Call for Ideas


The construction of the California High Speed Rail (HSR) line can be a catalyst for significant changes to our urban surroundings and contribute in a major way towards the ‘greening’ of our lives. Even though it may be counterintuitive to most Americans, cities offer the most viable models of sustainability.

In Southern California and especially Los Angeles, our automobile centric planning has resulted in a sprawling metropolis primarily emphasizing the disadvantages of a large city without offering many of the benefits city dwellers enjoy elsewhere around the world. On our congested streets, we have almost lost the “California dream’”– unimpeded mobility and freedom to do what we want, when we want it, in unparalleled good weather and stunning natural surroundings. So often we are slaves to our automobiles, with few alternatives to move around, resigned to planning our daily lives around traffic.

But HSR offers us an opportunity to transform our daily lives and how our neighborhoods are built. As a high capacity backbone of an alternative transportation system, HSR is capable of delivering a large volume of people quickly into the center of our communities. The extent to which these cities physically ‘react’ to the arrival of HSR will determine the extent to which we can re-invigorate our Californian dream and recapture our freedom and mobility. This High Speed Rail project is an exceptional and historic opportunity in the United States to create a more balanced, efficient transportation system and cause a paradigm shift to a transit-oriented, rather than automobile-oriented, society.


The Los Angeles Chapters of the American Planning Association (APA-LA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA/LA) have combined efforts to create an unprecedented discourse between the two organizations, to enhance public perception and improve their participation in the California High Speed Rail project. With a focus on Union Station in Los Angeles, this working group is looking to improve mobility statewide by linking High Speed Rail through pedestrian-friendly, multi-modal transportation centers with transit enabled communities.

railLA is a joint-effort between the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and American Planning Association (APA) – Los Angeles Chapters – to develop a public discourse on the opportunities of the California High Speed Rail system and facilitate professional and community input in the development of a more sustainable built environment. By engaging professional networks, examining best practices, and creating a forum for policy-makers and communities, railLA will plan for this transformation in regional connectivity, transportation, and urban design.

Part of railLA’s program of deliverables is a “Call for Ideas” described below. Submissions will be shown in a traveling exhibit, on our website, and in print publications.

Call for Ideas

railLA is calling for submissions of projects and ideas for an exhibition on the urban possibilities associated with a new rail infrastructure. Submissions will explore the positive impact transit will have on our American Cities, and specifically on downtown Los Angeles.

Submissions are not meant to be technical studies or expert designs. Rather they should focus on appealing to citizens on a practical, emotional and social level. Furthermore, submissions should show how future citizens of a transit enabled Southern California – or specifically Los Angeles – will experience and enjoy their typical day. The primary goal of this Call is to show how rail can help us recapture our individual American dream. As such, submissions should illustrate:

  • How will a re-envisioned urbanism for California benefit residents, businesses, and the development community?
  • How will it benefit or improve public services? How will it make public services more affordable and accessible?
  • How will it improve the local, county and state economies?
  • How will it improve or re-invigorate the California lifestyle?
  • How will a re-envisioned urbanism for California make us more sustainable or more ‘Green’?
  • What will a typical day in our lives look like in this re-envisioned California urbanism?
  • What will be improved? What will we be able to do that we cannot do now?
  • What can we learn from other cities around the world; Cities that have already addressed and evolved their individual culture with integrated intermodal transportations systems that include HSR?
  • Very broadly speaking, how will increased mobility through rail affect our personal freedom, our physical freedom and our quality of life?


Submissions will be welcomed from individuals and teams. There are no professional qualifications required for entering. We are especially encouraging students and professional artists, architects, planners, landscape architects, transit engineers, economists, real estate developers, public advocacy groups, filmmakers and entertainment professionals.

Collaboration and teamwork across different disciplines is encouraged.

Please note: Submission files may NOT contain applicants’ name(s) logo(s) contact information etc.  All related info should be entered with the Idea Summary, and will be presented with the Ideas in an organized fashion.  In order to maintain judging impartiality, this information, if included on the submission content, will be grounds for disqualification. Any submissions deemed offensive will be ruled ineligible.

Submission Context

A primary question of the Call for Ideas is: How can the HSR project transform and/or unify life near the LA River, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, the Civic Center, Downtown LA, East LA, and the region? All submissions should relate to the area shown in the enclosed map of downtown Los Angeles. However, submissions do not need to be specific to this geographic situation. Rather, submissions can use this area as a local context for inspiration and use solutions from similar areas around the world that illustrate opportunities which also apply to our target area.

Types of Submissions

Entrants are encouraged to think big and submit images, photo simulations, physical models, videos, animations, illustrated narration, papers and other publications and multimedia.

Submissions can be new content specifically created for this purpose or older content modified and edited to be applicable to our submission context. Exhibits that pertain to what a high speed rail station and the surrounding urban context could and should be are encouraged.

In brief, submissions can be one of the following:

  • New Ideas
  • Existing Projects / Designs
  • Documentaries + Fiction Films
  • Designs for LA Union Station

New Ideas

All submittals should represent powerful ideas and visions for the future of our cities. They should illustrate creating new options for mobility, evolving our existing systems away from the individual automobile, the greening of the region and making connections were none exist today. The ideas should be able to inform the community and become source material in the planning for the future of Los Angeles, and much of the State, to resurrect our vaunted California lifestyle.

