Sights beyond Illusions: Towards Commensurable Competition Proposals

Tiina Merikoski


In planning competitions, the design teams produce visual material in order to present their future vision for a given site. Competition briefs include guidelines concerning this imagery, which aim (1) to ensure that it transmits the knowledge essential for evaluation, and (2) to mitigate the challenge of representational differences between the proposals. However, a key part of the art of architectural representation is to visualise the imagined environment in such a way that it appeals to the emotions of the viewer. It involves the design teams trying their utmost to create imagery that stands out, persuades the viewer, and provokes the imagination. These efforts put into the image-making render it difficult to compare objectively the knowledge embedded in the designs.

Within a research project investigating sustainable solutions for Nordic tourism destinations, a method was developed and tested to mitigate the challenge of the incommensurability of competition proposals. Key features in proposals to an invited competition were redrawn in digital format, and then layered against each other in order to gain a visually undisturbed understanding of the differences between them. The findings of this experiment suggest that the contemporary competition practices should and could be revised in order to gain competition proposals that are more readily available for mutual and objective comparison.

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