Subverting the architectural design competition

Ruth Dalton, Christoph Hoelscher, Peter Holgate, Martin Brösamle

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In 2011 a seemingly 'typical' architectural competition was organised (consisting of a real site, design brief, International jury and prizes) by the Universities of Freiburg and Bremen (Germany) in collaboration with Northumbria University (UK) but with an ulterior motive of pursuing a specific design-research agenda. The reasons for the competition were: to engage architects in an academic research agenda through a comfortingly familiar modus operandi; to bring together researchers in architectural theory/spatial cognition and practising architects with an interest in user-centred design; to use a design competition as a means to investigate the effects of designing with a particular focus (in this case: movement paths/pedestrian flow and the unfolding user experience); to amass a uniform database of example buildings, all responding to the same brief and site whilst also in a common format amenable to further research analysis. The competition was entered by 30 teams of which a short-list of 12 schemes was selected for exhibition in New York, which took place in November 2011. Three schemes were selected as prize-winners and those designers were invited to present at an academic workshop (on the topic of spatial cognition and architectural design) held concurrently with the exhibition. The compe-tition was perceived as being a highly productive way to engage design practitioners in an active research agenda (and vice versa). The winning architects who subsequently participated in the workshop found it a valuable experience whilst the competi-tion organisers have now amassed a valuable database that will be invaluable resource for further research into the topic. The success of this event has led to plans to repeat the process.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
EventTheory by Design: Architectural Research made explicit in the design teaching studio - Antwerp, Netherlands
Duration: 1 Oct 2012 → …


ConferenceTheory by Design: Architectural Research made explicit in the design teaching studio
Period1/10/12 → …


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