Event: Win, Lose, and Draw: How to Succeed at Design Competitions
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.17.11
Speakers: Olympia Kazi — Executive Director, Van Alen Institute; Illya Azaroff, AIA — Director of Design, +lab for experimentation; William Prince — Principal, PARK; Jeeyong An, AIA — Principal, Manifesto Architect
Moderator: Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP — ENYA Committee Member
Organizer: AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA)
“The best conversations are private,” occurring behind closed doors among members of a design awards jury, lamented Olympia Kazi, executive director of the Van Alen Institute. In association with the “High Bridge” exhibition currently on view at the Center, which features the AIANY Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) Committee’s HB:BX Building Cultural Infrastructure competition, experienced entrants and jurors revealed what goes on behind closed doors and offered valuable advice on succeeding in design competitions.
Illya Azaroff, AIA, director of design at +lab for experimentation, believes entrants should be honest with themselves about why they want to enter a competition. “Don’t do this for the jury,” he insisted. One common reason is to build a portfolio, while another is to generate ideas. Competitions provide “an opportunity to gauge public opinion and initiate a discourse on design and public space,” said Kazi, aside from the fact that they offer a release for those who miss the creative energy of architecture school. Before beginning to design, however, Azaroff advised potential entrants to “do your research” on jury members, as well as funds available.
What exactly do jurors look for? William Prince, principal of PARK and juror of the HB:BX competition, believes that “the rules are not always the rules,” but if entrants break them, he advised to “really break the rules and sell it hard.” He noted that over half of the entrants in the HB:BX competition presented the same parti, but entries that pushed the boundaries stood out to jurors. However, a strong concept is lost in the absence of a strong graphic presentation, and panelists agreed that visuals can make the difference between advancing through the first phase or not. As Azaroff explained, “the graphics should grab you from across the room.”
Jeeyong An, AIA, principal of Manifesto Architect, built his practice by entering competitions. Within the past two years, his firm has entered more than 50 competitions and received 20 awards. Though An has yet to win first place, his entries have impressed clients enough to lead to other work. “It helps us to build up our reputation and gain real projects,” he explained, proving that winning isn’t everything.