The Design Competition Conference

Design competitions are increasingly used to procure the design of, well, just about anything. Governments, philanthropies, advocacy organizations, developers, and even celebrities are offering ever-larger awards and visibility for buildings, landscapes, and products, as well as for solutions to complex economic, social, and ecological problems. Competitions can mobilize thousands of talented people across disciplines to creatively tackle pressing challenges in publicized—if not public—settings. They can also be wasteful, less-than-fully transparent, and even exploitative.

The Design Competition Conference will review the state of design competitions today and their impact on competitors, sponsors, design, and the public interest. Using the lens of professional, ethical, business, legal, aesthetic, and public policy perspectives, we’ll ask: do competitions enhance creativity and excellence in the production of built and landscape environments? Do they advance the skills and interests of the designers who participate in the process? Does the public get to participate and benefit? Do they make for better financial outcomes and, if so, for whom? Are they an ethical method for securing design given the mechanics of the process? Do competitions strengthen or weaken the design professions as a whole? Do they identify new talent? These and other questions will emerge through discussion of cases studies and thematic presentations.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

6:30–8:00pm  Keynote Panel

Welcome from Conference Co-Chairs:
Jerold S. Kayden (Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Design)
David van der Leer (Executive Director, Van Alen Institute)

Craig Dykers (Founding Partner, Snøhetta)
Mohsen Mostafavi (Dean, and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design, Harvard Graduate School of Design)
Francine Houben (Architect/Creative Director, Mecanoo)

Moderator: Cathleen McGuigan (Editor-In-Chief, Architectural Record)

Friday, April 24, 2015

9:00–9:45am  Opening Remarks

Introducing the key themes and questions for the day’s discussions, this opening session looks at how competitions can inspire such wildly different opinions — including those from over 1,400 designers who responded to a recent survey — and what they indicate about the state of contemporary design practice.

Framing Design Competitions
Jerold S. Kayden (Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard Graduate School of Design)

The Architectural Record/Van Alen Institute Design Competition Survey: Findings
David van der Leer (Executive Director, Van Alen Institute)

9:45–11:00am  Design Competitions Now

Designers, government officials, community advocates, and critics discuss four recent design competitions that have tested the boundaries of what competitions can be and what it means for design, planning, and the public interest.

Case Study I: Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition
Marshall Brown (Associate Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology, School of Architecture)
Cara Cragan (Studio Leader, The Rockwell Group)

Case Study II: Rebuild By Design
Scott Davis (Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)
Gena Wirth (Associate, SCAPE)

Moderator: Reed Kroloff (Principal, jones | kroloff)

11:00–11:15am  Break

11:15am–12:30pm  Design Competitions Now (cont’d)

Case Study III: 11th Street Bridge Park Design Competition
Scott Kratz (Director, 11th Street Bridge Park Project)
David Smith (Executive Director, Pearl Coalition)

Case Study IV: Connect Kendall Square
Taha Jennings (Assistant to the City Manager, City of Cambridge)
Inga Saffron (Architecture Critic, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Moderator: Jerome Chou, Director of Competitions, Van Alen Institute

12:30–12:45pm  Announcement of the Winners of the Harvard GSD Francis Loeb Library / Design Competitions Course Design Competition

12:45–1:45pm  Break

1:45–3:15pm  The World Beyond: Competitions for Everything?

Beyond the field of design, competitions have helped create a private space industry, develop new vaccines, and captivate millions of people through reality television shows. Should everything be a competition? From soup to nuts, can competitions produce better ideas and objects, unearth talent, and educate the public? What can designers learn from the world of competitions beyond design?

Bill Aulet (Managing Director, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, MIT Sloan School of Management)

Nidhi Chaudhary (Vice President of Challenge Success, HeroX)

Jenn Gustetic (Assistant Director for Open Innovation, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy)

Moderators: Jerold S. Kayden, David van der Leer

3:15–3:30pm  Break

3:30–5:00pm  The Future of Design Competitions

The closing panel will debate issues and critiques raised during the conference and suggest visions and amendments for the future place and administration of competitions.

Silvia Benedito (Assistant Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Design)
Marshall Brown (Associate Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology, School of Architecture)
Stephen Cassell (Partner, Architecture Research Office)
Reed Kroloff (Principal, jones | kroloff)
Grace La (Principal, LA DALLMAN / Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Design)
Susanna Sirefman (Founder, Dovetail Design Strategists)

Moderators: Jerold S. Kayden, David van der Leer

5:00–5:15pm  Closing Remarks

Jerold S. Kayden, David van der Leer


Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].