Focusing on the Center: Fargo’s Urban-infill Design Competition

Focusing on the Center:

Fargo’s Urban-infill Design Competition

by Stanley Collyer


As the largest city in the U.S. state of North Dakota, Fargo can afford to speculate about a redesign of its downtown core. Considering the state of the U.S. economy, one might question the planning of such an ambitious venture. But, in contrast to the rest of the nation, North Dakota’s economy is experiencing boom-like symptoms, supported mainly by the energy and agricultural sectors. Until recently, most outsiders regarded Fargo as a sleepy, northern, small city. Now, with a metropolitan population of 200,000 and growing, the community can think bigger and better. Choosing a design competition for a downtown plan is an interesting move in this direction, even though this was only an ideas competition, and there is no guarantee any of the ideas from this event will be used.


The Gowanus Lowline Ideas Competition

Turning a Wasteland into a Community

The Gowanus Lowline Ideas Competition

by Dan Madryga


The landscape of waste: it is a common feature in any big city. Left in the wake of decentralized cities and waning industry, the neglected postindustrial terrain is an unavoidable blemish on the built environment. The desolate, ugly, contaminated vestiges of abandoned factories, overstuffed trash dumps and discontinued mills were pushed out of site and out of mind for decades as Americans sought refuge in suburbia. Yet as urban centers are gradually redeveloped and society expresses increased concern about environmental crises, these harmful, marginalized sites are becoming more difficult to ignore. On Brooklyn’s doorstep lies one such wastescape: the dormant and noxious Gowanus Canal. With help from the recent Gowanus Lowline ideas competition, locals are beginning to seriously contemplate a restorative future for this type of ailing urban environment.


Anticipating a Second Stage: The New Taipei City Museum of Art Design Competition

Anticipating a Second Stage

The New Taipei City Museum of Art Design Competition

by Stanley Collyer


Finalist entry by Kengo Kuma and Associates


To arrive at a design for a new art museum in Taipei, the organizers decided to allow the participants more flexibility than usual in devising their planning concepts for the new institution. According to the design brief, “the planning and design guidelines in this program are for reference only. The designer must propose…new possibilities for modern art museums, define the exhibition method, and propose new space requirement, then proceed (in) the planning and design based on the new required spaces and design guidelines.”


Bucolic Site as Museum Context: The Serlachius Museum Competition in Finland

Bucolic Site as Museum Context

The Serlachius Museum Competition in Finland

by William Morgan


In Finland, a land where architectural competitions are a way of life, a design contest for an addition to a small art museum drew the greatest number of entries in Finnish competition history.

That the Serlachius Museum in an out-of-the way city could attract 579 entrants from 41 countries may say something about the flat world economy. But it is more likely a measure of the attractiveness of the project, the reputation of the client, and the above-board way competitions are run in Finland.


A Community Icon Revisited: The Indianapolis Monument Circle Competition

A Community Icon Revisited

The Indianapolis Monument Circle Competition

by Stanley Collyer

The Arc de Triomphe, Brandenburg Gate and Red Square all share a common theme: they represent the spirit of their cities in the most visual urbanistic and symbolic sense. Always located in the central core, they may fulfill different functions—a traffic mode, gateway to the old city, or just central gathering place—but without such symbols, those cities would lose more than part of a historic past. Many small towns in the U.S. have their own courthouse squares; but few can rival Indianapolis’ Monument Circle. By virtue of its central downtown location, high visibility, and historic landmark status, it occupies a special chapter in the urban history of our nation.



Expansion as an Art: Daytona Museum of Arts and Sciences

by Stanley Collyer


Initial proposal by ©VOA
Adding space to an existing museum to improve its functionality can be a daunting challenge. Confronted with such a scenario, the Daytona Museum of Arts and Sciences turned to a competition to arrive at an innovative solution to its expansion plans. Limited to architectural firms based in Florida, the competition was conducted in two stages — the first stage consisting of a short list based on expressions of interest, followed by a submission of designs by finalists.
The history of Daytona Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS) is similar to many museums, in that new wings were added to accommodate a larger collection. The level of the West Wing of the museum, located 30” below the main structure, can only be reached by a ramp, and is prone to flooding. To eliminate the need to move exhibits from this wing every time it is threatened by water, MOAS decided to demolish the existing wing and build a slightly larger structure to replace it at the same level as the rest of the museum complex. At the same time, they wanted to address the expansion of an entrance lobby, with the intention that it also be used for special events. The latter was considered to be a second phase if sufficient funding did not become immediately available. However, this latter phase of the program is certainly important to the image of MOAS, because it would provide it with a new sense of arrival for visitors.

