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National Endowment 



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JUNE 1980 


Competition. The word evokes the image of sprinters 
lined up for the lOO yard dash or figure skaters pitted 
against one another before a panel of judges. 
Athletic competitions symbolize more than the pursuit 
of individual achievement; they stress the special 
human quality of competitive spirit which inspires the 
commitment and self-discipline of athletes who train 
to perform before a cheering public. 

Design competitions can also foster an exceptional 
spirit which inspires participants to surpass their own 
limits and those of their peers. As with athletic compe- 
titions, design competitions enable emerging, less 
experienced talent to compete with more established 
professionals. The innovative designs that have been 
developed are proof that competition promotes 
design excellence. We can look at the St. Louis Arch, 
the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Australia's Sidney Opera House 
and the British Houses of Parliament to find a few 
products of design competitions which have become 
symbols of entire cities and cultures. 

Gateway Arch 

The Gateway Arch, in St. Louis, 
Missouri of 1965 was the result 
of a design competition won 
by Eero Saarinen. This arch, 
which memorializes Jefferson's 
Louisianna Purchase, is also a 
contemporary interpretation 
of the arch of Roman architec- 
ture which Jefferson admired 
and used. 

The National Endowment for the Arts has been 
encouraging civic organizations and public agencies 
to consider sponsoring design competitions to seek 
alternative solutions to community problems and 
select designers and designs for cultural facilities, civic 
buildings, and parks. This publication of the National 
Endowment for the Arts Design Arts Program has been 
prepared to help prospective sponsors determine 
what kind of activities are appropriate for design 
competitions. The book discusses the advantages of 
competitions, the types of competitions, the ways in 
which a design competition can be organized, and 
some of the major concerns inherent in this type of 

The National Endowment for the Arts has a special 
responsibility to artists and arts organizations in 
America. The Endowment has been one of the major 
forces in the enormous increase in the number of arts 
organizations. Since 1965, when the Endowment was 
created, ten times more dance companies, four times 
more resident theater groups and twice as many 
opera companies have come into being across the 
United States. 

Capital funds for the design and construction of new 
or renovated facilities to house the arts have become 
increasingly scarce. The use of design competitions to 
raise public awareness about this critical need is 
potentially one of the more productive ways of 
generating capital resources as well as attracting 
excellence in design. It is our firm belief that the design 
quality of that which shelters the arts should be as 
excellent as the art form it houses. 

The Endowment's Design Arts Program has prepared 
this introduction to Design Competitions in the hope of 
stimulating the use of this tool for better places, 
spaces and settings for the arts and civic activities in 
our nation. We recognize that Design Competitions 
are not appropriate to all undertakings but feel that 
this tool has not often been used recently in cases 
where it might have greatly improved the design 
quality of our built environment. 

Special appreciation and acknowledgement is due 
Lance Jay Brown, Coordinator of the Design Excel- 
lence project, his staff, and all who contributed their 
time and energy in the production of this manual. 

Michael John Pittas 


Design Arts Program 

1 2 3 4 

What is a What are What Types How are 

Design the Purposes of Design Design 

Competition? of a Design Competitions Competitions 

Competition? can be Organized? 


pagel page 2 page 3 page 7 


5 6 7 8 

How are How are What are the What Makes 

Design Design Costs of a Design 

Competitions Competition Design Competition 

Initiated? Winners Competitions? Successful? 


page 13 page 15 page 17 page 18 

1 . What is a Design Competition? 

Design competitions have been a way of creating 
innovative approaches to design needs since the 
fourth century B.C. in Athens, Greece. Western culture 
has always pursued growth and creativity through the 
competitive spirit under the assumption that by pitting 
the skills and intelligence of one individual or team 
against another, a higher standard of excellence will 
result. Just as competition has continually raised the 
level of athletic achievements and prompted business 
innovation, design competitions have consistently pro- 
duced innovative designs for public buildings, furniture, 
public art, recreational facilities and cultural centers. 

