Zaha Hadid, Herzog de Meuron, Others Banned From Exhibit

Artist aerial impression of architect Andrew Burns’ design for , one of the designs which didn’t make the short-list. Image via The Age.

In November, the 6 shortlisted firms for the Flinders Street Station competition each received a letter. The letter, written by Major Projects Victoria, a division of the city government, warned them of a certain act that would not only result in their disqualification, but would also bring the entire competition into “disrepute.”

What potential act could deserve such a warning? Attending an exhibit of the rejected design entries.

On November 22nd,  Fitzroy-based architecture firm Edwards Moore organized the “Long-Listers” exhibit to build on the public excitement for the competition, using the momentum to generate more conversation and debate about the project. As architect and organiser Juliet Moore put it: ”We wanted peer collaboration . . . too often these things are done behind closed doors. By the time the designs are revealed [a year later] the moment has passed.”

More after the break…

Artist impression of Fraser Paxton Architects’ design for Flinders Street Station, one of the designs which didn’t make the short-list. Image via The Age.

Major Projects Victoria notes that the competition rules stipulate that contestants must not exhibit their work before a winner is picked. Moreover, a spokesman for Major Projects Victoria said the organization wished to maintain the strictest levels of integrity, and, as reported by The Age, ”having finalists see unsuccessful designs might lead to future wrangling over intellectual property.”

The six shortlisted entrants (Ashton Raggatt McDougall; John Wardle Architects + Grimshaw; HASSELL + Herzog & de Meuron; NH Architecture; Eduardo Velasquez + Manuel Pineda + Santiago Medina (Colombia via University of Melbourne); and Zaha Hadid Architecture with BVN Architecture) all took the warning to heart (those planning to go promptly pulled out). After all, there is about $1 million dollars on the line (winners will be announced in July 2013).

While we understand that a competition must maintain neutrality and a certain level of secrecy, we’re sympathetic to Edwards Moore’s motivation; after all, isn’t the point of a public competition to generate public interest and debate? While the short-listers’ proposals will eventually be displayed for public’s choice voting (while the jury convenes to choose the “real” winner), could it really hurt to have those proposals which didn’t make the cut publicly available for scrutiny?

Do you think competitions should allow more transparency? Or is that a recipe for disaster? Let us know in the comments below.

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Zaha Hadid, Herzog de Meuron, Others Banned From Exhibit" 14 Dec 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=307043>
  • Luc Helterbrand

    I think it is scandalous when a public competition is not made public from the start. Too often these competitions are not about the best solution for the promoted cause but are instead competition about star power and cache. If public funds are to be used for any building, then transparencey as clear as glass must be maintained. Back room dealings of perceived intellectuals often results in buildings that not only are a failure aesthetically but also functionally. Shame on the organizers for blocking the public from viewing all respondants.

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  • MDOCD

    Its a pity to see a cast of the usual suspects shortlisted in what is supposed to be a competition for all. I suppose they MUST have been the best responses out of all the entrants?
    You could have picked some of these shortlisted teams at the public release held at the state library when the competition was kicked off.
    Perhaps it would be better to have the process more transparent to allow for a greater inclusion of the community in deciding how the prize money is spent? These competitions are becoming harder and harder for smaller studios to enter as the capital investment required to compete with the larger practices is quite high because of the money these offices can put into these competitions and the large amount of studio resource they can throw onto the brief. How do we create afair playing field to avoid a glass ceiling being created for such competitions?

  • drewAn isLand

    Theoretically, yes. Transparency in design competitions would get the public more involved in the industry and also educate those interested in the design process. This potentially could be very beneficial to the industry, shedding some light on a part of society which, until recently, doesn’t get much attention outside the industry.

    Leaving the decisions to the public, however, would be…unsavory. Most people do not fully understand the thinking behind “A”rchitecture, or why this class of architecture can be so expensive. While it is now more common to marry form with function, too often (especially for public structures in the US) we see form fall by the wayside to emphasize function. It is possible that by allowing a budget conscious public to assign awards, firms may become more concerned with designing function-focused structures lacking in artistic creativity just to win a contract and stay afloat. Yes, public structures often emphasize function to appease a smaller budget because they are often paid for by taxes…but (and heres where we come full circle) by making all competitions more transparent and educating the public about the industry, we can create an environment more conducive to architecture with an emphasizing on function AND form. This is important because, as we know, creativity begets more creativity, and through this process we can design more “A”rchitecture and propel the industry forward.

    Ok, done.

  • Eric in Colorado

    Two thoughts jump to mind: 1. The process should not take so long, allowing the non-shortlisted proposals to be presented to the public on a more timely, and less disruptive, schedule. 2. The finalists, and the Jurors, should be confident enough in the finalist’s proposals that viewing the others would not affect the finalist’s ideas.

  • Tony Dempsey

    The Competition Rules were there and clear before anyone entered
    the Design Competition.
    Either abide by the ‘quite reasonable’ Rules or butt out.
    Very simple really. And dont come back later bemoaning the
    position.

  • Matt

    Competition organisers have every right to stipulate their own rules. It is a great thing that a competition has even been held. I don’t have an issue with what they have done (or what Edwards Moore have done either).

  • baoan

    In design competitions the transparency should be followed and anonymity respected for to avoid ending on the « star made projects”.
    However for many politicians where in many case their ambition is not the quality of results but to obtain a star’s made design, the prize to pay for it doesn’t count.
    It is also a point that these stars are very often “borrowing” ideas from other less known designers or do not control their numerous staff members if they rather present their own ideas or not.
    In conclusion: maybe to follow the competitions ruled by UIA is a solution for to avoid the fake competitions. It is easy to say but very difficult to be done…

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