Rethinking the dome's purpose for today's world — 2017 Burnham Prize Competition call for ideas now open!

For the 2017 Burnham Prize Competition: “Under the Dome”, the Chicago Architectural Club drew inspiration from the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial and its iconic venue, the Chicago Cultural Center — particularly the Center's restored Tiffany dome. In response to the Biennial's “Make New History” theme, the 2017 Burnham Prize is inviting architects worldwide to send their most clever speculative design ideas and interventions that re-imagine the decaying dome of the nearby abandoned St. Stephen's Church, which will celebrate its centennial anniversary this year. 1

In response to this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial prompting Make New History, the Chicago Architectural Club is pleased to announce the 2017 Burnham Prize Competition: Under the Dome. New History is made not from a position of sentimentality toward style, but rather it must be critical of our past and used to inform architecture that is responsive to both its context and future inhabitants. This competition uses the historical and typological construct of the dome and calls for its critical re-imagination in the context of Make New History.


On the centennial birthdate of St. Stephen’s Church, the Chicago Architecture Club is seeking proposals for “Under the Dome.”

The decaying dome of St. Stephen’s Church is taken as an opportunity to revisit more broadly the dome’s place in contemporary society and fable its future history. We are calling for speculative proposals and architectural interventions that re-charge the significance and relevance of the dome. Would new strategies of programming or tectonic experimentation provide a new future for the dome? How can the collision of history and new use create the radical emergence of the unimaginable?


This abandoned church was built in 1917 and designed by Coolidge and Hodgdon. The dome itself was designed by R. Guastavino Company - the inventor of the “tile arch system.” Self-supporting, the dome is constructed of interlocking terra-cotta tiles and layers of mortar. Since the late 1990s, the fate of St. Stephen’s Church has been at an impasse, with the community, bank and developers all wanting to go different directions. This purgatorial delay has been lengthened by an agreement made between the Hyde Park neighbors and the property owner concerning the number of parking spaces that would be available on site, with little local support or even care for the historical value of the domed church. It appears as a ruin, having been broken into and vandalized over the years.


This is a speculative ideas competition. All entrants are charged with reprogramming the dome with a speculative new endeavor that will revitalize the existing structure.


  • Registration Fee: $90

  • Reduced Fee for Students (with valid ID): $35


  • To register, go to the competition website, follow the payment instructions, and send an email to burnhamprize2017[at] with the contact information for the entrant or team leader.


Participants are asked to submit (2) two A1 boards digitally. Finalists may be asked to produce a model which will potentially be exhibited during the Chicago Architecture Biennale. Model requirements will be discussed with the finalists once chosen.

Competition submissions are due at 12 noon U.S. Central Time (UTC - 06:00) on August 18th, 2017. Submissions are electronic and submitted via email only. The following materials should be submitted:

  1. Two (2) A1 boards oriented in landscape format. Each board must include the 5-digit assigned registration number in the lower right hand corner. Boards must be submitted in PDF format and PNG, TIFF or JPEG format. The file should be named with the 5-digit registration number, “Image_12345. pdf.” (see template)
  2. A written statement of no more than 300 words explaining your ideas. The file should be named “Statement_12345.doc.” This file must be a .txt, .doc, or .rtf file, NOT a .pdf or .jpg.
  3. A three page Tabloid document in PDF format oriented in landscape format combining item 1 and 2, - with the image on the first page (reduced to fit the tabloid format) and the written statement on the second page. Each page must include the 5-digit assigned registration number in the lower right hand corner. The file should be named with the 5-digit registration number- “12345.pdf. (see template)
  4. A single page document with team identification and contact information. Include: Project title, names of team members, leader’s telephone number, and email address. The file should be named “ID_12345.doc.” This file must be a .txt, .doc, or .rtf file, NOT a .pdf or .jpg. The source of any third party materials incorporated in the entry must also be included; this source information may exceed one page if necessary.

All three files must be then saved in a single ZIP file named with the 5-digit registration number “” This zipped file should not exceed 5MB. The single ZIP file should be sent via email to: [email protected] The email subject line should read “Registration Number_12345.” Upon announcement of the winners, higher resolution images may be requested from winning submissions and selected entries.


  • The 2017 Burnham Prize Competition is open to architects, students, landscape architects, planners, designers and artists.
  • Board and staff member of the Chicago Architectural Club, the Chicago Architectural Biennial, as well as members of the jury or their families, or those involved with the preparation or funding of this competition may not participate. This competition is to be conducted solely via this website – no additional printed material is available. The official language of the competition is English.

Award Prize: $3,000

  • A prize totaling $3,000 will be awarded to a winner or divided amongst multiple winners at the discretion of the jury. Honorable mentions may also be awarded but will receive no cash prize.
  • Select projects will be featured on the websites of the Chicago Architectural Club and other partner agencies; in the official competition catalogue; and are to be exhibited at a special event TBD.


  • A jury of notable professionals, academics, and public officials will decide competition winners. The decisions of the jury will be final and unalterable, and the jury thereby reserves the right to leave any prize vacant, or partially award prizes.