Submissions can employ, be inspired by or re-invent any or all of the following themes:

  • Multi modal transportation centers and systems- designing the existing rail systems and centers around several modes of transportation to include pedestrian, bicycles, car, van pool, car sharing, taxi, bus, light-rail, subway, and high speed trains. Implement goals of reconnecting communities, greening, generating open space, creating neighborhood parks and centers with jobs and housing.
  • Enhancements to existing and proposed new rail systems- adding bicycle and other modes of transportation; provide individual rider experience; improve pedestrian services, adding new modes of transit or technology.
  • Development of individual transportation modes- focused on individual modes of transportation and the connection from modes such as walking, bicycle, motorcycle, automobile, and/or sky trams to a high-speed train system.
  • Spectacular Futuristic Visions- a new City, moveable houses, individual pods for transit, sky trams, super trains, advanced trolleys or completely removing automobiles from Los Angeles.
  • Evolving existing systems to increase the Capacity- basically moving more people in the same amount of space and with less polluting, more efficient transportation systems. Transition land uses to better suit hierarchical multi-modal transit systems. Reuse and repurpose sites currently unavailable for building use, such as the LA River, or decking freeways and adding new transportation modes and living space above. Migrate densities towards transportation corridors and recapture current low density areas for new open space and recreational use.

Existing Projects / Designs

All submittals should be examples from other similar areas around the world that relate to our submission context. They should – through existing projects and/or buildings — illustrate how other areas around the world, where rail oriented design and urban planning are already commonplace, have already created what we are just beginning to envision here.

It is a goal of this Call for Ideas to generate popular excitement while also presenting a maximum amount of information about the intricacies and advantages of living in a society that relies on rail as the most ordinary and efficient way of travel.

Especially, we are looking for projects and/or buildings that have overcome obstacles and accomplished excellence beyond what we currently think is feasible or possible: train alignments/stations that are built under water or in the groundwater table; or that are constructed under sensitive historic buildings; or that are constructed inside or around significant topographic/geographic features (mountains, etc.); train station designs that are enduring testaments to human ingenuity the same way airports once were; city centers that are developed around and derive their vitality because of a train station; entertainment zones that depend on rail connections; etc.

Documentaries & Fiction Films

Trains are not new to Los Angeles, the United States, or to the developed world. However, broad based knowledge about a society that relies on trains is very sparse in Southern California, and indeed in many areas of the US.

We are looking for documentaries that are tracking our interrupted history of train transportations, specifically the shape and feel of Los Angeles while it was served with the Pacific Electric Railway Routes; or the presently emerging Los Angeles that is being served by an increasingly effective net of Metro transit.

We are also looking for documentaries that are illustrating daily life in other cities where train transportation is serving the population particularly well.

And last but not least we call on the creative community to generate high impact fiction short films of what life will be like with rail. These films could be funny, inspirational or dramatic – but they should all be original and entertaining, grounded in a possible reality and have ‘stopping power’. They should generate excitement about rail. The goal is for an audience not only to enjoy watching the film, but to pass it along to their friends.

Designs for LA Union Station

We will welcome specific and original designs for Los Angeles’ Union Station with HSR. In so doing, entrants are encouraged to feel free to envision the station any way they choose, as long as the design will represent a multi-modal transit center in the heart of this great city. A new station design must be located in the submission context area shown above.

Click here to dowload Union Station Plan

Form of Submittals

Entrants are encouraged to submit images, photo simulations, models, video, animation, illustrated narration, papers and other publications and multimedia. Submissions must be electronic and adhere to the following format:


  • Web Upload OR Mail (DVD or CD)
  • 30” x 42” horizontal format
  • 300dpi max
  • File types: .pdf, .jpg


  • 5 minutes max length
  • Any aspect ratio
  • Any compression
  • Web Upload:
  • Max. file size: 100 MB
  • File types: .mov .mpg .avi. swf .wmv


  • Standard NTSC North American Region 0 DVD or DVD or CD with data files
  • File types: .mov .mpg .avi. swf .wmv

Written Documents

  • Web Upload OR Mail (DVD or CD):
  • 8.5” x 11”
  • 300dpi max
  • File types: .pdf

All electronic material will need to be uploaded to the railLA website (online form coming June 7) where you will also be required to submit your name, contact information, name of Idea or project, and a 50 word (max) executive summary of your Idea or work. This summary will be included as part of the exhibition.

Additionally, physical submissions consisting of printed materials or models will be accepted. Please adhere to the following constraints:

  • Physical Models: 30” x 30” x 30” maximum envelope
  • Boards: 30” x 42” maximum size, mounted on foam core, ‘gator’ board or sim.

Submissions may utilize multiple formats. If multiple formats are utilized for one Idea or project, please be sure to identify and provide an index of your complete submission.

