Due to recent developments related to COVID-19, we are making changes to the Urban Design Challenge schedule that will help to ensure that the competition can proceed in a safe and fair manner.

Changes to schedule (until further notice)

December 12, 2019Competition launches
February 14, 2020Last day for registration
February 28, 2020Last day to send questions
May 1, 2020Submissions due
To be confirmedJury consideration
To be confirmedWinners will be contacted
June 1, 2020Winners will be publicly announced

To be confirmed

Awards presentation


Urban Design Challenge 2020 is a competition that invites students from across the country to come up with design concepts for important sites in Canada’s Capital Region. The competition is organized by the National Capital Commission (NCC), the federal Crown corporation dedicated to ensuring that Canada’s Capital is a dynamic and inspiring source of pride for all Canadians, and building a legacy for generations to come.


The NCC is challenging students to propose innovative planning and design ideas for two important destinations in the Capital Region.

  • SITE 1: The Sussex Courtyards (Ottawa, Ontario) 
  • SITE 2: The Gatineau Park Visitor Centre (Chelsea, Quebec)

Participants in the Urban Design Challenge are required to focus their ideas on one of the two sites.

Refer to the design brief for additional information about the two subject sites.

Jury and Evaluation Criteria #

A jury of interdisciplinary planning, design and site management professionals will review the submissions and select competition winners. A winning submission will provide bold design concepts that consider the following:

  • site context
  • leading sustainability elements
  • environmental and ecological features
  • public access
  • four-season use
  • tourism and recreational opportunities
  • current master plans and policies.


There will be one winning project for each site. The first-place award for each site is $750.

The two winning projects will be announced on June 1, 2020.

(The jury may determine runners-up and honourable mention awards as well. There are no monetary prizes associated with these awards.)

The winning teams will be invited to present their ideas at a special awards presentation session of the NCC’s Urbanism Lab in the fall of 2020. Travel and accommodation expenses for the two winning teams will be covered (see details that follow under Terms of Reference, Eligibility, to learn about the rules).


Thanks to VIA Rail, winning teams will present their ideas in Ottawa in the fall of 2020.

VIA Rail is the official transportation service provider for this year’s Student Ideas Competition for Canada’s Capital.

Terms of reference

The competition is open to any students who are currently enrolled in a design-focused program at an accredited educational institution in Canada. The maximum number of participants per team is three.

The NCC encourages students to form interdisciplinary teams. Proposals should consider aspects of urban planning, site design, architecture and landscape design. A diverse team of complementary skills is likely to result in a more successful submission.

For complete rules and regulations, click here.

There is no registration fee to participate in the Urban Design Challenge. However, participants are required to register and to receive a team number in order to ensure that the submissions remain anonymous throughout the evaluation process. One registration is required per project submitted.

Participants may register on the competition website: ncc-ccn.gc.ca/2020-challenge. By registering, participants agree to all competition terms and conditions. Registration will remain open until February 14, 2020.


1. Is there a budget that our proposals should work within? If there is not an exact budget, should the project be idealistic or realistic?

There is no specific budget. Plans should definitely be aspirational, but keep in mind that proposals should be feasible.

2. If there is interest in some small to medium-sized infrastructure, what level of detail would be best for architectural elements?

We are interested in infrastructure that reflects the objectives of the various plans that are relevant to your chosen site. Regarding level of detail, we want conceptual drawings, not construction drawings, for architectural elements. You may provide information in plan, elevations, sections and pedestrian eye-level views.

3. Are we allowed to change our site selection?

Each team can make 1 change to their site selection before February 28, 2020. You must inform the NCC of any change by emailing stanley.leinwand@ncc-ccn.ca or gregory.kerr@ncc-ccn.ca. After that date, no changes are permitted.

4. Is there a preferred citation style (e.g. APA) for any references used in our 500-word description? How should we cite existing products or services that we might want to use in our design?

There is no preferred citation style. That being said, we ask that teams be consistent and use a single citation style throughout.

5. It seems like all the files provided are AutoCAD files and do not have any spatial reference. Do you have any other files that we can use that would fix this issue?

