Architecture does not live by clients alone, nor does it spring from the mind of an unemployed architect. Architecture competitions are sometimes organized to solicit ideas, to see a range of options, or to generate publicity for a particular issue. Competitions are usually split between two paradigms: competitions that seek to select an architect for a real project (institutions like universities and museums tend to d do this), and “ideas” competitions, looking for (sometimes unbuildable) proposals that are not intended to be built. The prize for the former is the commission; the latter a prize, like money or merely glory. Sometimes competitions are OPEN, allowing anyone to enter. Others are INVITED, meaning a list of architects is first determined and then the competition is launched for those on the list.

Examples? P.S.1, contemporary art museum affiliated with MoMA, holds an annual summer competition supporting “young architects”




The Highline, a newly-opened elevated park in New York, held two competitions, an initial ideas competition open to all, then a formal competition to select an architect, won by Diller Scofidio+Renfro/Field Operations.

So why do I mention this? Two reasons: Competitions are a good, focused way to get involved in projects long before you are able to build buildings on your own (about 10 years from now for you 2nd year students). How to find them? Websites like Death by Architecture, Bustler and Archinect post competitions with deadline info and links to official sites.

The other reason? Selfish. I recently entered two competitions, and I am plugging them here for votes. The first competition is called Common of Houses, an ideas competition to re-imagine the UK parliamentary residences in the wake of financial abuses. My entry is BICAMERA HOUSE. Vote for me on the sidebar here.

I didn’t quite make the cut for ReBurbia, an ideas competition rethinking suburbia. There are twenty finalists, and you can vote here for the winners. But since I didn’t make the finals, I post some of my entry here for the free publicity (shameless abuse of power) and as a demonstration of what a competition entry might look like, complete with descriptive text. This was made by me and two others in just under a week of work. It is called “Keeping Up Appearances”:






“The Jones family, like many, owns an oversized suburban home rapidly depreciating in value. They are long-time suburbanites with multiple cars, long commutes, and suburban ideals of neighborhood conformity. As nationwide tensions grow in the face of financial unease, the entire neighborhood steps up their usual glances at fellow suburbanites’ lifestyles to find local indicators of suburbia’s future.

More than 50% of America lives in suburbia. It remains popular, especially to populations new to the suburban lifestyle. Meanwhile, alternative employment models have made suburbia increasingly viable, as new generations telecommute and make friends online. Social networks are no longer limited to physical proximity, as employment and online communities collapse spatial barriers.

The Smiths, city dwellers since graduating from college, move to the suburbs for more space. They move into the Jones’ house that has been subdivided to comfortably accommodate two families. They share entry and circulation, but have private quarters. The Joneses, keeping their consumption conspicuous, divide their house into zones visible to neighbors through windows, and “blind spots”—places in their house invisible to prying eyes. The Smiths live in the Jones’ blind spots, satisfying neighborhood expectations, telecommuting and living a sustainable lifestyle. The Joneses, meanwhile, live in the Smith blind spots, just outside their webcam cameras, giving the Smiths a suburban equivalent online.”


3 Responses to “Competitions”

  1. 1 Richman N
    2009/08/15 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for the post Pablo. I’m wondering, however:

    Over the approximately 1 week of time spent on this project, what did your workflow look like? How much brainstorming, how much sketching, how much modeling, etc? Secondly, how early in the process did the description begin to grow?

  2. 2 Pablo Garcia
    2009/08/15 at 4:02 pm

    Workflow is hard to describe. But, to run good meetings, you have to be actively aiming toward a conclusion and have things to do, tasks to complete after each time the team gathers. As a team, we met at least once a day, shaping the issues and sketching out ideas, looking up references on the web, etc. So, with two helpers, each person got tasks to complete, ever-evolving parts such as the first page diagram which was tweaked on and off all week. I wrote at least seven or eight drafts, changing my strategy for how to make a pitch for the project. There was a limit of 1500 characters, so some drafts were for space. Once I sat down and worked out the geometry, images were quicker to produce as we had established early an arbitrary graphic palette (white lines and web colors onto blue background). It was a classic charette.

  3. 3 Joy
    2009/12/18 at 11:53 pm

    Hey! thats where I’m interning right now! project is on MOMA: Rising Currents, so we are working in the offices in PS1 building I’ll post some stuff !

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