In his forthright and insightful essay, designer/author/Doors of Perception director John Thackara discusses problems with today’s design completions and offers up some compelling suggestions for change. Complaints range from moralistic, “competitions are too often staged for wrong or unclear reasons;” to humanistic, “attention is usually focused on the thing rather than on the person or team behind the thing;” to mundane, “there is seldom enough time in the judging process to assess entries adequately.” I assume such complaints are obvious to anyone on the judging-side of the design competition world, and that saying all this out loud might come off as obnoxious, but as a recent architecture school graduate I appreciate Thackara’s full disclosure. Knowledge is power, y’all. Likewise, Thackara’s proposed redesigns range from pragmatic, “get real: Insist on external partners and a live context,” to idealistically postmodern, suggesting competitions “ask entrants to create platforms and contexts in which diverse groups of people may co-design the systems, institutions and processes that shape our daily lives.” As reasonable as the suggestion may be, allusions to leftist, Los Angeles School-style activism might cause some readers to lose interest.
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