Routine and Exceptional Competition Practice in Germany as Published in Wettbewerbe Aktuell

Torsten Schmiedeknecht


This paper will discuss the work of the monthly journal Wettbewerbe Aktuell (WA) which was launched in Germany, in June 1971, with the aim of documenting competition results from all over the country.
With a current distribution of 13,500 copies (estimated readership 30,000), since July 1971, WA has published the detailed results of more than 2500
architecture competitions. Its first 36 volumes present the largest single collection of drawings of design proposals in contemporary German architecture.
Categorised by functional building type, every month the results of six competitions are documented and published in detail; the prize winning entries of usually between ten and fifteen other competitions being presented in outline form. The detailed documentation of a competition consists of two parts: first an abbreviated version of the design brief and
the jurys recommendation, listing prize winners, judges, prize money and dates; and secondly the publication of drawings and model photographs of
the prize winning projects, together with the jurys evaluation of each project.
WA s reference system, the division of projects into functional building types, and the diagrammatic drawings of the projects themselves present the design of competition architecture as a logical operation.
As an extensive data-bank of design solutions in 14 categories, subdivided into 104 sections the format of WA appears to promote the cutting and pasting of borrowed solutions.
With a particular focus on the changes brought about in 1997, by the introduction of the European Services Directive (92/50/ECC), to Germanys competition system, the paper investigates the difference between what is perceived as routine (local competitions in which participants routinely submit standard solutions) and exceptional (national competitions with international participants submitting non-standard contributions) competition practice in open anonymous architectural competitions in Germany from 1977 (exceptional) and 1986 (routine) to 2001 as published in WA.
Routine practice, until 1997, is assessed by an analysis of type considering whether or not predominant architectural types may be detected in successful competition entries across the 14 functional categories established by the journal WA.
In contrast, a close reading of the competition for the Deutsches  Historisches Museum (German Historic Museum) in Berlin (won by Aldo Rossi in 1988), provides a comparative look at exceptional practice.

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