Saturday, March 17th, 2012 AM

public conference with registration

Young Scholar Sessions (Call for proposals directed by Joris van Wezemael and Jean-Pierre Chupin)
How does the Internationalization of Design, Construction Services and Construction Markets Affect (the Appropriateness of) Competitions?
How do the Local and the Global, the Economic and the Cultural, the Ecological and the Aesthetic Intertwine in Jury-Based Decision-Making?



Session A
President and Report: David Vanderburgh

David Vanderburgh
Professor, Université Catholique de Louvain / Faculté d'architecture, d'ingénierie architecturale, d'urbanisme
session report

The perspective offered by this session was richer than the sum of its critical parts, and went beyond the ostensible theme of the session in an interesting way. An important subtext that took form as the four presentations were given and discussed was the general question of the legitimacy of the competition as a locus of selection and critical judgment.

Wilder Ferrer's longitudinal analysis of the PREVI competition for experimental housing in Lima, Peru opened the session. Ferrer's historic perspective is of particular interest, because it shows how 1968, the year of the competition in question, is both close and far away from our current situation. Under very specific political circumstances, Peru was able to attract a wide international field of competitors, and decided to take full advantage of that field. Forty years later, thanks to Ferrer and colleagues' Post Occupancy Evaluations, we can applaud the idealism of this exemplary effort and at the same time wonder what it has done in the longer term to ameliorate housing conditions on the ground. Ferrer quite correctly asked whether the international dimension is necessarily positive : it certainly affects critical judgment, and so it must be counterbalanced by local energy and expertise. Jonas Andersson's fine and detailed work on Scandinavian competitions in the elderly-housing sector showed (or at least implied indirectly) that competitions do not in themselves insure the evolution of cultural and architectural practices in the matter ; in his view, they have served to reproduce, even to reinforce, national differences among Scandinavian countries as to how they treat their elders. Relatively closed to international participation, the competitions he has studied have served above all to perpetuate the control of national professional bodies and practitioners over what is considered "best practice".
In Carmela Cucuzzella's fascinating paper about the use of energy-benchmarking, it became clear that scales of environmental ranking like LEED are above all popular as a sort of shorthand for quantifying criteria in lieu of deeper or more subtle judgments on the part of juries and officials. If critical judgment is short-circuited – with or without the complicity of the jury – it is indeed questionable as to whether competitions can be useful in the overall cause of sustainable development. Likewise, Jan Silberberg's excellent paper on the curiously-named "honorable mention" in Swiss competitions highlighted the legal and regulatory difficulties caused by a kind of legal loophole allowing juries to award projects to teams having made themselves otherwise ineligible. Even when all objective observers agree on the best solution, the competition rules can sometimes render its selection "illegal". How can organizers avoid violating the rights of competitors, while still exercising their critical judgment with the necessary degree of intellectual, political and professional freedom ?

Architectural competitions attract architects precisely because of their aura of fairness – "may the best project win." The pragmatics of the work performed by the jury may in many cases militate for the introduction of previously-unknown or implicit criteria (Ferrer, Andersson), for the reduction or quantification of the criteria (Cucuzzella), or for the relaxation of the rules (Silberberg). In such cases, where must the line be drawn, and how may the jury's decision be legitimated? The jury, one might say, is still out on these questions.

am lecturer institution  
9:30 Wilder Ferrer
The PREVI 1968 International Competition on Experimental Housing Project in Lima, Peru: The Victory of Social Commitment
Assistant Professor and Doctoral Student
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro UFRJ (LABHAB)
10:05 Jonas E. Andersson
Architectural Competitions, Demographic Changes, and Eldercare as Parameters in the Creation of Space for Universal Ageing
PhD, Assistant Professor
School of Architecture and the Built Environment
Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Stockholm
10:40 break    
10:55 Carmela Cucuzzella
 International Standards, National Norms and the Architectural Competition: A Problematic Shift of Conceptual Focus
Adjunct Professor
Concordia University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Montreal
11:30 Jan Silberberger
Are European Union Directives Threatening Swiss Architectural Competition Culture?
University of Fribourg and ETH Zürich
12:05 lunch    