As a multi-functional museum, MOAS is home to various types of activities and exhibits. In addition to a planetarium, its collection includes natural history, archeology, science, and art — Cuban, American, Afro-American, crafts and even a Coca Cola exhibit. As such, it has a major educational component as its mission. Combining so many different agendas might be considered a weakness of mission by many museum administrators; but here it can also be an advantage, bringing many visitors to a site where they can be exposed to a large variety of subjects that otherwise might not be high on their list of priorities.

The museum’s $7.5 million budget for this expansion might be considered modest by comparison with expansion plans of some museums: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s expansion will be in excess of $200 million; Louisville’s Speed Art Museum’s expansion budget is $79 million. Still, for a relatively small community, where snowbirds make up a considerable segment of the local population, this plan is ambitious in its own right. The budget for for new West Wing, including demolition is approximately $6 million. If the new entrance, Grand Lobby design and Observatory are added to the mix, the total will be slightly over $7.5 million.

nitial presentation drawings by ©VOA. The design was refined after jury input.
To administer the competition, MOAS engaged James Bannon, AIA, RIBA of DACORI Design and Construction, as a consultant. The subsequent RfQ limited to Florida firms, resulted in three shortlisted firms as finalists:
  • VOA , Orlando, Florida office
  • HOK, Tampa, Florida office
  • Architects Design Group, Winter Park, Florida


Sauerbruch Hutton Out, Marshall In: Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia

Sydney’s new Museum of Contemporary Art is scheduled to open in March 2012. Designed by Sydney-based architect, Sam Marshall (above), it is near Sydney’s waterfront and is the final stage of a long and controversial process which began with a competition in 2001, won by the Berlin firm, Sauerbruch Hutton. That process ... Read more...

MCA, Sydney

Sauerbruch Hutton Out, Marshall In Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia   Sydney’s new Museum of Contemporary Art is scheduled to open in March 2012. Designed by Sydney-based architect, Sam Marshall, it is near Sydney’s waterfront and is the final stage of a long and controversial process which began with a competition in 2001, ... Read more...

A New Live/Workplace as Tourist Destination: Fez, Morocco Infill Competition by Stanley Collyer

A New Live/Workplace as Tourist Destination

Fez, Morocco Infill Competition

by Stanley Collyer

Winning entry by Mossessian & partners

The U.S. government funding design competitions abroad? Especially when it has almost been absent in supporting such programs at home? It was not too long ago that the U.S. Congress passed a law stating that no federal funds could be used to fund U. S. international expo pavilions, let alone competitions to determine their design. So those who are  wondering that our federal government is spending tax dollars on foreign soil to promote good design should know that its funding for for the Place Lalla Yeddouna redevelopment competition in Fez, Morocco was mainly the result of an economic redevelopment grant from the U.S. Government, and that the competition was only a peripheral add-on.



Innovative Design Finds Anchorage in Boston: The Barge 2011 Design Competition by Dan Madryga

lta_view_atlantic wharf

Fort Point Channel is poised to become Boston’s “next great place.” As a centrally located connection between the waterfronts of downtown and South Boston, the long underutilized waterway has become the subject of attention in the last decade. The award winning 2002 Fort Point Channel Watersheet Activation Plan has laid the groundwork for a revitalized waterfront neighborhood that promises a variety of recreational, cultural, and maritime facilities. This September, in addition to the usual signs of revitalization, visitors may be surprised to come across a bright pink balloon hovering over the channel. This intriguing object is the result of SHIFTboston’s recent Barge 2011 Design Competition.