Combo Competitions, an organisation founded by Swedish, London based architect Per Linde, organises international idea competitions for architects, designers and students. With a gentle emphasis on the ideas presented in proposals, rather than aesthetics alone, their main driver is to promote design concepts "where everything comes together to form a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts."
With the increasing ease in producing "amazing renderings and images," underling concepts can often be lost - or hidden by - a seductive final image. Combo Competitions seeks to reverse this trend by rewarding an emphasis on "well advised concepts" alongside appearance and presentation. Their latest competition, entitled Hello Nature, invites participants to explore a way of re-introducing nature into people’s consciousness.
Find out more about the competition and hear from Per Linde after the break...
AD: Why are architectural competitions important?
PL: On a high level, ideas competitions are an important part of the discourse because they can afford to be more adventurous than many “real-world” bids, which often emphasise cost-effective and build-able solutions as opposed to exploring a certain aesthetic or tackling a social issue while addressing the main brief. On a more hands-on level I think competitions are a good way for offices – and individuals – to stay in touch with their creative side, not to mention that it is a great way of building a portfolio.
AD: To what extent is it possible to separate an excellent concept from its associated visuals?
PL: I don’t think they should be completely separated, but I want people to view the concept as a very large part of the overall project. However, at the end of the day, it’s also about how you package your thoughts. No matter how good an idea is, if you can’t convince people about its excellence, it won’t really go anywhere. This is where visuals – and the written word - play an important role by merging concept, aesthetics and diagrams into a single entity that clearly conveys every aspect and intention.
The better a submission can communicate its intentions, the easier it is to judge it. It becomes trickier when you have to second-guess the reasons for why something is the way it is.
AD: Why is the idea important when the product of architecture is to build?
PL: Buildings have relatively long life spans, and as times change it might become difficult to appreciate a structure whose main merit was to offer a very contemporary appeal. Not saying that contemporary buildings can’t be based on strong ideas and age well, but many buildings that stand the test of time also have well-advised concepts behind them.
AD: Would you consider architecture a discipline or a profession?
PL: I see architecture as a mix between discipline and profession. Many architects would probably like architecture to be more of a discipline, with the artistic freedom that involves, whereas a lot of clients surely want architects to be less fussy and just deliver what is asked of them. And this is kind of the point with Combo Competitions – I want architects to treat architecture like a discipline when it comes to aesthetics and theory, but with the ability to package and sell it in a way that appeals to the client as well.
Combo Competition's latest challenge offers a site located in northern Sweden at the foot of a mountain (Omneberget), sat within a coastal area called the High Coast (Höga Kusten) which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From the competition brief. Since the dawn of time, humanity has been dependent on nature to provide us with food and shelter. And even as our civilisation is becoming increasingly advanced, we still rely on nature to provide the basic building blocks: everything we eat is still grown or farmed on earth, and while we have invented and produced a myriad of exotic products, they are all built with materials found in nature.
However, over the last few centuries, people have become increasingly distant from the wild. Before the industrial revolution, only 3% of the world’s population lived in cities. Today - only 250 years later - more than 50% live in urban areas. It represents a physical, as well as a mental, detachment. The majority of the world’s population is no longer connected to nature in the same way as in the past.
This detachment affects both parties: on the one hand, the population living in cities misses out on the positive impact nature has on both mental and physical health - a multitude of scientific articles highlight the benefits of spending time in the green outdoors. On the other hand, when being less involved, people also tend to become less considerate. While humanity’s negative impact on the environment increases, the concern about our planet declines. In the long run, this is a crucial contributor to climate change, affecting the entire planet.
It is time to reconnect to nature, and to highlight the relationship between humanity and the rest of the planet.
Find out more about their current competition here.
See other winning entries from former competitions here.