Session B
President and Report: Nicholas Roquet

Nicolas Roquet
Professor, École d'Architecture, Université de Montréal
session report

Architectural competitions can be conceived as a kind of experiment, in which multiple design teams iterate solutions in response to a common brief and shared procedures. However, while this model may seem ideally suited to bringing forth the useful, the good and the new, case studies from Switzerland, Canada, Greece and France suggest that the success of architectural competitions in this respect is by no means guaranteed. Rather, the experimental nature of competitions hinges on complex issues of procedure, judgment and historical context.

Thus, Antigoni Katsakou’s analysis of recent competitions for collective housing projects in Switzerland questions their ability to foster innovation in terms of end-value for users. While the process has been successful in including stakeholders and promoting the redevelopment of derelict urban areas, its emphasis on iconic building form has tended to overshadow other potential qualities, such as a project’s conceptual integrity, its imaginative spatial layout or its capacity to support new modes of living. In Katsakou’s view, making innovation a criterion does not, by itself, lead to imaginative solutions: competition organizers first need to clearly define the terms of the experiment.

Camille Crossman addresses the nature of jury-based judgment in more fundamental terms, arguing that the quest for objective and neatly categorized criteria may in fact be counter-productive. Architectural judgment, she argues, is by necessity a locus of overlapping considerations, in which the ethical, technical and aesthetic are synthesized and brought into balance. Provocatively, Crossman describes the jury’s deliberations as a space of experimentation and discovery, in which criteria are gradually confronted with, and tested against, both the submitted projects and the intentions behind the program. One of the tasks of a good competition brief, then, might be to stimulate and orient the jury’s collective intelligence, by asking it to discuss a set of critical issues instead of merely ticking off an itemized checklist.

The fact that the best solution to an architectural problem can only emerge from a complex and occasionally time-consuming process of experimentation is made clear by Sofia Paisiou’s review of past competitions for the National Acropolis Museum in Athens. In this case, the project was only implemented after two national competitions (1976 and 1979), an international ideas competition (1989) and a further international design competition in 2000. While seemingly wasteful, the lengthy competition process and its gradual internationalization served in fact to reveal the complex urban, cultural and political issues underlying the projected museum. Architectural competitions can only educate us, however, if their results (or even their failures) are clearly communicated and made an object of public discourse.

Looking back to the famous international competition for the Parc de la Villette in Paris, held in 1982, Bechara Helal examines two distinct ways in which architectural competitions can be experimental – or in other words, produce new knowledge. Under certain conditions, Helal contends, a competition may serve as the vehicle for novel theoretical approaches. Thus, at La Villette, contradictions within the program, a heterogeneous jury and the disciplinary crisis of the late 1970s all served to break wide open the range of possible answers. But the La Villette competition also proved experimental in the longer term, because its vast corpus of unrealized designs was systematically mined and theorized in the following decades. If competition projects are indeed “offerings to architecture,” then today’s researchers likewise have a duty to record, analyze and interpret them.

am lecturer institution  
9:30 Antigoni Katsakou
Architectural Quality and the Iconic Status of Competition Proposals: A Study on Swiss Housing Competitions
Independent Scholar
10:05 Camille Crossman
On the Trajectories of Some Architectural Quality Criteria in Local and International Architectural Competitions
Doctoral Student
Université de Montréal (LEAP+CRC)
10:40 break    
10:55 Sofia Paisiou
Merging the Local Concerns and Global Regulations in Construction Services: The Case of the Four Competitions for the New Acropolis Museum
University of Fribourg, Geography Unit
11:30 Bechara Helal
On the So-Called "Experimental" Nature of Architectural Competitions
PhD Candidate
Université de Montréal (LEAP+CRC)
12:05 lunch    

Saturday, March 17th, 2012 PM

public conference with registration, followed by a private coordination seminar

Session 3: Can Digital Archiving of Competitions Projects Enhance the Building of a Planetary Architectural Culture?
Presidents: Thomas Kuhnt-Hoffmann + Denis Bilodeau (report)

Denis Bilodeau
Associate Professor, École d'Architecture, Université de Montréal
session report

Can digital archiving of competition projects enhance the building of a planetary architectural culture?

