2022 International Student Design Competition


SAE is excited to announce our International Student Competition! Re-housing the Cave Dwellers of Bamiyan

We welcome all architecture, urban planning, and engineering students around the world to apply your classroom knowledge to designing a life-saving project for the historic City of Bamiyan!


International Student competition


Competition Background

The Society of Afghan Engineers (SAE), Architecture and Planning Division host an International Student Design Competition to provide sustainable housing and infrastructure for the war displaced families of Bamiyan, who occupy the caves at the historically known cliffs of Bamiyan where the remains of the Statues of famous Buddha are located.  The sandstone cliffs of Bamiyan are most famous for the giant 6th century Buddha statues carved out of the rock, which were destroyed in 2001. Historically, these caves on the side of the cliff were dug out by monks and used for meditation and retreat.

Since the 1990s, about 150 native families (1000 people) sought refuge in these caves for safety and protection. There is ample evidence that these historic sites are transforming significantly to accommodate the growing family’s meek living space needs. There is a growing fear that the cliffs at the important UNISCO World Heritage site will become structurally unstable and will be lost altogether due to misuse.  

"The caves are our historical heritage," says Ghulam Ali Wahdat, the governor of Bamiyan. "They must be preserved and open for tourists to come and visit.”  The longer the caves are occupied by families, the more damage is done to the site, as families install front doors and windows, build makeshift extensions, and rig up satellite dishes and solar panels.



The Purpose of the Competition

The design challenge will propose a viable and affordable housing solution for the low-income displaced families of cave dwellers at Bamiyan City. The Competition proposal must adhere to two interrelated critical components, the development of a sustainable small and manageable community with its related infrastructure and an alternative affordable housing solution.

The re-settlement of these approximately 150 displaced families would have a noticeable impact on the living condition of Bamiyan residents.  This housing proposal will inevitably need to be supported and funded by outside sources for land acquisition, infrastructure development and housing construction. The achievement of this goal will have far-reaching environmental, social and economic benefits for the Bamiyan city.

Afghanistan flags flying under the blue sky
Briefing. A concentrated and glad group of architectures standing together and talking about building strategy with construction works on a background

Team Eligibility

The Competition invites architecture, urban planning, and engineering students from selected institutions in Afghanistan and abroad to apply their collaborative efforts and innovative talents in developing achievable housing solutions aiming to integrate the current cave dwellers population (approx. 150 families) into the fabric of the community and to fully include them in all social, cultural, and productive activities.

Design Requirements Product and Process

Community: The proposals should consider the competing interests of the environment in the city of Bamiyan; its land use planning, environmental impact, contextual appropriateness, compatibility with the existing infrastructure, and employment opportunities, in order to invigorate the socio-economic and cultural qualities of the residents.

Considerations should be given to the provisions of basic infrastructure and its long-term maintenance, and potential tourism benefits to contribute to the city economy.  Construction of necessary infrastructure and municipal services such as water, sewer, paved roads/ walkways, schools, health facilities, mosque and community center and etc., can be formulated in gradual manner and time periods of 5-, 10-, or 15- year intervals as suitable to the availability of funds.

The competition proposal envisions the residents’ collective efforts through a self-help approach, availability of microfinance schemes, participation of NGO’s and social institutions is expected to help in the implementation process. 

Housing: The housing proposals must adhere to the traditional practices and cultural norms of privacy of family and neighborhood.  The housing units should consider flexibility and incremental growth to absorb the changing needs of the families’ structures and their financial growth.

It should be noted that, Afghan families tend to retain multi-generation members such as children, parents, grandparents, and close relatives in some instances, in one household. Several options should be proposed for different family sizes. (A typical family size ranges between 3 - 6 people per household). Employing traditional and sustainable strategies for climate control, use of renewable energy, rainwater retention, natural cross ventilation, passive solar utilization, shading strategy, and natural daylight in the residential units are good practices to be considered.

Competitors are expected to make their environmental, climatic, and cultural analyses of Bamiyan City that will inform their designs. 

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Muslim business people wearing black hijab,working in coffee shop.

The Site

The proposed Competition site attached is located on the north side of the Bamiyan valley along the Charikar – Band-e Amir highway. It is located 5.5km east of the Buddhas and 4km from the City Center. It is a south-facing site with a slight slope of 10-20%. An 18m right of way is planned around the periphery of the site with two entries from the high way. All internal roads and circulation system will be part of the competition design. Total area of the site is approx.4 hectare. Future expansion for more low-income housing can take place to the north and west of the site. 

