a concept for a real co-living community and a real site near the centre of Helsinki, Finland. 

We are looking for interdisciplinary, co-creative student teams who want to push the limits of creativity and bring forth new ideas for sustainable urban communities. 

Mini Competition Brief

The year 2020, notably the COVID-19 pandemic, brought challenges that are already provoking new thinking about how urban communities live, work, and congregate. 

We invite designs that speak to our current and future challenges. We want to see:

  • Dwellings that can accommodate diverse types of households across their life cycles, while supporting their well-being, privacy, and social and economic inclusion. 
  • Community facilities that will help residents help each other, and buildings that will complement and improve the surrounding neighbourhood.
  • Design that addresses the urgent need to mitigate climate change, and to adapt our built environments to its impacts.
  • Design that incorporates sharing, learning, working, co-living, and other support scenarios, as and where needed.

Teams will not only design a building – the hardware – but also envision local networks, services, and value streams – the software and the blockchains – that will support affordable community living on and around the site. 

To meet this multifaceted challenge, we encourage teams to include interdisciplinary expertise where possible, and to think across disciplinary boundaries within their design process.

The chosen concept will form the basis for a real-life development on the actual site that will be inhabited by a real co-living community.

Why participate?

This competition offers you a unique chance to explore opportunities for smarter, healthier, greener, and more digitally connected patterns of living, and build them into people-centred designs. 

In addition, you will get the opportunity to:

  • Design for a real-life project in Helsinki, Finland
  • Win a (monetary) prize!
  • Gain experience and recognition for your CV and/or portfolio
  • Explore your creative side outside your academic studies 
  • Develop your team-working and design-thinking skills

Practical Information

Opening: 15 October 2020

Closing registration: 21 May 2021

Closing submission: 21 June 2021


  • City of Helsinki
  • The Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA)
  • LiM & Village CO-LIVING
  • London South Bank University LSBU
  • TU Tampere
  • GloBLD


  • ARA
  • EFL

    Participant eligibility criteria:

    • Teams should be university-based and student-led. However, they may include professionals, such as those working at start-ups.
    • Teams must consist of one or more current students of architecture, urban design, urban planning and related disciplines.
    • Teams must have the architectural design skills to create a plan to scale, but interdisciplinary teams with varied subject/life backgrounds are welcome.
    • The team leader must be a student.

    To note:

    • There is no age limit to participation, as long as a minimum of 2 team members are actively students at the time of the competition.
    • Teams should be able and willing to commit the necessary time to participate in the competition.
    • Competition entries may be supervised in teaching contexts at the student’s universities or other places of study.
    • Please note : inquiries to EFL from student teams must be made via a university email and state the university affiliation (enquiries not meeting these criteria will not be answered).

    The Site

    The site lies in the middle of Helsinki, in the Kalasatama neighbourhood, 6 minutes from the city centre. It is located by the sea with 6 km of seaside promenade, parks, playgrounds, and sports fields, and is equipped with AAL and smart technologies, such as innovative waste and urban-level energy management.

    Kalasatama is a 175-hectare city wherein a total of 1.200.000 m2 residential and 400.000 m2 commercial spaces have been planned. By 2030, living spaces for 25.000 residents and 10.000 jobs are to be provided.

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    The chosen concept will form the basis for a real-life development on the actual site.

    Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not yet clear how the shortlisted competition entries will be showcased and awarded. Shortlisted entries may be displayed as part of the International Social Housing Festival in Helsinki, June 2022. 


    Jury: The Jury will be chaired by Anni Sinnemäki, Deputy Mayor for Urban Environment, City of Helsinki, and a preparatory committee will be selected from amongst its members.


    EFL will award the following prizes:

    • 1st prize €4000 
    • 2nd prize €2000 
    • Innovative thinking award €500
    • Undergraduate award €500

    Tools and Resources


    • During the competition, student teams will have use of EFL member GloBLD’s innovative Arch-Data platform for collaborative spatial projects, which will enable them to explore the site and the city virtually.



    All of the competition resources can be accessed here, including:

    • A full competition brief
    • Site maps
    • Technical information about the site
    • Information about Village Co-Living
    • Information about Kalasatama.

    Contact Information:

    If you have any queries, please consult the competition brief document. If you have remaining questions after doing this, please get in touch with us at info@ef-l.eu

    For press enquiries, please contact lmaxwell@ef-l.eu.

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