It is probably too early to answer this question; however it seems clear that transformations are happening in the architectural competition culture today. This is particularly visible in the increasing number of publications and archives that are created both in paper and digital format for the documentation of competition procedures and production. In addition to the pioneer work of Stanley Collyer and Thomas Hoffmann-Kuhnt, respectively chief editors of Competitions Magazine and Wettbewerbe-aktuel, which were discussed in previous sessions, three digital archiving projects based in Zurich, Brasilia and Montreal were briefly presented during the colloquium.

Ignaz Strebel from the ETH in Zurich began this third session with a fascinating project of systematic and exhaustive archival of competition steps and procedures involving the participation of the all the stakeholders.  The collection of data from the formulation of competition briefs to jury reports is made an integral part of the process and is facilitated by the implementation of a digital working frame allowing a continuous and simultaneous archival of documents produced throughout the whole process.  The main purpose of this project is to support the development and management of competition processes. This could increase the amount of bureaucratic work, but ultimately, what is at stake is the accountability of competition processes.

Fabiano Sobreira introduced the principle of « on line competitions » and presented two experiments conducted in Brazil for the design of a small community building and a large scale urban development.  In these cases, the digitalization of the competition process was considered a way to ease communication among actors and the better dissemination of architectural culture. Most importantly, it was associated with a democratisation of architectural design, of the planning processes and building production in a country which, until recently, was a military dictatorship.  At a more procedural level, Sobreira would agree with Strebel in promoting transparency and social justice in a process, much too often leaving room for obscure decision making and implicit power games.

Finally, in his presentation, Jean Pierre Chupin, who was the leading artisan in the building of the Canadian Competition Catalogue at the University of Montreal, emphasized the epistemological value of digital data banks, dedicated to the systematic preservation of architectural proposals emerging from competitions. Introducing the notion of « potential architecture », Chupin considers digital archives as an instrument enhancing the circulation, transfer and adaptation of ideas at a global planetary level. Is this creating a new culture? Of course data banks should not be mistaken for cultural memories, or the fact that reusing fashionable images is too easily associated with creative thinking. Still, databanks on competitions open the way for future research projects which could eventually generate new knowledge.  

Memory, accountability and social justice are important issues often associated with the power of archives. They are also central to the development of architectural competition as a legitimate cultural practice in the production of a better environment.

pm lecturer institution  
1:30 Ignaz Strebel
Capturing Competition Data: How to Involve Stakeholders in Building a Database on Architectural Competitions
ETH Zürich, Department of Architecktur, ETH Wohnforum
2:10 Fabiano Sobreira
Design Competitions in Brazil: Building a Culture of Architectural Quality
UNICEUB Universty Brasilia
Architect, Brazilian Parliament
2:50 Jean-Pierre Chupin
On the Changing Nature of Architectural Knowledge in a Multipolar World
Chief Editor
Canadian Competitions Catalogue (CCC)


Georges Adamczyk + Jean-Pierre Chupin
Announcement of the 2012 CRC/LEAP Prize for Exemplary Competition(selected by an international jury from the variety of cases presented by the speakers and on recommandation by a network of competition experts)

back to top


The 2012 winner of the CRC/LEAP Prize for exemplary competition is:
HafenCity Hamburg competitions, Germany(2000 - 2010)

Further information and press release here.

