Interview: John McAslan (Winter 2003)

COMPETITIONS: I am presently here in London to talk to my editor about a ‘how to’ book we are doing on competitions.


JOHN MCASLAN: And how not to do them, I hope.


COMPETITIONS: You’re familiar with one of those?


JM: We recently did one—Middlesborough Town Hall. It caused a real furor here.


COMPETITIONS: Usually the RIBA competitions are well organized.

Science Center, Florida Southern College (1996-2001)


JM: This was an open, non-RIBA competition to re-market (rebuild) the Town Hall in Middlesborough, a town which had quite a good artistic tradition. About ten years ago they commissioned Claes Oldenburg to design a sculpture. There was also a competition for a museum there—which we didn’t get. And then there was the competition for the Town Hall, where we got to the last six. It was chaotic, as to what was to be submitted. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, because the terms of reference weren’t clear. And then there were long delays before the interviews. Finally we were asked to submit a tender(fee bid). But of the six tenders, only four arrived on time. Because of that, the two late tenderers were eliminated. I thought, ‘well, you know you have to get them in on time.’ But then one of the jurors walked out, because she thought it unfair that these two had been eliminated. Then it came out that they had opened the bids before the interviews took place.
We were only runners-up; but the whole thing has caused chaos because of the sloppiness with which the whole thing was organized. They should have selected the preferred team , then opened the bids.

You asked about the RIBA competitions. We have won some and lost a some. But you can say that they are always immaculately organized—very transparent, no confusion over what is required when. If a competition is badly administered with lots of criticism, it doesn’t help at all, especially with funding.




Science Center, Florida Southern College (1996-2001) Lab interior (left) and model (right)


COMPETITIONS: You were recently in the Fresh Kills competition in the U.S.


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Tintagel Bridge Castle Competition

An Adventure of the First Order

The Tintagel Castle Bridge Design Competition


©William Matthews Associates; courtesy MRC

Out-of-the-way places can be serious destinations, especially when they embody an object of historical significance. The medieval Tintagel Castle site is certainly one of these examples, attracting scores of visitors every year. Although only now a ruin, its history, linked to the tales of King Arthur, is certainly the tale which can be of interest to any serious English history buff. But getting to the crest of the hill cliff where it is located is only something for the hardy. The problem has been the steep ascent to the site, which could only be reached via a circuitous winding pathway. To address this issue, a new bridge in a more advantageous location was proposed to replace an existing, somewhat rickety span.
Organized by Malcolm Reading Consultants, this competition’s call for expressions of interest drew 137 responses, with six firms being shortlisted for the design competition phase. At the conclusion of the adjudication process, the jury announced the team of Ney & Partners with William Matthews Associates as winners. The other finalists, without ranking, were:

  • Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes with Terrell
  • Marks Barfield Architects with Flint and Neill J&L Gibbons LLP and Mola
  • Niall McLaughlin Architects with Price and Myers
  • RFR and Jean-Francois Blassel Architecte with Engineershrw and WSP
  • WilkinsonEyre with Atelier One

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Taiwan’s Taoyuaong Airport Terminal 3 Competition


Drawings-First Prize-6d


If you are flying either into or departing from Taiwan after the year 2020, you may
wish to arrange your flight so that you either arrive or leave in the evening, as it could well be an unforgettable experience. The winning design by Rogers Stirk Harbour of London for the new Terminal 3 promises an illuminating show that can match that of Curt Fentress’s Denver airport.
As an international open competition, and for a project of this magnitude, it was astonishing to find that only four international firms decided to enter this contest. According to one juror, the posting of a $500,000 bond required of serious contenders was probably enough to scare off most firms. This is not to say that the final four lacked expertise in the area. The only firm from Stage 1 not shortlisted, ADPI of Paris, had numerous completed large commissions to its credit. And due to the very extensive experience of the other firms, it could be anticipated that the quality of the entries would be more than adequate.

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Seaplane Terminal Competition: A Catalyst for Watson Island Waterfront


by Eric Goldemberg

DawnTown, an annual architectural ideas competition since 2007, has become a huge success. Attracting over hundred entries from more than 20 countries in 2010, this quest to bring innovative architecture to Downtown Miami has become a staple in the international design community. Its latest installment, the 2010 DawnTown Seaplane

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Embarcation as the Ultimate Experience: The Kaohsiung Port and Cruise Terminal Competition

kaohsiung title

by Stanley Collyer


Image: ©Reiser+Umemoto RUR with Fei & Cheng Associates’ winning design (model perspective)

Many buildings in close proximity to bodies of water seem to have that joie de vivre about them. Whether it is Sea Ranch, The Bilbao Guggenheim, Oslo Opera House or summer residences in the Hamptons, the proximity of water somehow manages to stimulate designers to produce excitement in a relaxed atmosphere. From the Greek temples to Spas in England, construction of major structures on oceans and rivers was always more likely to reflect modern trends in architecture, rather than simply replicating a style from the past. Recent waterfront projects such as the Yokohama International Port Terminal—a competition won by Foreign Office Architects—and Canada Place in Vancouver are examples of cities recognizing the need to push the envelope when redesigning port terminal facilities. So it was with the results of the
Kaohsiung Port and Cruise Service Center competition .

Not only is Kaohsiung a major port facility on the island, it is seen as a major terminal for future water transit to the Chinese mainland. The goal of the competition was to identify a design that will enhance the travel experience of passengers, make it a principal departure destination for cruise ships, and provide recreational opportunities for the local populace. Moreover, it is understood that the new facility should add to the urban vitality of the immediate vicinity.


Aerial view of site

The Site

The entire Harbor site consists of an area measuring 6+ hectares, of which only 2.6 hectares was designated as the competition site for the project’s first phase. As might be expected, the site included two berths for ocean liners. Since the program was quite extensive, the major challenge was to design a facility which would fit well into a rather limited site, but present a friendly face both to the city and from the water.

Similar to many recent international competitions in Taiwan administered by competition adviser, Barry Cheng, this one was conducted in two stages, with five finalists advancing to the second stage for the ultimate prize—an $80M commission. The seven-member jury did have an international flavor, most notably Maximiliano Fuksas (Italy), Hisao Kohyama (Japan), and Hitoshi Abe (USA). During stage two, only six jurors provided comments, as Maximiliano Fuksas could not attend the final session. The five premiated finalists chosen by the first-stage panel and their final rankings after the second stage were:


First Prize
Reiser+Umemoto RUR Architecture PC, New York, NY
with Fei & Cheng Associates/Philip T.C. Fei, Taiwan

• Second Prize
Asymptote Architecture, New York, NY
with Artech Architects/Kris Yao, Taiwan

• Third Prize
Ricky Liu & Associates Architects+Planners, Taiwan
with Takenaka Corporation/Masahiro Morita, Japan

Honorable Mention-1
JET Architecture Inc./Edward Kim. Canada
with CXT Architects Inc./Dan Teh, Canada and Archasia Design Group/Sao-You, Taiwan

Honorable Mention-2
HMC Group Inc. / Raymond Pan, Los Angeles, California
with HOY Architects & Associates/Charles Hsueh, Taiwan

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