Commentary on Competitions and the Al Jamea Competition in Particular

Commentary on Competitions & the Al Jamea Competition in Particular

by Paul Spreiregen, FAIA

Paul Spreiregen flying paper airplanes at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C.

There have been numerous international design competitions in the past. They go back centuries, and for both architecture as well as town planning. This is hardly the first. Yet it demonstrates some characteristics of considerable portent.

It is also a long condition of design in general that design predilections of many strains find their ways from their places of origin to places that are far different. Developing countries have long drawn on the design systems, “styles” if you prefer, of more developed neighbors. Even within the same culture borrowing from a distant past for present needs is hardly new. To borrow the old for use in the new has been a characteristic of architecture. It can be seen as a search for identity and order through architectural form.




Designing for a Moslem Learning Experience: Al Jamea in Nairobi Campus Design Competition

Designing for a Moslem Learning Experience


Al Jamea in Nairobi Campus Design Competition


By Paul Spreiregen


Winning entry by FxFowle/Schwartz/Andropogon/Burhani Design (click to enlarge)

If there are still any doubts about the profession of architecture being a global phenomenon, they are fully dispelled by the recent competition for the Al Jamea campus in Nairobi, Kenya. Sponsored by a Moslem group in India, and managed by a professional adviser in California, this invited campus plan competition involved designers from the U.S., Great Britain, and India.


Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design Competition

A Step Up for an Architecture Program

Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design

By Stanley Collyer


Winning entry by Weiss/Manfredi


Serving the needs of students is one thing. Making a strong architectural statement as a program’s add-on is sure to bring lots of national attention to any educational institution. Chicago’s IIT was in the doldrums before it staged the Student Center competition won by Rem Koolhaas. Once that building was finished, enrollment in the architectural program there rose from 300+ students to 900! As a state university, Kent State would not envision such a dramatic increase in student enrollment, as the competition they recently staged for a new building to house their architecture program has its spatial limitations. However, as a byproduct, one may anticipate that a remarkable new building will undoubtedly result in more competition for those spaces.


In Memoriam: Grady Clay

In Memoriam: Grady Clay


We are sad to report that longtime board member, mentor and nationally recognized journalist and writer, Grady Clay, passed away on March 17 in Louisville, Kentucky. Grady was instrumental in helping to establish The Competition Project, and, subsequently, COMPETITIONS  as a quarterly magazine. It was with his continued support and encouragement that we were able to establish our publication and place in reporting on the national and international state of competitions. Grady made things easy for us from the very beginning, getting an interview with landscape architect, George Hargreaves for our very first issue. Whenever any question arose about an article, or a suitable headline, Grady was always there to pass on his invaluable advice.



Uncovering Hidden Possibilities: Lexington’s Town Branch Competition

Uncovering Hidden Possibilities

Lexington’s Town Branch Competition

by Stanley Collyer

Winning entry by SCAPE/Landscape Architecture

Lexington, Kentucky is known primarily for two things, its horse industry and university basketball team. The former has had a positive effect on the city’s urban fabric in that horse farms surrounding the city have declined to sell off their property to developers, with the result that the city’s urban core is more compact and without that ubiquitous doughnut hole that surrounds the downtowns of so many Midwestern cities. As for the basketball team’s Rupp Arena, adjacent to the convention center, this has been a focal point of downtown development for decades, surrounded by hotels, restaurants and commercial structures.


A Significant Addition to a Public Place: The Cadogan Café Competition, London

A Significant Addition to a Public Place

The Cadogan Café Competition, London

by Stanley Collyer

nex 3 view of duke of york square from the east
Winning entry by NEX (Illustration: NEX)

This place is missing something—probably a subliminal thought of many Londoners who frequented the Duke of York Square area in London, near the entrance to the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. The locals also decided the site needed a visual lift—but what kind? Settling on a café as the answer would always seems to meet at least one requirement: You can pick up a coffee on the way to work, or it can serve as a casual meeting place. In any case, it is not to be ignored.


Urban Design in a Remote Village: The Klaksvik Town Center Competition

Urban Design in a Remote Village:

The Klaksvik Town Center Competition

by Stanley Collyer

klaksvik city centre plaza
Winning entry by Henning Larsen Architects (Illustration: Henning Larsen Architects)

The Klaksvik Town Center competition revealed that even a fishing village in a remote north Atlantic island group can attract the notice of the global architectural community. Located on one of the Faroe group islands in the north Atlantic between Iceland and Norway, Klaksvik was a relatively isolated fishing village until the recent construction of a road linked it to the rest of the island. Before that, all commercial communication with the rest of the archipelago had to take place by boat.

Klaksvik has been dependent on fishing for centuries; but as recent economic uncertainties in the fishing industry have battered the local economy, the municipality is looking elsewhere for economic stability—such as technology. However, in order to stem the brain drain to the European mainland of their younger citizens, the city decided that an upgrade of the town center could be part of the answer. In this way, they could at least visually keep in step with their European neighbors. To increase its public visibility and lend the town a more urban character, the city fathers decided to stage an international competition on the Scandinavian model—the islands are linked politically to Denmark—for modernization of the town’s center.


Ideas for Rebuilding East Manhattan’s Edge on the Water

Ideas for Rebuilding East Manhattan's Edge on the Water

by Stanley Collyer

first place-0032
First Place entry by Joseph Wood

Civitas, a New York-based non-profit has focused its programs on the Manhattan side of the East River waterfront. One of its more recent ventures was a design-ideas competition, Reimagining the Waterfront, the overriding idea being to improve the East River Esplanade between East 60th and 125th Streets.


A New Icon for Keelung’s Waterfront: Whether Arriving, Departing, or Just Looking

A New Icon for Keelung's Waterfront:

Whether Arriving, Departing, or Just Looking

by Sharon McHugh
final presentation 120914-27
Winning entry by Neil M. Denari Architects

In anticipation of making Taiwan into the marine shipping hub for the Asia Pacific region, the Taiwan International Ports Corporation (TIPC) is investing about NT66 billion over the next five years toward the redevelopment of the port cities of Koashiung and Keelung. To facilitate the design selection process for new terminals in these ports, two competitions have been staged at both locations. In the Koashiung competition, held in 2010, two New York-based firms won the top spots—RUR architecture winning and Asymptote coming in second. In Keelung, it was a repeat performance if you will for Asymptote, which this time around placed second to the winner, Neil M. Denari Architects (NMDA) of Los Angeles. For some of the jurors that presided over the latter competition, it turned out to be a close decision, coming down to two schemes, Denari’s and Asymptote’s.



Looking for an Iconic Answer: The Oceanside High School Performing Arts Center

Looking for an Iconic Answer:


The Oceanside High School Performing Arts Center

by Larry Gordon
Winning entry by Harley Devereaux


Oceanside High School has a location that many other big public campuses may envy. The 2,500-student school is an easy walk to some of California's most beautiful beaches and also is close to the big open spaces of the U.S. Marines' Camp Pendleton base along the Pacific coast. What's more, the campus is just to the west of the Interstate 5, the main freeway route that puts downtown San Diego only about 40 minutes away.