Prix CRC/LEAP 2012


3:45 break / end of public conference    

Saturday, March 17th, 2012 PM

private coordination seminar

pm speaker subject  
4:00 Session presidents
Critical Summary of the 5 Sessions
4:30 All
Moderated by Georges Adamczyk and Jean-Pierre Chupin
Plenary Session
Some Ideas for the Constitution of an International Network on Competitions
6:00 wrap up    

Université de Montréal
Research Chair on Competitions and Contemporary Practices in Architecture

Friday, March 16th, 2012 AM

public conference with registration
am lecturer institution  
8:30 Anne Cormier
Opening Words
Director, School of Architecture
Université de Montréal
8:40 Jean-Pierre Chupin
Georges Adamczyk
What Can We Learn About Contemporary Architecture Through Research on Competitions in the World
Research Chair on Competitions and Contemporary Practices in Architecture (CRC)
Université de Montréal

Directors, Laboratoire d'Étude de l'Architecture Potentielle (LEAP)
Université de Montréal

Session 1 : Can International Competitions Tackle Local Issues? (Case Studies from Europe)
Presidents: Jean-Pierre Chupin + Ian Chodikoff (report)


Ian Chodikoff
Chief Editor, Canadian Architect
session report

It is very clear that we have much to learn from the Nordic countries, Belgium and Switzerland when it comes to strengthening the culture of design competitions. Moreover, the culture of competitions in France provides a useful sociological canvas with which to better understand the dynamics of who decides to participate in the speculative process of architectural competitions.

As Magnus Rönn explained in his presentation, the merits--and dilemmas--of a pre-qualified competition process that effectively dominates in Sweden for example, presents definitive limits on what kind of firm is eligible to participate in competitions. In the greater context of delivering the highest-quality of architecture, it remains unclear if this kind of competition is the best system available to architects.This is especially true, given Professor Rönn’s powerful graphic illustrating the balance between achieving the “right quality” of architecture versus the “best quality” of architecture throughout the competition-to-completion timeline. Certainly, the critical and determining moment for a building’s success occurs during the construction phase when developers and value engineers effectively determine what is to be the “right quality”--a determining factor that is often diametrically opposed to not only the architect’s original intentions, but the user’s enjoyment of the building itself. As Rönn suggested, a stringent competition process requiring a rigorous pre-qualification process, and a client’s desire to minimize the risk when negotiating the architect’s services may actually compromise the potential for design excellence in Sweden and possibly elsewhere.

This was reflected by David Vanderburgh and Carlo Menon who examined the more heterogeneous competition process situation in Belgium. The greatest inspiration to be drawn from their research is the ability to remain focused on the intentions of a design competition to ensure the results display innovation, political relevance and design excellence. Vanderburgh’s allusion to the “finger” and the “moon” are important--where the “moon" represents the goals of the competition as defined by the public authority, and the brief is considered to be "the finger.” A well-directed “finger” remains firmly directed at the moon, thereby ensuring the success of the competition and resulting building. Vanderburgh and Menon present convincing examples where the competition brief was ill-conceived, or contained a vague definition of the what the organizers sought to achieve by organizing a competition. If design competitions had clear measures for success, juries would be more prepared to keep their fingers pointed as the moon, and therefore may not have selected vague proposals, such as the one French architect Christian de Portzamparc for Rue de la Loi in Brussels.

In Switzerland, where numerous competitions are held for a variety of building types every year, Joris Van Wezemael and Jan Silberberger deftly illustrated the importance of a competition as a generator for economic development, while recognizing that despite our current period of unprecedented globalization, local architects will (and possibly should) dominate the competition process, even if competition organizers wish to improve the number of foreign submissions. Perhaps a rational understanding of the local social, political and cultural context is most likely to yield the highest-quality design? Citing their research into19th-century architect Viollet-le-Duc who was able to organize what we would consider a contemporary design competition--one that is based in connecting various stakeholder’s interests with those who are involved with the design and construction process--architectural competitions can be the most effective tool at fuelling a project’s visibility and legitimacy when connected to the local to economic and political landscape.

