Thursday, May 7, 2009
The Case for Architectural-Design Competitions
Roger K. Lewis, The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2009
The stars truly aligned last year for the University of Baltimore. It sponsored an international competition to select an architect and design concept for its $107-million, 190,000-square-foot law school, slated to open in 2012. The five architectural teams that competed and the five jurors invited to judge were all distinguished professionals. The teams were fortunate to have a detailed description of the public law school's needs, and a strategically located site ideal for a highly visible, landmark building. And each competitor received $50,000 to cover part of the cost of exploring and testing concepts, making drawings and models, and traveling.
The competition was a great success: The celebrated German architect Stefan Behnisch, in association with Baltimore-based Ayers Saint Gross, won and is now developing the law-school design. Other equally well-known finalists were the British architect Sir Norman Foster, the French architect Dominique Perrault, the Boston area's Moshe Safdie, and SmithGroup's Washington office. The competition succeeded because the university sought exemplary architecture from the outset, and because it had secured essential support from constituents, donors, the city, and the state, which rarely sponsors design competitions for publicly financed projects.
Yet why go to the trouble of conducting a time-consuming, costly, logistically demanding design competition just to select an architect and perhaps a feasible concept? Click here to read more. (Image: The winning design for the University of Baltimore's John and Frances Angelos Law Center. Courtesy of www.ubalt.edu.)