One of the maps showing a Portland of the future is meant to act as inspiration for a Portland Society of Architecture contest. Courtesy of Russ Tyson/Portland Society for Architecture

If you think you know what Portland should look like, now’s a good time to speak up.

The Portland Society for Architecture is hosting an online design competition that encourages people to consider how Portland will mature and flourish, under the assumption that growth is inevitable. The Complete City Imagined competition hopes to inform planning and development by encouraging visionary ideas from non-expert residents.

“There has been such quick development in Portland, people are acting conflicted,” said Alyssa Phanitdasak, a member of the group’s board and an architectural designer at Smrt Architects. “They want Portland to grow, but they don’t like crowds and they don’t like change. This is a chance for people to have a say. We’re always preaching good ideas to each other in the architecture community. This is a chance for people who are living and raising their kids in the city to become more invested in how Portland grows and what happens to it.”

The deadline for submissions is Monday, and it’s a straightforward process. For the past two years, the PSA has distributed blank maps of Portland to collect comments and ideas about what people like about the city, what they don’t like, what they’d like to see preserved and what they’d like to see changed.

Those maps are posted online, and this phase of the contest asks people to use these maps as inspiration to further develop specific ideas. Each person who enters can submit up to four images inspired by the original maps. The winning entry will win $1,500, and an exhibition of submissions is scheduled for the fall at the University of New England.

A seven-member jury will judge the entries. Among the jurors is Maine State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr.

The idea is to dream big, said PSA president Alyssa Keating. “By it being more of a conceptual ‘imagined’ competition, we envision this as something that can inspire everyone to think outside their everyday norm and to potentially spark new conversations around the built environment they live in,” she said.

It’s a chance for people to identify what they see as good or bad development, she said. The goal of the contest isn’t necessarily to come up with a specific development idea as much as it to empower residents to engage in fun and serious conversations about the future of Portland, said Addy Smith-Reiman, the PSA’s executive director.

The fall exhibition at UNE will include displays of the maps, hands-0n map-drawing exercises and lectures about data and how the data collected as part of this project might be used. The materials will be archived at the Osher Map Library, and the library has offered historic maps of Portland to complement the exhibition, Smith-Reiman said. “We will have a timeline of how citizens and designers imagined Portland as early as the 1700s,” she said.

Portland is changing, Keating said, and many issues are at play at once when it comes to design and development decisions – climate change, zoning reform, transportation, population growth.

“These are not factors that only affect architects, engineers and developers, these are factors that affect everyone, and the more people we can get to show up and share in discussions about the growth and development around them, the more people will feel connected to their cities and how they grow,” she said.

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