French sociologist Jean-Louis Violeau may have provided the most interesting explanations as to the architectural competition’s ability to attract younger talent. Violeau’s examination of the generation of architects born between 1967-71 reveals an opening up of design culture to increasing numbers of non-elites, along with shifting patterns in the aspirations and professional formation of this generation of architects. Certainly, the decentralization of education and learning contributed to a new sense of jeunisme, enabling the ongoing challenge of balancing youth and risk. Ironically, optimism can be drawn from Violeau’s assessment of France’s evolving society where a new form of argumentation for the next generation of French architects--a balance of risk, energy, and even cynicism can provide a healthy new design culture in not only France, but the culture of architectural competitions in general.

am lecturer institution  
9:20 Magnus Rönn
Nordic Experiences of Architectural Competitions: From Prequalifications to Implementation of Winning Design Proposals
Associate Professor
School of Architecture and the Built Environment
Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Stockholm
10:05 break    
10:20 David Vanderburgh and Carlo Menon
Seeing Both the Finger and the Moon: Belgian Competitions in Their Representational Context
Université Catholique de Louvain
Faculté d'architecture, d'ingénierie architecturale, d'urbanisme
Cellule architecture de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles
11:00 Joris van Wesemael (and Jan Silberberger)
We Have Never Been 'Swiss': Thoughts About Helvetic Competition Culture
University of Fribourg, Department of Geography
Socio-spatial Complexity Lab
11:40 Jean-Louis Violeau
Nouveaux Albums des Jeunes Architectes and Europan: Advantages and Constraints of Two French 'Trademarks'
Researcher and Professor
AUSser UMR 3329 CNRS
Laboratoire ACS, École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Paris-Malaquais
12:30 lunch    

Friday, March 16th, 2012 PM
public conference with registration

Session 2 : Are Competitions True Vehicles for the Critical Debate on Architectural Quality in an International Landscape of Media?
(Case Studies from Germany, USA, France and Canada)
Presidents: Georges Adamczyk + Fabiano Sobreira (report)

Fabiano Sobreira
 Professor, UNICEUB Universty Brasilia
Architect, Brazilian Parliament
session report

This session gathered the chief editors of important architectural magazines from Canada (Canadian Architect), France (d’architectures), Germany (wettbewerbe-aktuell) and USA (Competitions). They were asked to discuss the competition culture in their respective countries, from the perspective of their editorial projects and focusing on the same question: are competitions true vehicles for the critical debate on architectural quality in an international landscape of media?

The first remark to be highlighted from their speeches/papers is the historical difference on the competition policy and culture in each region (North America versus Europe) and how it affects their editorial and analytical perspectives.

In USA and Canada, design competitions are not mandatory instruments, so in these countries, one witnesses a permanent debate – among professionals, public administration and the overall community - on the pertinence and importance of competitions, along with discussions on formats and procedures, successes and failures. According to Stanley Collyer (Competitions Magazine, Chief Editor), open competitions in the US are historically few and far between and pro-competition professionals are yet traumatized from the result of a legal restraint-of-trade decision, which did not go in their favor in the early 1970s. For Ian Chodikoff (Canadian Architect Magazine, Chief Editor), despite a rich history of successful design competitions in Canada, especially in Québec, recent “failures” have diminished the faith in the media - and profession - as to the viability of the design competition in the first instance.

On the other hand, France and Germany are countries with acknowledged tradition on competition policies, with good reception from professionals and public administration, despite some controversies. Therefore, discussions are more centered on the impact of the internationalization market (European Union and abroad) over the already well-established competition system. According to Thomas Hoffmann-Kuhnt (wettbewerbe-aktuell, Chief Editor), “competitions in Germany are of an extraordinarily high significance” and in France, according to Emmanuel Caille (la revue d’A (d’Architectures), Chief Editor) “it has become the land of competitions”.

