Competition Culture in Europe

Competition culture in Europe

Architect selections for commissions below EU thresholds are not published on the official website Tenders European Daily (TED). Smaller commissions stay below the radar and not all countries in Europe are a member of the European Union. How can architects find out where design contests are announced in Europe? What is the highest and lowest prize money per country? How do A10-members assess the competition culture in their respective countries? And what are the chances that a winning design will be built?  In order to gain better insight into the current situation, Architectuur Lokaal has commissioned A10 new European architecture Cooperative to collect data in 15 of the 17 surveyed countries in Europe. The results have been presented during a two-day international conference Competition Culture in Europe in Amsterdam on September 28 and 29, 2017.

The full results in maps, analysis, data, 50 case studies and individual country cards are published in Competition Culture in Europe 2013-2016.

10 concrete agreements for 2018 were made which are feasible within one year and will be carried out by the representatives of the more than 25 countries that were present.

1) To put together a dictionary of terms that will provide a better understanding of what each word means in each respective country. Through interpretations of legal terminology and ‘international English’, a seemingly neutral word like ‘competition’ can be determined to be not unbiased. In some countries, ‘competition’ is meant as both a contest and procurement; in others, it is simply a contest. This is just one confusing example of understanding in a list of over 70 words that are culturally skewed per country;

1a) To gain a better insight in the nature of competitions in Europe we have collected 50 case studies, which are also described in the Competition Culture publication. Combined they show the differences in topics, fees, procedures, scale, transparency, and clients;

2) To gather the experiences of (Dutch) architects who have won a competition abroad, in order to gain insight into the benefits and obstacles that emerge after winning a commission;

3) To collect data that contributes to misunderstandings and prejudices in contest culture, such as the persistent untruth that all problems come from Brussels;

4) To collect data that provides insight into how European, national, and local laws and regulations are (unnecessarily) layered in each country;

5) To supplement the research by adding countries in Europe which did not participate in the survey during the project’s first stage, in order to broaden the level of support and insight;

6) To gather all the guidelines and other useful knowledge for organizing a good competition, as formulated in the various countries by (primarily) local architects or architectural organizations, and which generally constitute a sensible list of universal dos and don’ts;

7) To expand the digital overview of platforms in the various countries which announce competitions (especially those below the procurement thresholds) and are also accessible to smaller offices and young architects in Europe;

8) To encourage the formulation of an academic module for students themed ‘design competition rules’. Almost all of the conference participants are also affiliated with a university or academy;

9) To stimulate a critical attitude from the architects themselves: for instance, first read the rules before taking a jury position, as its precise nature is not always obvious in the long run. Knowingly participating in a substandard competition still occurs far too often;

10) To put together a ‘bottom-up’ competition as an experiment, in order to involve a broader public in the spatial issues that concern us all. The results of this action list will be presented in autumn 2018 at a second conference on competition culture in Europe. On 24 May 2018, Architectuur Lokaal, A10 New European Architectural Cooperative, Project Compass CIC, and the Italian Organization for Architecture Criticism (AIAC) will set forth an intermediate position at Palazzo Widmann during the Venice Biennale.

Background information:

Participating countries in 2017, surveyed by A10, were: Albania (Saimir Kristo), Austria (Anne Isopp), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Elsa Turkusic), Bulgaria (Aneta Vasileva), Czech Republic (Osamu Okamura), Finland (Tarja Nurmi), Germany (Florian Heilmeyer), Greece (Petros Phokaides), Ireland (Emmett Scanlon), Italy (Zaira Magliozzi), Kosovo (Vjollca Limani), Latvia (Ieva Zibarte), Lithuania (Ruta Leitaneite), Norway (Joachim Skajaa) and Poland (Hubert Trammer). The Netherlands have been surveyed by Cilly Jansen, Architectuur Lokaal), United Kingdom has been researched by (Walter Menteth, Project Compass). Overall coordination: Indira van ‘t Klooster. Find out more about the A10 correspondents here.