Ten steps to improve architectural competition culture in Europe

Participants at the Conference on Competition Culture in Europe; Eva Kasbergen

Conference ‘Competition Culture in Europe’, group portrait. Sept. ’17;  Photo: Eva Kasbergen

|Palazzo Widmann at the Venice Biennale, May 24, 2018|

Last week Architectuur Lokaal with Project Compass organised the first, two-day conference on Competition Culture in Europe in Amsterdam. The results of a comparative research study of 17 countries was presented and extended with knowledge from other countries. The conference represents the start of a four-year project to improve the accessibility and transparency of competitions in Europe. The conference concluded with agreement being reached by representatives from over 25 countries to embark on the following programme over the next year.

Working to produce:
  1. A better understand of what each word in competition practice means in each country with development of a codified dictionary that aligns  ‘International English’ and the legal terminology, over different languages. For example translations of EU law, national and international common usages don’t always align leading to professional, client and public misinterpretations. The conference brought together from across Europe over 70 different words on the subject, many having distinctively different common usages within competition culture.
  2. Collecting experiences from architects who have won competitions abroad, to better understand the conditions that apply after a competition win in another country, including the benefits and obstacles.
  3. Collecting data that contributes to misunderstandings and preconceptions in competition culture, including such common held beliefs that all problems arise from Brussels.
  4. Collecting data into how, in each country, European, national and local laws and regulations are arranged, weighted and customised so as to provide insights on the benefits and disadvantages of the varied  applications.
  5. Complementing research undertaken in the first phase of the project (as reported at the conference) with further engagements from European countries that have not yet participated, to further broaden understanding and engagement.
  6. Collecting all available good practice guidance for holding and organising a competition across the various countries produced by  architectural organisations or architects locally. A purpose being to gather insights and list universally sensible ” do’s and don’ts. 
  7. Making competitions accessible to small firms and young architects in Europe across the different countries by expanding the uptake of digital platforms that announce competitions, so that competitions such as this reach beyond national borders. The objective being to create better access for competitions that are both above and below the tender thresholds.
  8. Creating up take and material for student academic modules that encourages learning about best practice ‘design contest rules’ – and develop further partnership relationships between many of the participants and their affiliated academic institutions.
  9. More critical reflection by architects on substantive competition issues. All too often conscious participation in bad competitions is still happening and it is not self-evident that jurors read the rules first.
  10. Experimental ‘bottom-up competitions’ to involve and inform a wider audience in the spatial issues that affect us all.

The results of this programme of action will be presented next fall during a second conference on competition culture in Europe. In May 24, 2018 in Palazzo Widmann at the Venice Biennale an interim report on progress will be presented by Architecture Local, A10 new European architecture Cooperative, Project Compass CIC and the Italian Association of Architecture and Criticism (AIAC).

Links: European Competitions websites, the conference programme of September 2017 and the publication Competition Culture in Europe 2013-2016.

the independent European portal for architectural competitions & contests.