Exhibition Format:

Submissions received by the July 13, 2010 deadline will be incorporated into an exhibition to be held at in Downtown Los Angeles on July 29, 2010. This exhibition will act as the initial kickoff showcase for the collection of ideas as it is unveiled to the public for the first time. railLA will then allow other Venues (See Call for Venues below) to adopt all of, or portions of, the exhibition for periods of time. This will allow the ideas to travel to other parts of Los Angeles, and hopefully other parts of California, the US and the world, to continually promote the discussion and contemplation of what the arrival of High Speed Rail means to society.

The exhibit is being designed to incorporate all various submission formats, as well as allow all Ideas to be curated in any Venue setting without requiring re-submittal or exhibit redesign.

Schedule and Address:

This Call for Ideas and Call for Venues will begin accepting submissions on June 1, 2010. All digital submissions and other required information should be uploaded through our online submission form. Physical models, if included, can be sent to the following address:

  • railLA Call for Ideas and Call for Venues c/o Lehrer Architects, 2140 Hyperion Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027

The deadline for submissions to be included in the first exhibtion will be on July 13, 2010 at 5pm. However, we will continue to accept ideas for our online and traveling exhibition!


There will be no ranking of entries by a jury. However, there is a $2,500 prize purse for the top 5 submissions as determined by railLA. Additionally, this exhibition will provide a big canvas for anybody interested to showcase their ideas and establish their voices and opinions in this nascent planning dialogue. All selected entries will be displayed in the above described primary and travelling exhibition(s) for a duration of several months to several years.

“Your work will be seen by many people and your name will be on it!”

The exhibition includes two parts. The primary exhibition will have an opening event on July 29, 2010. This opening will serve as the launch of a public outreach campaign that will showcase your work across Los Angeles, California, the United States, and the world. The collection of all ideas submitted will be used in galleries, at community events, during panel discussions, and other public displays to promote the transformative potential of High Speed Rail in Los Angeles.

A “top 10” list of the best ideas / projects will be chosen by our partners, the Architect’s Newspaper, and showcased on a full page spread in the August 2010 issue.

Finally, the railLA website will host all entries as a slideshow and information webpage for the life of this initiative.

railLA reserves the right to select or reject individual entries at the their discretion. railLA will make every effort to display as many entries as possible.


railLA is a joint effort of the Los Angeles Chapters of the American Institute of Architects and the American Planning Association.

The Legal

Digital submission hereby certify that permission has been obtained from all necessary parties, including the owner and photographer, to exhibit and publish materials, photographs and information regarding this project. The undersigned entrant hereby releases to and authorizes the AIA/LA and APA-LA to publish the entry or any part thereof in any medium, including the World Wide Web. AIA/LA and APA-LA will not assume responsibility for any copyright or photographic fees.

The entrant confirms that this entry meets the eligibility requirements as stated. The entrant has reviewed the information shown above for completeness and accuracy for use in publicity releases for newspapers and magazines. The entrant verifies that the entry is entirely the work of those listed in their submission. The entrant understands that if this project is selected for an award, he/she will provide additional quality images upon request in a timely manner for printed and/or digital promotion as needed. If the entrant does not supply these images when requested, he/she forgoes the opportunities for promotion. The entrant declares that he/she does not employ unpaid intern architects and neither does any practice of which he/she is an owner or manager.

The entrant into railLA Call for Ideas and/or Call for Venues hereby accepts and acknowledges that the awards are retrospective in nature and based on a subjective evaluation of our partners, and that an entrant has no right, contractual or otherwise, to be recognized as an railLA winner. The entrant into the railLA Call for Ideas and/or Call for Submissions hereby accepts and acknowledges that AIA/LA and APA-LA are under no obligation to grant awards to any entrant.

railLA winners are determined in the sole and absolute discretion of our partners. The entrant hereby accepts and acknowledges that the decisions in selecting the railLA Call for Ideas and/or Call for Venues are final and non-appealable. The entrant into the railLA Call for Ideas and/or Call for Venues hereby accepts and acknowledges that the railLA or its partners are under no obligation to grant awards in each category submitted.

The entrant will indemnify AIA/LA and APA-LA and will hold AIA/LA and APA-LA harmless from, against and in respect of any and all liabilities, damages, losses, deficiencies, costs, judgments, amounts paid in settlement, interest, penalties, assessments and out-of-pocket expenses (including attorneys’ fees and the costs of AIA/LA staff) incurred in connection with or arising out of the defense of or any proceeding with respect to any claims, whether accrued, contingent or otherwise incurred in connection with or arising out of the entrant’s entry into the railLA Call for Ideas and/or Call for Venues.

In the event the entrant attempts to bring any sort of legal claim or proceeding against the AIA/LA and/or APA-LA, its board members, or any member of the railLA program, in the event that the entrant does not prevail in any way with the claim, the entrant must reimburse the individuals involved in the legal claim or proceeding at their customary, professional hourly rate. AIA/LA and APA-LA reserve the right to refuse entry to any competitor for any reason. The $2,500 prize purse was provided by a private donation, and it does the Awards do not reflect the opinions of the APA-LA or AIA/LA.

Click here to submit your idea

6 Responses to “Call for Ideas”
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