The data should all be in NAD 83 MTM Zone 9. If you encounter any issues, please email us.

6. Do you have any data on hydrology, slope, typology or species at risk?

All available GIS data is in the OneDrive file. We do not have any mapping of the sewers beneath the two sites. The best documents to consult regarding species at risk are the official plans that pertain to the study area.

7. Are there 3-D models of the sites?

We don’t have any compiled 3-D models for these sites.

Gatineau Park

1. Can the proposal for the site extend beyond the study area?

No, the original boundaries defined in the site documentation need to be respected. There are reasons why the study area was selected (including, but not limited to, environment, logistics, zoning and other factors). Going outside the study area would create multiple challenges. To maintain clarity and a fair playing field for all teams, we are asking all teams to stay within the boundaries presented.

Sussex Courtyards

1. Who owns the spaces between the courtyards (e.g. streets, patios) that aren’t highlighted in the design brief? Can we design for these spaces in our proposal, too?

The municipal streets and sidewalks between the courtyards are part of the public domain. If you and your team would like your proposal to include connective strategies that use these spaces, you may include them.

2. Are we able to design the space as a blank canvas, or are there immovable elements (e.g. sculptures, existing signage, trees, lighting)?

You can design it as a blank canvas.

3. Do we have to design for all five courtyards, or are we supposed to choose one?

The challenge for the Sussex Courtyards is to look at all five of the courtyards in a holistic way — not to choose only one. Design concepts for each courtyard should be tailored to the specific needs and uses of that courtyard. However, the design must look at all of the courtyards as a unit, and how they do the following:

  • Support and enhance the unique heritage character of the area
  • Improve connections, visibility and relationship to the surrounding urban context of the ByWard Market
  • Create new public and commercial amenities that will animate the site, year-round, both during the daytime and into the evenings
  • Respect the diverse, mixed-use residential neighbourhood of the ByWard Market
  • Attract a critical mass of potential customers, and generate economic returns
  • Improve the safety, accessibility, maintenance and operating conditions of the courtyards

Questions regarding the competition will be accepted until February 28, 2020. Questions should be emailed to: stanley.leinwand@ncc-ccn.ca or gregory.kerr@ncc-ccn.ca. All emails sent should include “Student Competition 2020” in the subject line. Answers to all questions will be posted on the competition website: ncc-ccn.gc.ca/2020-challenge.

Submissions may be prepared in either of Canada’s two official languages (English and French). The deadline for competition submissions is 11:59 pm, Eastern Daylight Time, on May 1, 2020. All submissions will be made via the NCC’s FTP site; further details will be provided to participants after registration. No hard copies of materials will be accepted.

The Urban Design Challenge is an anonymous competition. No names or identifying symbols of participants shall appear on submitted material or in filenames.

Submissions should consist of the following elements:

  • Up to two 60.96-cm x 91.44-cm (24-in. x 36-in.) boards in PDF format. The filenames should include the registration number (e.g. “Board_12345”). All drawings and architectural scales should be expressed in metric.
  • A written statement not exceeding 500 words explaining the ideas. The file should be in .txt or Word format. The filename should include the registration number (e.g. “Written_12345”).
  • A document with contact information for the participating individual/team. The document should include the project title, participant name(s) and email address for primary contact. The filename should include the registration number (e.g. “ID_12345”). The sources of any third-party material incorporated in the entry must also be included.

Once you have finalized this material, please follow the steps below to upload your final submission.

1. Save all of your submission files to one folder.
2. Rename the folder so that it bears the name of your team ID.
3. Compress the folder into a .zip file.
4. Click on the following link: Urban Design Challenge Submission Page
5. Fill out the form on the web page. Ensure that you populate all of the required fields, including team leader name, team ID, email, etc.
6. Click on the “upload” button at the bottom of the page, and select the compressed folder that contains your contest submission files.

You should see a message confirming receipt of your submission. If you do not see this message, please contact us at gregory.kerr@ncc-ccn.ca.

    Each participant shall retain ownership of the copyright associated with the entries submitted.