In the United States, the competition system in design 
has existed since the early days of the Republic. 
The most widely known Federal competitions 
awarded the design of the White House to James 
Hoban and the National Capitol Building to Dr. William 
T. Thornton. In the 1930s, the government promoted 
local and nationwide competitions to select sculptors 
and muralists for Federal buildings. Even designs 
judged outstanding which failed to win the 
competition often reappeared later in elements of 
other buildings. 

Today, many communities utilize competitions for the 
design of cultural and civic developments. A wide 
range of creativity can be tapped to produce a new 
graphics image, furnish a special room or find an 
appropriate theme for a public sculpture. 


It t I I I llllt! 

National Capital Building 

The advertisement for the 
competition of a National 
Capitol Puilding appeared in 
April 1792. In NovemPer of that 
year the Commissioners 
accepted a new entry which 
had the support of Washington 
and Jefferson. It was sub- 
mitted by Dr. William Thornton 
who was educated in England 
but untrained in architecture. 
The cornerstone was laid by 
Washington in September 1793 
but the building was not com- 
pleted until 1828 using a much 
altered design Py Charles 


2. What are the Purposes of a 
Design Competition? 

There are four broad reasons to promote a design 
competition. Very often the sponsor has a need which 
is not fully defined. An idea competition can seek 
ideas or concepts for a design without demanding 
technical details, models, and final products. 

Many competitions are run to design a specific 
product: a building, a park, a dress, a chair, a logo, etc. 
Specific product competitions set forth far greater 
detailed needs than idea competitions and are the 
appropriate choice when the sponsor knows a great 
deal about the final desired product. 

Sometimes a design competition is run primarily to 
select a designer or design team, even before the 
final design is decided upon. Such a competition 
focuses on the credentials of the competitors outside 
of their particular ideas for the eventual project. 

A project sponsored by a civic organization or public 
agency which requires public support and participation 
can particularly benefit from a design competition. A 
well-run competition can generate wide public 
awareness and involvement from conception to 
implementation. If a capital fund-raising drive is 
necessary, a competition can promote public interest 
and support. In such cases, competitors should be 
aware of this goal from the outset. Civic buildings such 
as city halls, museums, auditoriums and convention 
centers, and public open spaces such as parks, plazas 
and pedestrian trails lend themselves well to 

Boston City Hall 

In I960 Boston held a national 
competition for the design of 
a new City Hall. Its program 
afforded the competitors an 
in-depth introduction to the 
city they would be building in. 
Employing a text that was sen- 
sitive to the environmental 
impact issue, the Program 
attracted 250 entries. The 
winning design was by Kail- 
man, McKinnell and Knowles of 

page 2 

3. What types of Design 
Competitions can be sponsored? 

Once the goals and purposes have been established, 
a sponsor may select from a variety of formats for 
organizing a competition. There are five generic 
types, each having special characteristics which may 
make one better suited to a sponsor's particular 
needs and resources than another. 

1. An Open Competition is open to all qualified com- 
petitors and is the simplest to plan. It is particularly 
appropriate where the sponsor is seeking the widest 
possible range of response' and participation. Because 
of the variety this format encourages, it may be par- 
ticularly appropriate for an idea competition or for the 
development of design concepts for a specific 
product. It is not useful where special expertise or 
highly technical knowledge are essential. 

An open competition requires the greatest amount of 
time to execute. The sponsor must advertise widely in 
the professional media and allow time for every pos- 

Copley Square 

In the mid-1960s a one stage 
national design competition 
was jointly sponsored by the 
City of Boston, the Boston 
Redevelopment Authority, the 
Back Bay Council, and the 
Back Bay Planning and Devel- 
opment Corporation. The 
setting for the design is distin- 
guished by Richardson's Trinity 
Church and McKim Mead and 
White's Boston Public Library. 
The winning design was sub- 
mitted by Sasaki, Dawson and 
Demay and created a space 
from two triangular sites and 
an intersecting avenue. 

page 3 

sible interested party to respond. It is not unusual for 
an open competition to take a year to complete, but 
this limitation may be offset by the likelihood of a rich 
variety of responses from which to choose. 

