The LafargeHolcim Awards give architects the chance to provoke, excite, and launch their careers. says architecture critic Edwin Heathcote in a special issue of L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui (AA).
Architecture is, whether we acknowledge it or not, a culture of competition. From crits at school to jostling for jobs, from architectural competitions and shortlists to awards and honours and to the existential, intellectual and financial struggles an architect encounters and has to overcome to create a building which has cultural, capital and public value, competition is rife.
by Edwin Heathcote
But then there is also the culture of competitions themselves. It is precisely those contests which give young architects the chance to provoke and excite, to launch their careers and, most importantly, to enter a process which strips away the advantages of age, experience, contacts and networks, which levels the playing field.
Arguably the most critical advantage has always been geographical, being born, or moving to a wealthy city in the Global North. Competitions can make up for this. In fact, perhaps more than this, they can give weight and credence to designs attempting to confront the world’s most persistent problems, the quality of life issues that those in the world’s wealthiest cities might take for granted. In highlighting those particular properties, whether they are to do with community engagement, education, public space, public transport or utilities, competitions can often elevate precisely the projects which have the greatest social impact for recognition and an accelerated path to realisation.
The proliferation of social and visual media have helped architectural imagery to expand exponentially across the global consciousness – style now travels as fast as data and the same kinds of interiors, cafés, co-working spaces and houses can be found from Seattle to Tokyo via Cape Town and Berlin. But competitions offer the chance to dig deeper into the architectural intentions. If juries are comparing designs from a world of ideas, models and prototypes rather than the professional photography of realised and often extravagant buildings, it is those designers who have harnessed intelligence and invention who tend to stand out.
Juries then also frequently feel a responsibility to even out the landscape between well-intentioned community projects which have clearly gathered support and accumulated expertise and those which are, perhaps, more aimed at the aesthetic end of the profession. It is a forum where architects who address issues of social equity, microeconomics, community cohesion and environmental and sustainability concerns can enjoy an unusual advantage over those geared to looking cool.
Read more about the benefits of global design competitions in the special issue of AA which brings together almost 50 experts affiliated with the LafargeHolcim Awards.
International LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction open for entries
The LafargeHolcim Awards seeks leading projects of professionals as well as bold ideas from the Next Generation that combine sustainable construction solutions with architectural excellence. The 6th cycle of the international competition is open for entries until February 25, 2020. The Awards offers a total of USD 2 million in prize money and foregrounds projects and concepts from architecture, engineering, urban planning, materials and construction technology, and related fields.