Bamiyan City has two distinct topographical characteristics: The lower valley areas and the upper north cliff. 

  • The lower riverine valley area is below the historic area where the old bazaar is located with some existing indigenous houses, and where the lush green farming fields lies. 
  • The upper plateau area above the north cliff is where the new town is planned and the airport is located. Here the administrative sector, commercial zone, and new residential subdivisions are gradually growing. The official Master Plan shows  the city center and most of the urban growth proposed in this area,

The 150 families relocation of the current cave dwellers to the new site requires sustainable land value assessment in the context of the current private agricultural zone. The design competition proposals should have a clear description of the site accompanied with a real or idealized site drawing/map. The site drawing, at minimum, should show the existing boundaries and main features of the site. The competitors are encouraged to refer to the Bamiyan’s master plan maps and aerial photos that can be helpful for the site location information details.

Design Submission Requirements

The competition goal is to encourage collaboration and exchange of ideas between foreign and Afghan university students (male and female).


  • Presentation boards: Drawings should be composed in A-2 format using the following suggested scales. They should include north arrow and a visual scale ready to be printed on A-1 boards or a reduced brochure in A-3 or A-4 format.
  • Project brief: Include text and sketches explaining design concept, and immediate and long term developmental strategies. The narrative and/or diagrams should indicate strategies for energy conservation, access to water and electricity and means of disposing waste.
  • Site plan: Suggested scale 1:1000 or larger. Site plan should show important elements/features of the design and footprints of the buildings including:
  • Site circulation: vehicular and pedestrian.
  • Land-use features: residential, commercial and community buildings; a health clinic, an elementary school, and a market to be part of a community center that may serve the neighboring low-income residents as well. Design of these buildings are not part of this competition.
  • Open spaces: Common spaces, neighborhood park, landscaping etc.
  • Housing group/cluster: Plans, elevations and sections: Suggested scale 1:200. Here interaction between family units, private and public spaces, and interior/exterior spaces will be expressed.
  • Typical unit plans, sections and elevations. Suggested scale 1:50. Plans should show interior layouts as well as any outdoor space dedicated to the unit and their relationships.
  • Construction systems and details: Suggested scale 1:20 or larger. Here materials and construction systems utilized will be shown that will indicate the low-cost and affordability merits of the proposed solutions.
  • 3-D images: These can be CAD images, photos of a physical architectural model, or hand drawn 3-D sketches as best visually express the competitor’s design intentions.
Architects working on plans, light effect

Deadlines and Schedule

Team Registration Period: July 15, 2022 to September 30, 2022

Deadline to Register Team: September 30th, 2022

Competition Submission Deadline: December 15, 2022


Evaluation Criteria

The competition evaluation will be based on the level of development thoroughness, and overall quality of work, including but not limited to:

  • Sensitivity to context and respects to tradition of privacy, family structure, and community interdependencies.
  • Shows the road for a model community that supports self-sufficiency and employment, economic growth and improvement of living conditions of Bamiyan residents.
  • Proposes an economic and affordable means of constructing low-income housing.
  • Considers ways and means of active, and meaningful process of participation by the villagers and dwellers in building achievable peace.



 The Finalists are invited to present their projects online on YouTube and the physical place will be TBD

  • Poster/panel exhibition, location TBD.
  • Online digital presentation on YouTube (audio/video).
Many persons holding pieces of jigsaw puzzle,Teamwork concept,,Business connection,Success and strategy concept,Business accounting


  • Selected SAE representative(s)
  • Selected Development/NGO representative(s)
  • Selected local Bamiyan resident representative(s)
  • Selected University representative(s)
  • Selected Professional representative(s)
together collaborate of hands teamwork in meeting office and stock graph city foreground for start greeting with good etiquette negotiation the success of both. Merger Acquisition concept

Competition Prizes

The final winners will receive:

  • First Prize US $ 2500.00,
  • Second Prize US $ 1500.00,
  • Third Prize US $ 1000.00,
  • And, at the discretion of the jury there will be Honorable Mentions. All project submissions will be recognized with an acknowledgement certificate of participation.

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Max. file size: 100 MB.

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