2. Pre-Qualification Competitions are conducted 
when a sponsor wishes to invite only qualified com- 
petitors to enter, and the first response to the compe- 
tition is only a presentation of qualifications and 
credentials. This usually involves a portfolio review of 
past accomplishments and personal interviews with 
prospective competitors. Those applicants found 
eligible will then be asked to enter the design phase 
of the competition. It is appropriate when a 
particular type of competitor is sought (e.g. all 
students), or little time is available and geographical 
limits will ensure a faster response. 

The sponsor can rely on a professional advisor or 
advisory board to examine applicant credentials, con- 
duct the interviews, and select the final competitors. It 
is critical in a pre-qualification competition to use a 
common yardstick for the review of credentials and 
qualifications and to have pre-established evaluation 
criteria before the selection process begins. 

Piazza d'ltalia 

The idea for the development 
of the site of the present 
Piazza d'ltalia came from New 
Orlean's Italian community. 
The Mayor's Office organized 
a limited invitational competi- 
tion in two phases by con- 
tacting 60-70 national firms 
and then choosing 6 firms to 
submit final proposals. A cre- 
ative and memorable joint 
venture was established with 
the winning firm, August Perez 
and Associates of New 
Orleans ana the runner-up, 
Urban Innovations Group of 
Los Angeles with its principal, 
Charles Moore. 

3. An Invited Competition is the most conservative 
approach to design competitions. Invited competi- 
tions ensure that each design competitor has the 
proper professional credentials and a demonstrated 
capacity to execute the projects. A professional 
advisor or advisory committee can prepare a roster 
of competitors based on research and the advice of 
local or state design arts societies. In this controlled 
situation, the sponsor often gives up the innovation 
potential of an open competition for an established 
designer or design team. 

page 4 

4. Staged Competitions combine characteristics of 
open and invited competitions, assuring both diverse 
participation and the final selection of highly qualified 
designers. This type of competition is conducted in at 
least two phases. In the first, an open design competi- 
tion is held and entries are evaluated. From the stage 
one review, a number of competitors are selected for 
further consideration or competition. 

In stage two, the sponsor may select a group of 
winners on the basis of a review of qualifications and 
personal interviews with stage-one finalists, or the 
sponsor may ask the stage-one finalists to refine their 
initial design ideas and solutions in a second round of 
design competition. 

It is customary in a staged competition for the sponsor 
to offer compensation to the participants selected for 
the second stage. The compensation is approximately 
equivalent to the prevailing professional rate for 
similar design services. 

Minnesota State Capitol Annex 

In early 1976 the Minnesota 
State Capitol Building Authority 
offered an AlA-approved 
design competition for a "ter- 
ratectural" office building 
annex to the State Capitol 
Building in St. Paul. The compe- 
tition was open to all archi- 
tectural firms in the U.S. Of the 
256 entries the firm of Dellinger/ 
Lee Associates, Charlotte, 
North Carolina was selected 

as one of the five finalists. Their 
design seeks to preserve the 
integrity of the Capitor while 
allowing for sympathetic 
orderly growth. 

page 5 

5. On-Site Charette Competitions are a variation of 
the pre-qualification competition. A roster of potential 
competitors is selected on the basis of a review of 
qualifications and experience, and they are then 
asked to convene at the project site for a specified 
time period to create their designs on-site. The most 
important advantage of this type of competition is 
the guarantee to the competitors of equal time, 
equal circumstances, equal exposure, and equal 
access to information. 

Charette competitions have been conducted in Prov- 
incetown, Massachusetts, for the design of the 
Eugene O'Neill Theater and Archives, and in San Fran- 
cisco, California, for the Fort Mason Center. 
These competitions achieved a high degree of 
effective community participation in the development 
of final design solutions. 

An organization wanting to sponsor a design competi- 
tion may find that its special purposes and project 
requirements do not fall into any one of these five 
generic types. It is always possible to combine one or 
more types to fit individual needs. 

