In my humble opinion, architectural design competitions are a wonderful thing. Public buildings hold so much potential benefit to their host cities, that everyone should be able and encouraged to propose their solutions.
Traditional procurement methods dealing with government funds and decision makers often put out an RFP (request for proposal) and qualified architecture firms submit their boiler-plate proposal template that was copied from someone else. Then, those government officials often seem to go with the cheapest option.
There are plenty of industries where its fine to go with the cheapest options…. McDonald’s for hamburgers, Wal-Mart for t-shirts, or taking the bus instead of an Uber. These are all relatively cheap things – life goes on… but there are plenty of industries where you inherently do not want to go with the cheapest option….. Do you really want the bargain bin brain surgeon or the cheapest pace-maker? Probably not. You probably want a person or product that is good at what it does when it comes to the important areas of your life. Well what about a giant building that costs millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars, which will (hopefully) last for 50-100 years and affect the lives of the hundreds or thousands of people who may pass through it daily? Maybe the cheapest option isn’t the best here either.
That’s why I truly love design competitions. Project submissions are anonymous and based on the merits and ideas of the proposal. The best ideas will rise to the top as they’re judged by a large panel of experts. These ideas may come from well known starchitects, or from some fresh faced kid who just got his license a few years ago. In fact, many of today’s well known architects got their big break after winning a competition: Think Snohetta and Renzo Piano.
A new Canadian star may be in the making with their recent architectural design competition – Toronto’s very own Office OU won an international competition to design a National Museum Complex in South Korea. The firm is a collaboration between a trio of 31 year olds who are now thrust into the world spotlight – what an immense opportunity for a talented young architecture office. I hope they pull it off!
To read more about Office OU and their winning proposal, click here.