Arkitekturtävlingar och platsbesök : the core project competition

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Urban and Rural Development

Abstract: Competing is a well established work model among Swedisharchitects as well as in the international architect work force.Through this study we set out to get better acquainted with thiswork model in theory and in practice, and to hopefully gainknowledge that will be of use to us and to others working in thefield of architecture.Techniques, materials as well as the artistic expression ofcontemporary architecture is international and today’s architectsoperate on a global labour market. Architects often commit to workon assignments far away from where they are based. Therefore,to physically visit the site of interest may be time consuming,expensive as well as harmful to the environment. Is it possible fora designer to accomplish relevant proposals on how to develop andimprove a place that he or she has never visited? May there evenbe situations in which the outsiders point of view is preferable?These are questions that we aim to investigate, and we do sothrough participation in an international design competition. Wehope to explore if and how it is possible to familiarize oneselfwith a site that is likely to have very little in common with ourhome environments, regarding climate, culture and scale.In the practical section of this study we aim to investigate andto try out methods of getting to know an unfamiliar site, otherthan through actually visiting it. We investigate the subject bycreating a proposal to an international design competition. Theprocess is carefully documented, the result is presented in full andfinally pros and cons about our proposal, relative to the amount ofinformation collected, are discussed.We also look to collect knowledge and experiences regardingthree phases of architectural competitions: the program, theproposal and the jury work. This is done through documentedmeetings with representatives of each phase. We have met withlandscape architect Linda Kullänger at the Swedish TransportAdministration. Linda Kullänger has been involved in thecreating of programs for big international competitions suchas the Stockholmsporten competition. We have also met withlandscape architect Sam Keshavarz, a landscape architect atWhite Architects working with creating proposals to designcompetitions. Finally we met with architect Katarina Nilssonwho represent The Swedish Association of Architects as a jurymember when design proposals are judged and a winner is elected.Unlike many countries architecture competitions in Sweden aresupervised by the trade association, The Swedish Association of Architects. Fragments of these meetings are presented throughoutthe study in the form of quotes, that relate to the different topicsin the text.We’ve chosen to participate in The Core Project Competition, aninternational design competition hosted by the city of Sebastopol.Sebastopol is a town of ca 8000 inhabitants in Sonoma county,northern California. It is located in a region known for its manywineries, its natural beauty and its agricultural history. Sebastopolis located in the crossing of two state highways, making it acommercial hub to some 50,000 people, with businesses andsights attracting customers and tourists from the greater region.It is also a town in a region and a part of the world that neither ofus has visited.The competition homepage has been updated several times duringthe competition so far, changing the conditions regarding deadline,competition resources and even the character of the assignment(such turns of events would almost certainly have compelled thetrade association to intervene and cancel the competition, had itbeen held in Sweden). At the time when we designed our proposalto the competition, it’s focus was on the following three issues(The Core Project 2011):• Strengthen the towns connection to the natural surroundings,including lakes, creeks and wetlands.• Improve the traffic situation in Sebastopol. The town baresmany traces of modernistic city planning and the city core isadapted to the car rather than to pedestrians. It is also locatedin the intersection of two state highways, generating a greatdeal of pass-through traffic.• Support economical growth and create a favourablecommercial environment, supporting local businesses.Our understanding is that most architects today use the internet asa complement to visiting the site. In our case however, the use ofmaps, satellite photos and images from Sebastopol found on theinternet has played a greater roll, as it has been the only availableway for us to see what the town looks like, and the only way toanalyse its physical structure. The scale and measures of streetsand buildings are more or less roughly estimated, using imagescontaining cars or people as reference objects.We have also contacted groups and organisations in Sebastopol through an e-mail survey, in order to get to know about the issuesthat are of most concern to the people living in Sebastopol.Unfortunately this attempt didn’t result in anything, except ourconclusion that e-mail is a form of communication that can easilybe ignored.We have been working as a group of two persons during everystep in the process of creating the design proposal, as well asduring the process of writing this study. We believe that thismethod has lead us to results that is not only different but alsobetter than had we divided the work between us. This also gave usthe opportunity to discuss and learn from our individual previousexperiences. This way of working may on the other hand be moretime consuming.The name of our proposal to The Core Project Competition isInviting Landscapes. It is a proposal where we “invite” fourdifferent elements of the northern Californian landscapes intoSebastopol’s city centre, creating four districts with differentthemes. This is a conceptual proposal and these landscape themesare meant to be inspirational to future design measures in thepublic places of Sebastopol, such as parks, play grounds but alsothe street scene.The proposal also has a section with proposed practical actions.This section includes suggested measures for improving thestreet environment to prioritize pedestrians, by widening thesidewalks and relocating parking spaces. We suggest the shapeand proportion, as well as the material in the space between thebuildings, to be chosen considering what is best for the site. Thiscan mean a wider pavement next to a popular res­aurant or atgreener, more inviting street scene next to a park. This part of theproposal also includes suggestions to introduce a new model forpublic transportation and a model for dealing with Sebastopol’sunderutilized properties, where decisions are made beforehandregarding the structure and pattern of the street grid, makingSebastopol a more walkable town.Originally one of our intentions was to discuss and compare our proposal to the winning proposal (assuming of course that ourentry wasn’t awarded first price). We also intended to contactmembers of the jury to get their views on the importance of sitevisits, or lack thereof. As the deadline was postponed we decidedto focus more on competitions in general, hence the interviewsection of the study. Because of this, the discussion about whetheror not we managed to create a successful proposal to develop thetown of Sebastopol is based only on our own speculations.Another topic of discussion in this study is the impact of culturaldifferences. In many ways our proposal presents ideas andconcepts that may come across as European. We are in manyways unfamiliar not only with the site but with American valuesin general, and this may work both to our advantage or to ourdisadvantage.

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