Competition Update 11/13/18

November 13, 2018

Hello Wikitopians 🙂

It’s taken so much more time than we’d expected, but now we have English-language descriptions for all of the Phase 1 entries. Please visit the gallery page on our website if you haven’t already — it’s truly a thrilling sight, so many innovative ideas regarding the future of urbanism, all in one place.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you’ll find a list of award winners along with comments from the jury members. In the end the jury chose 1 winner, 3 finalists, and 6 honorable mentions in total. Massive respect to you all for your fantastic work! We’ll be contacting you shortly regarding payment of the prize money.

For those of you who didn’t win awards this time, please do not feel discouraged — as I mentioned in my previous entry, there’s a paradoxical aspect to this entire competition, in that we’re trying to choose winners when no real criteria yet exists for doing so. The Wikitopia concept is so new, and open to so many interpretations, that each member of the jury had drastically different (and often competing!) ideas about which entries were deserving of awards; in the end they did reach an agreement, but barely. We’re extremely grateful for your time and effort, and each and every one of the entries is an important contribution to our research agenda. We’re hoping that this research project will eventually lead to something big and wonderful, and if it does someday, it’ll all be because of you for helping us out in our fledgling, early days.

This was my first time organizing a competition, and while we strived to do the best we could, I have to admit that we made some blunders in the process 🙁 Most importantly, there was some miscommunication between us (the organizing team), the Japan-based jury, and the US-based jury — and as a result, the final list of winners reflects the opinions of the Japanese jury much more than those of the US jury. We can’t say for sure, but perhaps that played a role in how the winner, and two of the three finalists, were all Japanese-language submissions. In any case I sincerely apologize for the blunders, and we’ll make sure not to make the same mistakes again in the Phase 2 Competition.

Regarding Phase 2, actually the submission system has been open for more than a week now, but I assume it would have been difficult for you to seriously begin formulating ideas until now — as some of you had mentioned to us via email, there are some ambiguities regarding the rules that require clarification.

As discussed in my previous entry, the Phase 2 Competition differs from Phase 1 in three important ways. Here we’d like to provide additional info regarding each of these.

The first difference is the site. This time the site is limited to Ginza Sony Park, or areas in its close vicinity. (By close vicinity, we’re basically thinking short walking distance.) We have simple plan drawings of Ginza Sony Park, but unfortunately we don’t have permission to just put it up on our website for anybody to download — it’s a bit cumbersome, but on our website we have a special page where you can send us requests for the drawings, if you enter your name and email here we’ll get back to you with a download link.

We only have plan drawings for the ground floor of Sony Park, but in reality Sony Park is a multi-story facility with four (!!) underground floors. Of course, you can choose any of these as the site as well. However, since we don’t have the plans for these underground floors, you’ll have to rely on photos and other information that you might be able to find on the official website, social media, news articles, etc. (Just a note — please respect copyright when preparing your entry!)

Along with the site change comes a very exciting opportunity; some entries for the Phase 2 Competition will be considered for actual deployment on site! However, as I had mentioned in my previous entry, please do not think of this as a request to only submit immediately deployable ideas. What we’ll be doing is that the Sony Park team will first choose several entries that pique their interest (the Sony Park team will operate independently of the jury, so these may or may not be award-winning entries), and then we’ll try to turn these ideas into something more workable through a three-way collaboration between the Wikitopia Project, the Sony Park team, and the entrants who had submitted the original ideas.

The second difference is that Phase 2 submissions must be conceived by “building on, or combining” any of the 107 Phase 1 entries showcased on our gallery page. We received several emails asking us to clarify what exactly we mean by this.

Perhaps our wording may have given the impression that we are looking only for incremental improvements to Phase 1 entries. For example, there’s an entry titled “Plants for Ginza” submitted to Phase 1, that describes a network of sensor-embedded planters that are distributed throughout the city, and can be used by anyone to grow their own crops. Perhaps you might be tempted to build on this idea by adding further details about what the sensor-embedded planters may actually look like.

Certainly that’s one way to “build on” an idea, but not the only way — to give another example, there’s an entry titled “nameless streets“, which involves giving new names to any of the “nameless” streets in Ginza (this might be surprising to people outside of this country, but in Japan only a small subset of streets have their own names) through online voting by citizens. Perhaps this entry might inspire you to come up with another naming app, that doesn’t focus on streets but something else in the city; so in this case, your new app is merely influenced, or inspired by a previous entry, and that is ok as well.

So there’s a lot of latitude with regards to how you can formulate your Phase 2 entries. They can merely take hints from any of the Phase 1 entries, or strictly take the form of a version 1.1 of a particular entry. (Choosing one over the other won’t increase your chances of winning!) The bare minimum requirement is that you can draw some kind of connection between your new idea, and one or more of the Phase 1 entries. In any case, we’d like you to clarify — both in your PDF file and on the submission form — which one of the Phase 1 entries have contributed to your idea.

A final caveat here is copyright. In this competition, all copyright regarding the entries belongs to the entrants (you!), which poses a bit of a problem. So although we ask you to “build on” existing entries, to prevent copyright infringement, we have to ask you not to directly copy any elements contained in the Phase 1 sheets. (An exception here is if you’re building on your own idea — in that case anything is fair game, since you retain all the rights.)

We know this is all very complicated; if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by email.

The third difference is in the winner selection process. The Phase 2 Competition will feature two top prizes: a winner selected by the jury just like the Phase 1 Competition, and also a “Wikitopia Prize” winner that’s selected through an online system where all Phase 1 & Phase 2 entrants are invited to take part in democratic decision making. At this point we’re not yet ready to disclose any more details about this online system, but one thing we can say is that we expect the results to be quite different from the jury’s decisions — or maybe we’re wrong and the same entry will win both top prizes, in which case we’ll just shake our heads in awe and send the winner a check for 1 million yen (and maybe a special trophy too).

I hope this clears up some of the confusion regarding the Phase 2 Competition. Due to the increased complexity of the rules we’re naturally expecting to receive fewer submissions compared to Phase 1 — meaning that there’ll be higher chances of winning the top prize! As I’ve been saying repeatedly, each and every submission constitutes an important contribution to our research project, so I sincerely hope that the complexity of the rules (and also the fact that there’s not much time left before the December 28 deadline) do not deter you from taking part.

Lastly, from November 25 to 28 we’ll be holding an exhibition showcasing all Phase 1 Competition entries, at the Nomura Conference Plaza Nihonbashi in central Tokyo. In the evening of the 26th, there’ll be a special event featuring short talks by several of the Phase 1 winners, and also a presentation by our special guest, Mr. Dan Hill of Arup Digital Studio. Attendance is free, so please come by if you’re in the city around that time!

Ok so that wraps up our update — we’ll be looking forward to seeing all your great submissions!


YUICHIRO TAKEUCHI is a Toronto-born, Tokyo-based computer scientist whose work explores the intersection of digital technology and architecture / urban design. Currently he works as a researcher at Sony Computer Science Laboratories Kyoto, and also directs the nonprofit Wikitopia Institute. He holds a PhD in Informatics from The University of Tokyo, and an MDes from Harvard Graduate School of Design.