CRTKL 2021 Digital Evolution Lab: Winning Teams and Closing Ceremonies

Clare Sausen December 21, 2021

CRTKL 2021 Digital Evolution Lab: Winning Teams and Closing Ceremonies 

The CRTKL 2021 Digital Evolution Lab is our second annual internal, virtual hackathon designed to inspire a culture of digital innovation by envisioning new tools and services. This year’s theme was – Reality Engine: Building architectural tools and services of the future using game engines. Today, we’re excited to announce the winning submissions! 

Grand Prize Award: Prognosis 

Congratulations to: Hsaio-Chiao Peng from Los Angeles, Rodrigo Tarriba from Seattle and Ruben Rivas from Mexico City 

This year’s Grand Prize was judged by an internal CRTKL panel, also joined by David Weir-McCall of Epic Games. The criteria for this prize involved showcasing an innovative idea using game engines that needed to display a value add to the AEC industry and beyondThe panelist unanimously agreed on Prognosis as the winning project.   

Prognosis is a prototyping platform for the next generation of spatial design. This tool aims to reframe our practice and put users back at the center of design. It provides a virtual environment where physical and digital spaces can be prototyped together and tested with real people. This approach is called spatial design, and it will help us obtain valuable user data that will better inform our iterative process. 


“Prognosis feels like an advancement on Project Anywhere,” begins David Weir-McCall of Epic Games, member of the judges’ panel. “I like the applied use case in retail – it’s also something that could easily be applied in CRTKL workflows and is built for game engines. I also appreciated the digital twin tie-in here. Team Prognosis had the best visual graphics of the lot.”

People’s Choice Award: Prognosis 

Prognosis was also selected as the winning project for this year’s People’s Choice Award! This award was selected by an internal, firmwide voting process at CRTKL. This award was created because one of the foundational aspects of the Digital Evolution Lab is its dependency on inclusivity and collaboration. By allowing the firm to review and vote on their favorite Lab submissions, we were able to bring awareness, relevance, and opportunity to everyone across CRTKL.  The People’s Choice award extends the spirit of inviting discourse, thought leadership and intellectual potential. 

This year’s voter turnout was higher per capita than our inaugural year – which speaks to the firm’s commitment to innovation and discovery,” says Bill Kwon, Principal at CRTKL. “It illustrates that, despite twenty months of pandemic-induced separation, we still come together in search of creative experience design. Perhaps most importantly, it demonstrates how all of us come together in a variety of ways to participate in something new, celebrate exceptionalism and determine our own future. 

Media Award: ARCHI-Caching

Congratulations to: Arnold Ramoso from Seattle, Jinge Chai from Los Angeles and Nina Maiolo from Chicago 

This year included our first-ever Digital Evolution Lab Media Award. We were honored to have Amanda Silberling of TechCrunch and Jonathon Hilburg of The Architect’s Newspaper as our guest Media Award panelists to select this year’s Media Award-winning project – ARCHI-Caching. 

ARCHI-Caching is a game concept that mixes the real world with the virtual world by encouraging users to hunt for digital geocaches. Users will be able to locate physical caches with QR codes or digital caches in AR/VR via compatible devices like mobile phones or headsets and unlock hidden virtual architectural installations. The tool enables engagement with CRTKL business partners by aligning campaigns with their philanthropy goals for the purposes of sponsorship or commissioned projects.   


Both Amanda and John share the perspective below on why they selected ARCHI-Caching as the winning Media Award project.  

Amanda Silberling: “I appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of the project – I’m not familiar with the architecture space more broadly, but I think it’s always helpful for architects to see things through a game design perspective, game designers to see things through an architectural perspective, etc. It’s a way of encouraging professionals to think about their work in a new way.  

I think that many people are apprehensive about the growing buzz around the “metaverse.” It feels dystopian to imagine VR headsets becoming a more routine object in our lives. But, I think when we talk about the “metaverse,” we’re really just talking about how we experience the world in unique, tech-first ways at times. I think AR, as demonstrated in ARCHI-Caching, has more potential than VR does when it comes to — as the name suggests — simply augmenting what we see in our daily lives, rather than taking us out of our physical surroundings. AR has the potential to bring people into the world, while VR takes them to another world. One isn’t inherently better than another, but I think AR doesn’t feel as scary to consumers as VR does — which means that there might be a broader appeal.  

For my purposes as more of a generalist than an architect, I’m interested in the growth of augmented reality as an educational tool. Something that Pokémon Go does obliquely is that all the Pokéstop destinations are based on real-life places and objects, whether it’s a mailbox or a statue. You’re able to get a few sentences of description in the game, but the point isn’t really to learn about your surroundings. I think ARCHI-Caching can be used to add another layer to how we experience the world through tech — if you visit a statue, for example, you can see augmented reality versions of what it looked like when it was first built, what the purpose of it is, etc.” 

Jonathon Hilburg: “Overall, I was impressed by the level of polish from each group despite the limited time they all had, and each submission was significantly different than the others. I have seen in-firm hackathons before, but none focused on Unreal 5 specifically. 

ARCHI-Caching was the only one that really went beyond an internal firm tool to become a public-facing technology. The potential to engage the public with architecture and each other in both a social and educational way seems promising – and, like Pokémon Go or other augmented reality games, this is a way to encourage people to go out of their way to learn more about the built environment to both gamify and incentivize exploration. 

If this idea were to land as a pitch on my desk, I personally would frame it as one that uses Unreal Engine and architecture (and from an architecture firm, no less) in a more novel way than expected, first and foremost, followed by the social angle. Using AR apps for art has been done before in a multitude of ways by artists in every medium, but not for architecture just yet — and there’s plenty to explore there.” 

2021 Digital Evolution Lab Submissions 

A total of four teams participated in this year’s Lab, all of who submitted impressive projects. Please read on to learn more about the two additional Digital Evolution Lab submissions.  

The Locus

Ahnaf Chowdhury from Washington D.C., Jun Jung from New York City and Royce DeLord from Miami 

The Locus is a virtual platform that allows its users to explore CRTKL’s project portfolio in a fully immersive 3-D environment. This digital space is only made possible by leveraging game engines’ Virtual Reality capabilities. 



Virtual Agora 

Juan Ortiz from Manchester, Michael Xavier Ticzon from Manila and Risha Na from Beijing 

Virtual Agora is a community-based, interactive planning tool that aids in the understanding, design and regulatory planning relationship between building density, pedestrian walkways, and public space. The tool aims to simulate and measure projected conditions on the density and comfort of pedestrian circulation, a gradient from low to high circulation density and whether it is comfortable or not.


Author Spotlight

Clare Sausen
Clare Sausen is a Content Writer for CRTKL. Based in Washington, D.C., she leverages her personal and professional experience in journalism, radio, and nonprofit communication to serve as a valuable member of the global firmwide team. Since attaining her Bachelor of Arts degree from George Washington University in Communication and American Studies, she has honed her craft of architectural storytelling across multiple platforms. Her work appears in outlets such as Broccoli Magazine, Building Construction + Design Magazine, High Times Magazine, Medical Construction + Design Magazine, NORML Blog, The Lounge, You Are Here, and WRGW Music Blog.