ISSUES IN ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN COMPETITIONS
Author: Yousef Omar El Rafie, (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Author: Yasser Osman El Gammal, (email@example.com)
Journal Of Al-Azhar University Engineering Sector JAUES, ISSN:1110-6409, Vol7/No6, A58, December 2012
Design competitions are supposed to be the locomotive for the progress of the building
industry, re-addressing issues in the present system of competition, and having this object in
view, will, whatever its objections maybe, at least if judiciously, and honorably conducted,
would be of the first importance to the profession, and to the country at large, few will
attempt to deny: tending, as it must in a great measure, fights the serious evils of monopoly
and undue influence; and affording to deserving talent, which might' otherwise struggle
through life neglected and unknown, - a fair opportunities of attaining an honorable reward.
GOAL OF THIS STUDY
The goal of this study is to highlight the importance of abiding to the rules of competitions in
a fair, objective, and transparent manner to allow opportunities for talented architects who
may keep struggling throughout their entire career life to take a fair chance against the unfair
monopoly of the closed circuits between tycoons in the field, the reader of the paper may
form an idea about the problem after reading the conclusion and the case study.
The study introduces a short definition of the architectural competition, a brief about the
supposed goals of a design competition, a brief history of competitions, followed by
description of various architectural competition types in different regions to highlight
variations and differences that might be in the competition procedures.
The study provides a briefing about the UIA International Competition Standards with
highlighting on articles discussing copyrights and intellectual property rights of architects on
their introduced work of architecture.
At the end:
A Case Study from Egypt: The winning entry of the Former President Gammal Abd El
Nasser Museum Competition - is criticized to obtain conclusions and define
recommendations at the final section of the paper
Definition of Architectural Competition
An architectural design competition is a call in which an organization or government body
that plans to build a new building asks for architects to submit a proposed design for the
building they intend to construct.
The winning design is usually chosen by an independent panel of design professionals
and stakeholders such as government and local representatives.
Proposed Goals of Architectural Competition
A competition procedure is often used:
To generate new ideas for the building design
To stimulate public debate
To generate publicity for the project
To stimulate architects creativity.
To allow emerging designers the opportunity of gaining exposure.
While attaining the first prize in a competition is not a guarantee that the project will be
completed. This is due to many local issues that can develop after the competition is finished
and at the proposed construction site.
The owner of the site must also be able to obtain financing for construction and often has
the right to veto the winning design.
For instance, the original 2002 World Trade Center Master Design Contest in New York
City is a prime example of a highly publicized competition where only the basic elements of
the winning design by "Daniel Libeskind" appear in the finished project.
History of Architectural Competition
Architecture competitions have a more than 2,500-year-old history. The Acropolis in Athens
for example was a result of an architectural competition, as well as several cathedrals in the
Figure : Site plan of the Acropolis at Athens showing the major archaeological remains, 1.Parthenon, 2.Old Temple of
Athena, 3.Erechtheum, 4.Statue of Athena Promachos, 5.Propylaea, 6.Temple of Athena Nike, 7.Eleusinion, 8.Sanctuary of
Artemis Brauronia or Brauroneion, 9.Chalkotheke, 10.Pandroseion, 11.Arrephorion, 12.Altar of Athena, 13.Sanctuary of
Zeus Polieus, 14.Sanctuary of Pandion, 15.Odeon of Herodes Atticus, 16.Stoa of Eumenes, 17.Sanctuary of Asclepius or
Asclepieion, 18.Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, 19.Odeon of Pericles,
20.Temenos of Dionysus Eleuthereus, 21.Aglaureion
Also in 1419 a competition was held to design the dome of the Florence Cathedral, which
was won by "Filippo Brunelleschi". Open competitions were held in the late 18th century in
several countries including the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, France and Sweden. In
19th century England and Ireland there have been over 2,500 competitions in five decades,
with 362 in London alone.
The Institute of British Architects drafted a first set of rules in 1839, and a set of formal
regulations in 1872. In the same period in the Netherlands an association for the advancement
of architecture [Maatschappij tot Bevordering van de Bouwkunst] started organizing
conceptual competitions with the aim of stimulating architects' creativity.
Figure : Competition for the design of the Peace Palace in The Hague, 1905 Entries (from left to right) by Otto Wagner,
Franz Heinrich Schwechten, Hendrik Petrus Berlage and built design by Louis M. Cordonnier
Architectural Competition Types
In general, the majority of competition types are:
Open competitions (International, national or regional) open for all architects with no
specific restrictions on participating conditions
Limited/Selected competitions that restrict participation to pre-defined participating
Project competitions or Ideas competitions, depending on whether the aim is to build the
project or to generate new ideas only; and this competition type is sometimes divided into
One or Two - stage competitions, depending on the scale and complexity of the
competition and the intention of the owner to pursue with the winning design until it is
fully constructed in reality.
