Innovative versus Qualified. The Experience of Competitions in Contemporary Greece

Athanasios Kouzelis, Iro Psilopoulus, Angela Psilopoulus


The practice of competitions in contemporary Greece as a mode of developing public procurement buildings has been a particular issue of
controversy. And while one may anticipate the all too common in the international experience issue of specifying for a design competition and
validating the choice of the jury in undisputed terms, it is the validity of opting for a design competition itself that proves to be a great issue of
controversy in the Greek experience. The latter offers a case study on how public authorities understand the notion of building development, leaning primarily towards quantitative and construction demands, rather than qualitative principles and solution novelties. It is argued that this controversy is rooted in, and developed from, a strict axiomatic and authoritarian milieu, namely, every prescription which derives from an exacting proclamation text that is usually formulated in qualification terminology. This observation reveals also a notion of friction which underlies the in extremis understanding of the project either as a technical one or an architectural one. The cases of the competitions for the New Acropolis Museum and the extension of the building of the
National Theater will serve respectively as an example on each of the two extremes. These arguments are primarily investigated through the study of Greek legislation and particularly Law 3316, which implements the EU
directive 2004/18/EC on the award of public work contracts. It will be shown that Law 3316 allows for a variety of types of competition and leaves equal room for interpretation when authorities are called upon deciding on a type of award process. It will also be shown that the question of architectural quality is identified only in the case of an Architectural Design Competition by a competent jury, while in all other cases it is reduced to a prescriptive factor of aesthetics, weighing along with several other technical and economical issues on the judgment at hand. It is in this manner that the authors will focus on the Greek experience as an issue of administration,
rather than raising questions of methodology on conducting a competition.

Finally, following especially the four competitions for New Acropolis Museum will show that both the provisions of the Law and the insistence on prescriptive norms for the conduct of competition have failed to achieve consensus, as public dispute proved inevitable every time. It will then be
argued that in spite of issues of controversy, architectural creation is rather subject to a fortunate coincidence of the play of forces at hand, while the final verdict projects both in the present context of the competition as well as in the future past of society. Therefore, it is the authors aim to argue that establishing qualitative criteria of architectural authenticity is more of a matter of a new understanding, than a ratification of the process through the ever expanding establishment of qualification criteria.

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