The architects saga: competitions


For anyone who is an architect, competitions are a part of your daily life, they represent the traditional way to make a living while maintaining you artistic integrity – given a specific problem, you develop you own solution without external pressures or constraints, reviewed anomaly by your peers – the winners, there so, are chosen by their ability alone and consequently represent “le creme de la creme” of the profession. Obviously this is also the way to reach the recognition of your peers and, stardom, since anyone can reach it as long as it has ability. Any other path is diminished because it considers that other factors may come into consideration which are not due purely to artistic and technical abilities.

Naturally, winning competitions leads to private commissions: “I want you to design me my company headquarters as you design project X” – this is the stardom – work comes to find you and not the other way around. You are the “artist” and the people who appreciate your position towards your art and the world comes to you…If, on the contrary, you go and sell your art to the world then the risk of selling yourself is too big, that path is under appreciated…unfortunately not everyone can make a living just by winning competitions…

I am part of what I normally call the “2nd class group” – the group that doesn’t win architecture competitions and has to find clients: I am a sold out!

My rebel young mind used to think this was the right way…go against the prevailing system – “the architecture world is controlled by the small group of Masters and their favorites, an elite which only very few can aspire, and never without a substantial amount of adulation practices. Instead of spending time discussing the sex of the angels, architecture should find its way in the 21st century and learn how to deal with this economy and society. After all, architecture is made for people, and it should learn how to reach the common people, how to publicize itself, and let the masses choose freely.

Eventually I grew up…and realize that, there is a reason for this dedication to competitions: you just have to be an architect…nothing else!!!

If not, lets see:

01_RECOGNITION: immediately as the detainer of talent and ability to fulfill your desires so you have to respect him – that fact alone solves you a lot of problems;

02_RESOURCES: normally there is a generous budget available that, at least, is reasonable enough to achieve the project goals (except when the competition is not meant to go forward, to construction phase, and in that case, you were already paid for your work). That means you are assured to have a competent team of professionals supporting your work all the way till the end of construction.

Of course things are not so simple, and in the architecture world, problems are the common norm, specially when projects take sometimes decades to become reality. But I found out how reassuring it can be to your stress levels, having continuous financial and confidence patronage from a governmental or private institution (they normally are the clients).

03_INSPIRATION: I don’t care what anyone says, competitions offer the best architecture challenges – the most significant and interesting buildings and programs are launched by competitions (the search for the most talented remember…) and that is always inspiring – if you want to be motived you will most likely be working on a competition. Its heaven on earth of the architectural world.

The problem is: how to win a competition? There is a reason why only certain offices are able to devote the majority of their dedication to them. It only works if you win, once and a while. And the winning depends on your brains as well as you dedication to the task.

I have been trying to win a competition for over 10 years now, and despite some good results never saw a victory coming my way. Yes I admit it, I want to win, and am starting to fell pissed about this! I want a recognized workplace full of inspired resources!

But even if I don’t win I keep on doing it. Competitions allows you to be yourself, even if just for a little while. You are in control, you are allowed to express your vision of the world, you put all your knowledge and expertise in fiddling the best solution for a problem without being disturb by a troop of foreigners that think they know better then you.

Either way, here I am, once again, after 3 hour sleep, which as been repeated over the last week, trying to finish the last presentation board to take this “thing” to the post office. I always have this reaction after being sleep deprived for some days: I start hating the project and want to cry.

I guess this is what people call a love/hate relationship…