Student design competitions
Differences in Classifying Architectural Competition Types
However, some architecture bodies in many countries categorize each of the above
competition types into different definitions depending on their regional building conditions
and municipal regulations, for example:
The RAIC - Royal Architectural Institute of Canada recognizes three types of competition
Open Competitions: According to RAIC rules, an open competition is an international
competition that falls under the rules and regulations of the International Union of
Architects (UIA) and that can be entered by any registered architect who will be
recognized by the UIA from anywhere around the globe
Limited Competitions: According to RAIC rules, limited competitions in Canada
restrict the number of licensed architects who can compete and must be approved. For
the RAIC, the reasons are varied: e.g. to make use of national, regional, or local
talent/expertise. To fulfill a requirement for awareness of and sensitivity to national,
local, regional, or cultural issues, styles, and concerns. And when an open competition
is inappropriate for cost or other reasons
Invited Competitions: According to RAIC rules, an invited competition is one in
which architect eligibility is on an invitation-only basis. Sponsors invite a small
number of architects—three to five —to address their design needs. They can be
combined with a Quality-Based Selection (QBS) process defined by the RAIC to
determine the invited architects. For the RAIC, sponsors wish to choose architects
whose work or field of expertise is of interest to them. Invited competitions may also
enable the competitors to develop their designs to a greater degree of detail.
The Indian Council of Architects classifies competitions into:
Open Competitions: In which all Architects are invited to participate through an
announcement by advertisements in suitable media and through circulars which may
be issued by the promoters. Open competitions for projects estimated at less than Rs.
10,00,000/-may be restricted to Architects who have their main or branch office in the
State of the project site.
Limited Competitions for Competitions by Invitation: Competitions in which limited
amount of Architects (approx. 5 to 8) selected by the promoter on the advice of the
Senior Architect Assessor or Board of Assessors, are invited to participate. Each
participant who submits his designs receives an honorarium.
Special Competitions: A competition that combines town planning as well as a
design problem, and may involve the use of industrial components or participation of
developers. In such competitions, participation is sometimes required to be limited to
professionals or group of professionals with certain definite expertise. In such case the
competition announcement clearly defines the field of expertise.
The AIA - American Institute of Architects considers the many variables in developing an
architectural design competition that have spawned many competition types:
Project Competitions: This leads to the erection of a specific project on a defined site
for a specific client, the goal is to select the design solution that is judged to be the
best and to select the architect who will be commissioned to develop the design and
realize the project.
Idea Competitions: These competitions are held for projects that are not intended to
be built. They are useful as explorations of significant design issues but are limited as
they stop short of realization, idea competitions can stimulate interest in untried
possibilities where subjects for idea competitions should be carefully chosen.
Product Competitions: These competitions are generally sponsored by manufacturers
interested in the promotion of particular types or brands of building materials.
Prototype Competitions: These competitions are generally sponsored by corporations
interested in the prefabrication of various kinds of structures.
Open Competitions: These competitions are addressed by the AIA to the entire
national or international architectural community. They may be entered by any
licensed architect. Usually, open competitions permit entries for architectural
designers, students, or other design professionals, provided they associate themselves
with an architect.
Limited Competitions: These competitions restrict the submission of entries to a
specific set of architects, such as those who reside within a specified area, are licensed
to practice within a specified area, are licensed to practice within a particular state, or
who satisfy other conditional requirements.
Invited Competitions: Invites a limited number of designers to enter.
Developer/Architect Competitions: This competition process would be similar to the
one-or two-stage process but includes a developer to team with an architect. This
approach enables developers to propose solutions to develop a particular site. This
results in a residual land value that the developer is willing to pay to realize the
Design-Build Competitions: This competition process would be similar to the one- or
two-stage process, but includes a contractor to team with an architect. This approach
enables the sponsor to review solutions that combine the elements of design and
project cost. This process enters the realm of best value where a balance is sought
among project design, project cost, and projected return on investment.
International Union of Architects (UIA) Competitions: For which the organization has
its own guidelines
Hypothetical Competitions: Competitions with a proposed non-realistic land, location,
size, nor a defined design program.
Student Competitions: Any delivery outlined above, but limited to architecture
The UIA International Competition Standards Brief
According to UIA:
The term “International” applys to any competition in which the participation of
architects or town planners of more than one country is invited.
International competitions may be either open or restricted: Competitions for which any
specialists of two or more countries may enter are termed open; while competitions which
are limited to certain specialists invited by the organizers are termed restricted.
International competitions may consist of one or two stages.
Provisional Issues in the Architectural Competition Terms
Although the UIA has set many articles regulating the international competition terms, the
most annoying to architects among those are articles discussing copyrights, intellectual
properties on the work of architecture introduced in their entries, and whether the architect of
the winning entry will be commissioned to carry on with the architectural services, and site
supervision until the project delivery. For example:
In UIA Article 29: The author of any design shall retain the copyright of his work; no
alterations may be made without his formal consent.
