Judgment in the Architectural Competition - Rules, Policies and Dilemmas

Magnus Rönn


The Nordic tradition of architectural competitions is over a hundred years old and is very significant for an architects professional and practical
external training. Approximately one hundred competitions are arranged annually in Sweden, Norway, Demark and Finland. The majority are organized by the public sector, state promoters and local councils. The European Unions (EU) regulations for competitions are used as a means of developing good solutions for design problems and as a tool for negotiating
competitive architectural services. This has brought competitions into focus again. These regulations have been incorporated into the Swedish Public Procurement Law (LOA). When the building sector became more market oriented in the 1990s Nordic governments developed an architectural policy programme.
Architectural competitions were described in these programmes as a means of securing quality and renewal. The competition method of course raises dilemmas such as conflicting goals, roles and interests that juries must confront during the assessment process. Power is divided. Juries are composed of representatives from organizing bodies and members appointed by the Swedish Association of Architects. Organizers may choose politicians, civil servants, property developers and end-users as members
of the jury. The jurys composition reflects the different interested parties in the competition and its task is to identify the best solution for reaching the competitions goal. It must be a united effort. The difficulty lies not only in the fact that the jury must consider the various interests in the competition but that there are always several good solutions to design problems in architecture and town planning. Choosing the winner is therefore a decisionmaking process riddled with doubts and genuine insecurity. All aspects of one proposal are seldom overwhelmingly better than the others.

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