how cool is your stool?

City of Urban Robotz. Jimenez Lai (2009)         

Photos by Thomas Kubick

BREIF: (Please note this competition is closed)

“HOW COOL IS YOUR STOOL: RESHAPING THE CITY competition is taking place in the context of American cities under extremely severe aesthetic predicaments. Following the recent events in North Africa, we want to revisit Le Corbusier’s question: Architecture or Revolution? Architecture carves an irreversible first impression on the culture of cities; we can no longer endure the way that banality of our skylines misrepresents the spirit of our times. This competition is proposed in conjunction with TEDx25thWard in Chicago under the same title, Architecture or Revolution? We are rewarding the 25 winners based on how cool their stools are – the winners will construct their designs, exhibit the work with the speakers, and sit on it during the event. They will be laid out like Koolhaas’ City of Captive Globe in the first rows of the audience.


The Cool Stools are scaled models of architectural massing. They can be thought of as figural beings with personalities. In other words, this re-shaped “city” will be a collection of archi-characters.

The challenge is to make the cool stools sturdy enough to sit on during the TEDx25thWard event. How does one tell a story with one image? The difficulty of this project is calibrating complexity of thought into one single massing. As well, in keeping with the world-class quality that TED and TEDx upkeeps, we are looking for the caliber of work that can make history with us in Architecture or Revolution.


1. The Cool Stool must be designed within an 18”Wx18”Lx20”H volume.

2. Must be an impressionable archi-character, icon or a legible figure at one glance. The design should refrain from simplistic 2-D extrusion of any kind. It is suggested that it be a project that can be easily nicknamed – “the Sphinx”, “the Inverted Wedding Cake”, “the Duck”, “the Contortionist”, etc.  Generic boxes or conventional stools will not be considered.

3. Although massing is the desired effect, contestants are allowed to use color for the façade. The surface treatment should not overpower the form/posture of the archi-character. Please remember to keep the part-to-whole relationship in mind.

4. Though cool, the entry should still function as a stool. This project demands the designers to design something formally challenging and structurally sound.

5. Contestants are expected to manage their own budget, schedule and constructability. The competition will assist up to $50 per winning entry to be reimbursed with valid receipts.


“Professional” amateurs are invited to enter. In other words, students and professionals in the discipline of art, architecture and design are encouraged to participate. “Professional” professionals  are those individuals with 5 years of professional experience or more. If you fit this definition and wish to attend the conference, please seek to do so through the general audience application found on the TEDx25thWard website ( Work of poor quality that appears to be from the hands of amateurs will be disqualified. Students on summer holidays are especially encouraged to participate.

This competition is limited to individual entry only. No group entries allowed. Individuals may make multiple entries, but should refrain from producing works that are too self-similar.”

PROJECT TEAM: Bryn Namavari, Tom Veed, Jimenez Lai, Tracey Swanson, Lucy Askew, Lalima Chemjong
JURY:  Jimenez Lai, Thom Moran, Andrew Kovacs, Grant Gibson, Sean Lally, Ania Jaworska, Bryn E Namavari