Eugene O'Neill Playhouse 

In March of 1977 the Eugene 
O'Neill Playhouse was 
destroyed by a fire set by 
teenage arsonists. The theater 
company was totally wiped 
out with the costumes, sets, 
lights, and historical collection 
gone. Through the intervention 
of Adele and Lester Heller and 
the assistance of William 
Marlin, the National Endow- 
ment for the Arts was 

approached for help. The 
resulting grant idea was a 
New England design compe- 
tition which would bring the 
competitors to Provincetown 
for several days to devise a 
new design. The Arts Endow- 
ment gave a $20,000 grant 
to the non-profit organization, 
Provincetown Playhouse on 
the Wharf, Inc. to support the 
competition and ultimately 
enable the winning firm to pro- 

vide design development 
services. During the seven-day 
on-site competition, the seven 
design teams worked in the 
same space. Every afternoon, 
the citizens of Provincetown 
were invited to visit the site of 
the competition and discuss 
with the architects their 
designs as they evolved. 

page 6 

4. How are Design Competitions 

To properly organize and execute a design competi- 
tion requires a significant commitment of time, not 
only by the sponsoring organization but often from a 
broad constituency of civic groups as well. Support in 
the administration and execution of the competition 
by public officials, design professionals, and members 
of the community may be critical to the success of a 
design competition. A prospective sponsor should 
contact local chapters of design societies, local or 
state arts councils, or the National Endowment for the 
Arts, Design Arts Program for technical assistance. 
Appendix 1 provides a list of organizations to contact 
for further information. 

In a design competition, the sponsor challenges com- 
petitors to solve a design problem and gives them a 
specific set of rules and regulations under which the 
competition will be conducted. This document, called 
a competition program, sets forth the goals of the 
project, the program for the design, and the basic 
information necessary to understand the scope of the 

Competitors are given a fixed amount of time to 
create and present a design solution for the problem 
stated in the competition program. Competitors sub- 
mit their projects to the sponsor for evaluation by a 
review panel called an awards jury. The jury, usually 
made up of peer professionals and informed citizens, 
is responsible for the selection of a winner or winners. 
Each submission is judged by the jury according to 
predetermined criteria such as functionality, feasibility, 
creativity, and quality. A winner is selected and 
awarded a competition prize. The prize is usually 
a predetermined cash amount or a contract for 
design services. 

Orderly procedures are essential to design competi- 
tions, and should be established from the outset. A rig- 
orous but realistic schedule is pivotal to a smooth 
operation and the eventual satisfaction of all partici- 
pants, particularly as it ensures equal treatment for all. 
Small regional competitions will require a schedule of 
several months, while national or international compe- 
titions may require up to a year's time or more. Invited 
competitions usually take less time than open compe- 
titions, idea competitions less time than product 
competitions, and single-stage competitions less time 
than two stage competitions. 

page 7 

For planning purposes, most competitions run in the 
following phases: 

I. Preliminary Planning 

1. Goal setting 

2. Fact finding 

3. Appointment of a professional advisor 

4. Set up an advisory board 

II. Competition Planning 

1. Develop the competition program and rules 

2. Design project budget 

3. Determine awards and prizes 

4. Select an awards jury 

5. Develop procedures for the documentation 
and handling of projects and awards 

III. Competition Initiation 

1. Public announcement of the competition 

2. Receipt of applications and fees 

3. Mail program to competitors 

4. Respond to questions 

IV. Design Stage 

1. Preparation of design submissions by 

2. Receipt review and display of submissions 
by the sponsor 

V. Awards Jury Proceedings 

1. Examination of design submissions by the 
professional advisor 

2. Selection of a winner by awards jury 

VI. Announcements 

1. Award prizes and contracts 

2. Prepare press releases and publications of 
competition results 

VII. Follow-up 

1. Return design submissions to competitors 

2. Contract with winners as necessary 

3. Implement the project 

page 8 

Washington Monument 

In 1833 a National Monument 
Society sponsored a private 
competition to honor the first 
president. They selected the 
obelisk by Robert Mills for the 
site indicated by L'Enfant, on 
his 1791 plan. Lack of funds and 
the Civil War intervened but 
the lofty, dignified form was 
completed in 1885. 