Despite the mentioned cultural and political differences, most speakers share concerns on a recent trend in the competition system: the growing change from the open format towards the invited (restricted) competition format. According to Thomas Hoffmann-Kuhnt, after the introduction of EU regulations in the 1990s, the most popular competition format is the limited open competition with an application procedure, and as a consequence, competitions in Germany diminished from 600 to 300 every year. Emmanuel Caille reminds us that after EU regulations, organizers were obliged to compensate competitors, making it virtually impossible to promote open competitions. Such a scenario, as Hoffmann-Kuhnt explains, “inevitably leads to a situation where the same established offices are selected more frequently and young architects only rarely have the opportunity to take part”. Besides, phases of pre-selection are “even more prone to risk and submission to the circles of influence, since the choices do not have to be justified”, as stated by Caille. In the US, according to Collyer, in the first three decades after WWII, open competitions were more common. But nowadays, most competitions for large projects are based on the invitation format, with “star architects” frequently on the list.

Regarding the editorial experiences described in the session, it’s important to stress the importance and tradition of the German magazine wettbewerbe-aktuell (competitions up-to-date, in English). Founded in 1971 (in 2013 it will celebrate its 500th edition), its basic principle of an extensive non-judgmental documentation is maintained still today. As explained by its editor, it was conceived to document the most important competitions, in an “impartial and non-judgmental approach”, deliberately with no critical review. In this matter, it differs from the editorial proposal of the French d’architectures, that, according to its editor, an architectural magazine which has the ambition to take a critical look at competitions and architectural production and “always end up collecting the grievances, false confessions, and all sorts of rumors that feed the drama that takes place in each competition”. The Competitions Magazine has faced a recent change on its editorial project: the quarterly publication, edited for 20 years, is now an electronic magazine, summarized in a year-end printed publication of a Competitions Annual.

The “internet era” was also a subject of discussions and reflections among the editors. From the point of view of Collyer, the downside of the Internet era, with its reduction in advertising and processing costs, “is a lowering of standards and the proliferation of ideas competitions”. For Hoffmann-Kuhnt, the Internet has made possible the creation of a database on competitions, offering to its readers open access to all European architectural competitions. The editor of wettbewerbe-aktuell also announced an online tendering program, which allows free online access and in which all competition material can be sent without postage or expensive printing. In this system, the application phase or the first phase of a two-phase competition can be handled quickly and cost effectively.

Finally, regarding the initial question, the authors/speakers agree about the importance of competitions for architectural quality. Emmanuel Caille, despite considering that competitions sometimes are “the site of crystallized fantasies, paranoia, bitterness and jealousy”, agrees that the practice of architecture competitions has improved the quality of public buildings. For him, from the social perspective, participation in international competitions is both a means of accessing the status and an effect of this status. For Collyer, a competition is “a snapshot about the state of architecture—and society—at a point in time.” Chodikoff believes in the “competition’s ability to leverage local political and economic culture” and that they are small, but an essential component of building better communities. For Hoffmann-Kuhnt, competitions, through which one can promptly detect the newest trends of architecture, are truly vehicles for the critical debate on architectural quality.

Last, but not least: the Hamburg’s HafenCity Competition, case study presented by Thomas Hoffmann-Kuhnt, was elected as the winner of the CRC Prize for exemplary competition through a jury selection among the case studies presented by the speakers during the Montreal conference, in March 2012. 

pm lecturer institution  
2:00 G. Stanley Collyer Jr.
Evaluating Competitions: Clients, Administration and Results
Chief Editor
Competitions Magazine
2:40 Emmanuel Caille
From Fascination to Promotion: Foreign Architects Invited to France
Chief Editor
La revue D'A (D'Architectures)
3:20 break    
3:35 Thomas Hoffmann-Kuhnt
The Architectural Competition as Driving Force to the German Building Culture
Chief Editor
Wettbewerbe Aktuell
4:15 Ian Chodikoff
Leveraging Design Competitions for Effective Urban Development
Chief Editor
Canadian Architect (Journal)
5:00 break    

Friday, March 16th, 2012, 17:30
public event and lecture
5:30 Keynote Speaker
Shohei Shigematsu
"Short List"
OMA Office for Metropolitan Architecture, New York

  followed by a discussion with
Line Ouellet
From the Competition to the Built Project: An Open Research Process with the Client
Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec (Québec)