Analysis of Architectural Representation as a Research Method: National Library Competitions

Francisco Gomes, Jason Paul Haskins


Architectural competition research is often focused on the cultural sce­narios, problem briefs, and proposed buildings elicited by the design competition. Today, a growing body architectural theory posits that the representations architects create are not merely neutral windows into a design proposal but in themselves hold evidence of the interests and intentions of their authors. These representations are particularly con­sequential in the design competition; the visual and illustrative choices contained in the proposals include drawing type selection, visual presen­ce of urban context, use of the informal sketch, and degree to which pre­scriptive representation requirements have been modified or exceeded.

Focusing the study on national library competitions of the past three decades stabilizes one variable in this comparative analysis.

Research methods include the quantitative comparison of differences in the distribution and proportionality of types of presented information across multiple entries to a single competition, across submissions to similar competitions distributed over time, and across submissions au­thored by the same architect to different competitions. Significant find­ ings include strong evidence of designers seeking to differentiate theirgraphic presentation even when consistency is demanded by the com­ petition brief, a notable relationship between an increased quantity ofexplanatory text or a reduced quantity of non-required drawing types in the competition presentation and overall success in the competition. The direct reading of the illustrative techniques utilized in these compe­titions is a limited, but nevertheless important new perspective in un­derstanding the value and meaning of the architectural competition in our society.

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