    By submitting an entry, each participant grants the NCC a non-exclusive perpetual licence to use, reproduce, publish, modify, incorporate into other work, distribute and promote, in whole or in part, the materials submitted by the participant for any non-commercial or commercial purpose, in any format whatsoever, including print, digital publication, audio, video and all other media (whether now known or later developed), in any form, without territorial limits and without attribution.

    By submitting an entry, participants warrant that their entry is original. See the design contest rules and regulations for further information. 


    Role of the NCC

    The NCC is the federal Crown corporation dedicated to ensuring that Canada’s Capital is a dynamic and inspiring source of pride for all Canadians, and a legacy for generations to come. The NCC is responsible for the long-term planning of the national capital, and is the approval authority for federal lands and buildings. In addition to its planning and approval roles, the NCC is also the steward and manager of many important properties throughout the Capital, including historic buildings and places, public spaces, parks, squares, parkways, shorelines and green spaces.

    Capital planning

    At the apex of the Capital Planning Framework stands the Plan for Canada’s Capital, 2017–2067. This plan lays out a blueprint for the evolution of federal lands in Canada’s Capital Region over a 50-year horizon; it is the NCC’s pre-eminent planning document.

    The Capital Planning Framework also includes sector plans, which further refine the themes, goals, policies and strategies for particular geographic areas. Canada’s Capital Core Area Sector Plan guides decision making and informs future planning initiatives for the heart of the National Capital Region, and the Gatineau Park Master Plan guides the planning, management and activities permitted with the boundaries of Gatineau Park.


    Study Areas

    Site 1 : Sussex Courtyards

    The Sussex Courtyards are important public spaces within the historic ByWard Market area in downtown Ottawa.

    Site 2 : Gatineau Park Visitor Centre

    The Visitor Centre is the primary arrival and information point for park visitors, as well as the administrative and operational hub for NCC staff.

    Rules and regulations

    Urban Design Challenge 2020


    National Capital Commission. The Plan for Canada’s Capital, 2017–2067.

    National Capital Commission. Sustainable Development Strategy, 2018–2023.

    Site 1: Sussex Courtyards

    National Capital Commission website



    National Capital Commission. Canada’s Capital Core Area Sector Plan.

    National Capital Commission. Capital Illumination Plan, 2017–2027.

    City of Ottawa: GeoOttawa mapping tool.


    City of Ottawa. Official Plan.


    City of Ottawa. Zoning By-law No. 2008-250.


    City of Ottawa. Pedestrian Plan.


    City of Ottawa. ByWard Market Public Realm Plan.


    Parks Canada website, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office (FHBRO)


    Documentation Repository:

    • Project for Public Spaces for the City of Ottawa. Strengthening the Future of the ByWard Market. . In English only.
    • Commonwealth Resource Management for the National Capital Commission. Cultural Heritage Impact Statement for the Proposed Redevelopment of 7 Clarence Street, ByWard Market, Ottawa, Ontario,February 2014. In English only.
    • Michael Newton, NCC historian.Lowertown Ottawa, Volume 1 (1826–1854) and Volume 2 (1894–1900). In English only.
    • Heritage Dossier: Sussex Courtyards, Spring 2018. In English only.
    • du Toit Allsopp Hillier. Sussex Heritage Courtyards Urban Design Study , February 2004. In English only.

    Site 2: Gatineau Park Visitor Centre

    National Capital Commission website



    National Capital Commission. Gatineau Park Master Plan, 2005.

    Municipality of Chelsea. Special Planning Program and Concordance By-laws, November 2011. English version of the document provided as a courtesy. In the event of a discrepancy, the French text will prevail.


    Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation du Québec. Schéma d'aménagement et de développement d'une municipalité régionale de comté (MRC). In French only.


    Documentation Repository:

    • National Capital Commission. Entrances to Gatineau Park, November 2009 (final report).
    • National Capital Commission. Statement of Requirements, Gatineau Park Visitor Centre.
    • Bryden Martel Architect Inc., for the National Capital Commission. Gatineau Park Visitor Centre, Functional Program and Location Considerations, June 18, 2012.