In the field of architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture, competitions are held when the optimal design is to be found for an upcoming precise planning task or for general brainstorming. Such a competition is carried out because independent of detailed project specifications, there are still many different options for structuring, constructing and designing a building. Architecture competitions are therefore one of the best quality and project-oriented means of determining the best solution in terms of urban planning, function, economy and social compatibility for a specific project – and thus for all criteria of sustainability.
What is an architecture competition?
Architectural competitions are occasionally carried out voluntarily by large companies or, which is much more often the case, they are initiated by the client at the urging of the City of Frankfurt. Due to the considerable structural and social influence of high-rise buildings, realization competitions are usually held in Frankfurt for buildings from a height of 60 meters (197 feet), including projects such as:
One general question about such ideas competitions is how they are organized and how they lead to results.
Independence of Competitions
Architectural competitions are organized by competition managers (e.g. a competent authority or a company commissioned to do so), who are usually architects like the competition participants. The competition supervisors must have the same qualifications as the competition participants. They assume the coordinating role of the architect in this phase and are responsible, among other things, for the compilation of all content of the competition and the preliminary review of the submitted designs by the participating architects.
The basic idea of most competitions is the awarding of a planning contract (realization competition). For this purpose, the promise of the contract is laid down in the award. On the basis of this promise, the “competition sum” distributed in the form of prizes and recognitions may be lower than the service actually performed by all participants. The amount of the competition in Germany roughly corresponds to the fee for the preliminary planning (performance phase 2 according to the German HOAI regulation).
The principles of the architectural competition are in particular a clear task, the equal treatment of all participants, an appropriate price-performance ratio, the anonymity of the competition entries, an obligation to commission one of the award winners, and the judging of the work by a competent jury.
Forms of Competition
By defining the eligibility for participation, the sponsor determines the group of people admitted to the procedure – usually architects with the appropriate professional qualifications.
In open competitions, all persons who meet the requirements of the eligibility and who have no obstacles to participate can take part, e.g. B. because they are employees of the awarding body or part of the jury.
For restricted, limited or restricted competitions, a participation competition takes place before the actual competition. Before the competition documents are sent, after the publication, there is a selection process to determine a clearly defined number of participants. The design of the selection process allows certain scope within the limits of public procurement law, from the direct naming of participants via the definition of access and selection criteria based on office data and references to the lottery process.
A special feature is the two-phase competition, in which sketchy concepts are submitted to a reduced extent in a first (open) phase, on the basis of which participants are then selected for further competition processing in the second, restricted phase. This form of competition promotes the quality of the architecture in particular, because the result is open from the start.
Meaningfulness of Architectural Competitions
You regularly hear criticisms about architectural competitions. The main problem on the one hand is that despite the design competitions, the quality of the architecture is not outstanding and regularly leaves something to be desired. Another point of criticism is that in the event of a “forced” competition by the city, the later winning design can be determined indirectly by the client. That happens because in the real estate industry it is common that the builder strongly influences the composition of the expert jury or even defines it himself.
In order for such competitions to be carried out more honestly and with more open results in the future, an independent process would be required, which can be influenced less by the client than before. Because, above all, with open-ended results, the quality of the architecture can ultimately be increased.
Unfortunately, an architecture competition is often just an architect competition. This leads to the suspicion that not the best architecture is intended to be found, but instead an architectural office which fits certain needs.
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