Architecture Competitions Yearbook Review
The Architecture Competitions Yearbook of 2020, a successful yearly publication produced by Competitions.Archi, summarizes a very different and memorable year for all. Even during a global pandemic, this yearbook showcases how young architects and architecture students have delivered astounding competition-winning proposals in the face of unprecedented challenges of new circumstances. Reflecting on this new reality of 2020, this book brings forward a more complex debate on architectural competitions in comparison to its 2019 predecessor. It offers us a well-rounded overview of various real design challenges all architects face when preparing a competition entry.
I enjoyed the book’s straightforward and thorough analysis of what made each awarded entry win. It is a certainly an eye-opening opportunity to understand the complete design and thought processes behind each winning submission, which is usually hidden behind well-polished submission boards. The interviews included in the second edition of the ACY, and the depth and breadth of winning competition entries shown, string together an array of personal stories to learn from. Each of them bring the reader closer to an answer of whether there is a magic formula behind each successful architectural project or career. Overall, this architectural yearbook aims to provide its readers with answers to the following questions: What’s the secret behind awarded submissions?; What makes a good project? and How to create an innovative solution to the given problem?
The Architecture Competitions Yearbook of 2020 begins with three interviews – with Natalie de Vries, Robert Konieczny and Piotr Kalinowski consecutively. It provides candid accounts by these three architects/designers, who are successful on international, national and local levels, on how competitions shaped their careers. Afterwards, it rounds up the winning and commended entries from a selection of 10 international architecture competitions. What distinguishes this book, is that every team behind these winning submissions has given the readers a full insight into their design processes in answering the question – “how did you win that competition?” Overall, with a careful attention to detail and graphic design, it thoroughly examines each entry to determine the reasons behind their success.
The yearbook of 2020 opens with Natalie de Vries, the founder of the acclaimed practice MVRDV, trying to speculate whether unbuilt projects can change architecture. In this short interview with her, she acknowledges the design freedom competitions support, enabling architects to show their utopian visions of the future. Reflecting on her own practice, she evaluates how The European Competition helped her co-establish MVRDV and reminisces on the start of her architecture career.
Robert Konieczny, the founder of KWK Promes Studio, offers a more personal response. From childhood, through university to first competition wins, the reader follows Robert’s complicated path, which eventually led him to architectural recognition today. In contrast to Natalie, he paints a more sombre picture of what architectural competitions meant to him. Frankly, he notes that failure has taught him much more than victories. Through his personal story, he stresses on the importance of endurance, ambition, originality and starting with an empty piece of paper and a pen, as stepping stones towards achieving successful designs.
A contemporary and fresh look on successful design is delivered by Piotr Kalinowski, the founder of MIXD, operating in Wroclaw, Poland. In his interview, he stresses the need to pursue what hasn’t been done before, and references his visionary introduction of agile methodology in design. Amongst these three architects, he is the only one who mentions the significance of the client. He observes the need to “re-design yourself” with every proposal, to sustain uniqueness across every project. Altogether, his words offer a different view on architectural education and explain the hardships of opening a new, young practice.
Like how Natalie, Robert and Piotr all certainly succeeded in their architectural careers through to winning competitions, the second edition of the ACY offers an incredible opportunity to understand how YOU can win a competition by scrutinizing the featured selection of 10 architecture competitions.
Competitions displayed in this yearbook were specifically chosen in order to encompass various architectural themes. The contests in the ACY of 2020 show a wide range of programmes, scales and mediums such as African shelters proposals, architectural preservation projects, buildings in natural environments, commissioned infrastructures, skyscrapers to conceptual rendering challenges.
Each featured competition, from world-renown “Fairy Tales” to the Skyscraper Competition, includes beautiful graphics of the winning projects, the second and third-best submissions and commended entries. Even through a quick browse through the book, it is easy to be mesmerized by the captivating architectural imagery. Any student interested in how to best represent ideas and convey architectural works can find an array of graphical styles and diagrams to be inspired by and learn from!
It is truly exciting to be able to read personal stories of people behind every winning entry. The remarks given by each team are different, thus reading every single one of these accounts reveals various fundamental considerations behind a winning competition project. Design concepts, individual ways of working, sketching, iterating and team communication are just a few topics touched upon in the answers to the question “what made you win?”.
The most interesting feature of this yearbook is the step-by step journey of design being exposed, through these personal interviews. The book takes us through a journey of thinking processes and design resolutions, from their start to finish. Taking the route of Balint Iszak and Csenge Gyorgyi, who won the Iceland Volcano Museum Competition, one can trace every design decision they undertook. It becomes clear how they chose the competition, thoroughly analysed the site and begun their brain-storing with sketches. The primary idea of merging the building with its landscape and offering a unique visitor experience of this natural site was kept unchanged, leading the entire design process behind their proposals final plans and sections. Their design concept is still clearly evident even in Balint’s and Csenge’s material considerations! Lastly, they mention how they assembled drawings and visuals for their winning project boards.
Every winning entry is a visually and graphically stimulating presentation sheet. A well-made board is surely a key to victory! When you receive your personal copy, across all of the competition entries displayed, you will be able to fully understand what makes a successful project board, from the first ideas behind it to its final assembly. For instance, the winners of the Xi’an Train Station Competition, Giovanna de Simone and Matteo Amicarella say that:
“It is undeniable that (…) competition entries and results are clearly linked to graphics. (…) We need a clear, strong direct image, which not only represents the idea but also says all the sensations (…) we want to provoke in the future visitors of our building”.
This is just a single quote, however there is a plenty to learn from the ACY of 2020. Across the entire yearbook one can grasp many more nuanced knowledge behind successful boards, graphics, inspiration and ways of assembling it, shared by those who won themselves. Tips offered in this yearbook on how to approach an architectural competition are almost innumerable!
The Architecture Competitions Yearbook of 2020 seeks to find the illusive formula behind each successful competition entry. Nathalie de Vrie’s herself said – “I wish there would be a magical formula on how to participate in a competition, so you always win”. There may not be a one size fit all formula, but this book certainly showcases how different architects and students have found their own ways and means to succeed.
This book thoroughly scrutinizes the fundamentals and processes that are truly necessary for architectural accomplishment – a brilliant concept or idea, hard work, no fear of failure and loads of tracing paper. Everyone who reads this yearbook will be given a rare chance to understand and learn from multiple successful individuals and teams within it: honest and insightful conversations, which are refreshing respites from the confines of our homes.
If you are interested in knowing more about The Architecture Competitions Yearbook of 2020, feel free to visit the yearbook.archi website, where you can find more details about this publication together with guidance on how to get a full copy of your own.