In UIA Article 30: The design awarded first prize can only be used by the promoter upon
his commissioning the author to carry out the project. No other design, whether it has
been awarded a prize or not, may be used wholly or in part by the promoter except by
agreement with the author.
In UIA Article 31: As a general rule, the promoter’s right of ownership on a design
covers one execution only. However, the regulations for the competition may provide for
repetitive work and specify the terms thereof.
In UIA Article 32: In all cases, unless otherwise stated in the regulations, the author of
any design shall retain the right of reproduction.
In UIA Article 51: All drawings and plans, other than those which have received prizes or
been purchased and are retained by the promoter, shall be destroyed at the end of the
public exhibition, unless provision is made to the contrary in the regulations for the
competition. Where models are required, these will be returned to their author at the
expense of the promoter within one month of the close of the public exhibition.
Theoretically speaking, such articles were set in a manner that ensures transparency and
commitment to the wining architect's rights as stated, but the question is; does the
competition promoter together with the stakeholder [Client] abide to such rules after the
competition result is announced and the UIA has successfully finished its supervision on the
process? The answer is "No" in most cases because:
The UIA does not have any sort of a penalty mechanism for those who didn't fulfill the
rest of UIA instructions that should be followed after the competition is finished, as all
what the UIA can do in such case is to stop organizing any further competition with the
same promoter in the future
The UIA main task is only to provide standards regulating any competition that the
promoter wants to be under its auspices, there is no further authority from the UIA on the
actions of neither the promoters nor the stakeholders beyond providing its guidelines and
At the same time, it is not obligatory for any organization willing to sponsor a
competition that it should use and/or apply the UIA competition standards. The later are
used only by those competition sponsors who want to use the UIA name on the promotion
for their competitions to give the event prestige in the media.
Former President Gammal Abd El Nasser Museum Competition:
In 2009, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture arranged a competition calling local architects and
designers for renovating the house of the former president Nasser of Egypt turning his private
residence into a museum exhibiting his collections, the following are images selected from
the winning entry:
Figure : (From left to right) six pictures showing the winning entry for the competition, the top three images showing the
new treatment of the house main court, the bottom three images show the interior treatment
Information provided about the building by the ministry of culture was not enough for
competitors to formulate a good design concept, especially those regarding existing
electricity, HVAC, and sound system networks. While the ministry recommended that
competitors should introduce a solution utilizing existing networks with the new concept
together with a budget estimate.
The Q&A was not satisfying most of the competitors inquiries either
There is a great difference between turning houses of celebrities into museums and
building a museum from scratch, in the later the designer is free to do whatever his
imagination would give, but when treating an existing house; the designer should keep
every piece of architecture, wall, furniture, etc. in its place, and "As is" because visitors of
such type of museums are more interested to see how the inhibitors of the house were
living, their habits, their day-to-day activities, etc. rather than looking for their rare
collections that can be placed anywhere or in a separate area that will not disturb the
original scene of the place.
The famous "Dallas TV series" in American popular culture, a serial drama/prime time
soap opera that revolves around the Ewings, a wealthy Texas family in the oil and cattle-
ranching industries. The show debuted in April 1978 as a five-part miniseries on the CBS
network, and then was subsequently broadcasted for thirteen seasons from April 2, 1978
to May 3, 1991.
Figure : (From left to right) the legendary 340-acre "Southfork Ranch" in Parker - Texas/Dallas and the map
Their motto says: "No visit to Dallas is complete without visiting the legendary 340-acre
"Southfork Ranch" in Parker - Texas/Dallas now run by "Forever Resorts" as a
conference and meeting center as well as a major tourist attraction. Today, Southfork
continues to welcome visitors from around the world, who come to see where "Dallas"
was filmed and to experience the lifestyle made famous by the Ewings" The famous
"South Fork" have nearly tripled to about 300 visitors a day. This scoring is due to the
fact that architects who turned this ranch into a famous attraction simply kept every single
detail "As is" even the caravans where the actors used to take some rest between scenes
The winning entry of "Nasser museum" completely changed the original scene of the
house; it also exhibited collections in a retail store manner.
In addition, the ministry did not have a full and accurate as-built documents of the
original house to archive before applying this aggressive change in the house features.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The majority of Egyptian competition terms do not give appropriate copyrights and
intellectual rights for designers on their own work of architecture.
The jury - in the majority of Egyptian competitions do not abide to the design constraints
they defined for the competitors in the first place, and base their judgment on nice
presentations, and vibrant 3Dimensional scenes rather than focusing on the design
requirements, and conditions set for the design.
This is also apart from playing with the final results dates, personal interests, and the
hidden monopoly of influential players in the field
In most cases the jury decision is driven by their general mood by the time of evaluating
the proposed entries
Although fairness, objectivity, and transparency are not 100% percent guaranteed in most
design competitions worldwide, the jury should be more patient and give enough time and
"Thorough" check for each design entry regardless the time and effort consumed in the
process, no matter which evaluation system and criteria they are using for selecting the
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