Professional Advisor 

The sponsor may elect to hire an individual or design 
firm to manage the competition should the scope 
and technical requirements of the competition go 
beyond the resources of the sponsor. Such a profes- 
sional advisor should be fully qualified to write the 
program regulations, assemble pertinent documents, 
answer competitor questions, and assist in the selec- 
tion of award jury members. 

As someone familiar with design competitions, the 
advisor should evaluate proposals for eligibility and 
compliance with regulations, supervise the jury delib- 
erations and publicize the competition results. Com- 
petition documentation, care and handling of the 
submissions and other administrative tasks would all 
be centralized in this way. The professional advisor 
may also advise the sponsor on contractual matters 
pertinent to running a competition. If the competition 
is sponsored by a public agency, the advisor must 
maintain close communication with interested gov- 
ernment agencies, public officials and community 

The professional advisor is usually a paid position. 
While the advisor's role is often time-consuming, it can 
greatly expedite the competition process. In addition 
to management and public relation skills, a profes- 
sional advisor ideally should have previous competi- 
tion experience, a facility for balancing diverse 
interests, and a working knowledge of what consti- 
tutes the design process. 

Presently, no single group of professionals has 
developed an expertise as professional competition 
advisors. An advisor might be recruited from the ranks 
of practicing design professionals, design school pro- 
fessors, related professionals with acknowledged 
experience, or in certain cases, enlightened citizens 
well versed in the fields of design. Since this person 
must be a neutral mediator between the sponsor, 
awards jury and competitors, the professional advisor 
should not be a regular employee of the sponsor or 
associated with any potential competitor. 

page 9 

Advisory Board 

A sponsor may wish to appoint a competition 
advisory board either in lieu of or in addition to the 
professional advisor. An advisory board is particularly 
useful in competitions run by public agencies where 
broad public interest and support are sought. They 
are also useful in larger competitions where profes- 
sional management expertise and accountability are 
paramount concerns. 

Saginaw Avenue Mural 

In 1976 Architect Jeff Ober- 
dorfer grew tired of looking at 
600 feet of ugly wall surface 
which formed the back of a 
local shopping center in Porter 
Sguare, Cambridge, Massa- 
chusetts. A working model of a 
mural which depicts a row of 
houses in the neighborhood 
was composed by Oberdorfer. 
It was meant to reflect the 
bright colors and interesting 
silhouette of the homes in the 
neighborhood. He submitted 
his proposal to the Cambridge 
Art Council's Quality of Life 
Competition and won a cash 
prize of SIOOO. 

As a working board, the members should generally 
not exceed seven people. Board members should 
represent the variety of interests and have knowledge 
of the technical areas dictated by the scope of the 
competition. As a general rule, it would be helpful to 
have the following as members on an advisory board: 
an attorney to advise on pertinent legal considera- 
tions and to assist in preparation of the competition 
program and entry requirements; members of inter- 
ested community groups and associations; a repre- 
sentative of local government; and at least one local 
design arts professional. Other professionals with perti- 
nent disciplinary skills might be included such as engi- 
neers, cost estimators, ecologists, hydrologists, or 


Preparing a Competition Program 

The competition program is the most important 
component of a well-managed competition. Special 
care and attention to details during the preparation 
of the program usually save many hours of time during 
later phases of the competition. 

The program must clearly state the competition 
objectives, set forth the rules of eligibility, and clearly 
define the sponsor's commitment to the results of the 
competition. The program should specifically set the 
deadline for submissions; the schedule of competition 
events; the mode of design presentation; and the role 
and the responsibilities of the professional advisor, 
jury, and the sponsor. The amount of money awarded 
for all prizes, the terms of employment of the winner 
(if applicable), and the ownership and use of entries 
are key issues that are often overlooked in program 

A competition program must also spur the imagina- 
tion and build the enthusiasm of prospective compet- 
itors, thereby eliciting a range of creative proposals. 
To do this, a project description should be included 
which provides the applicant with a detailed under- 
standing of the project's objectives, functions, dimen- 
sional requirements, budget, and other design criteria 
proposed by the sponsor. This section of the program 
should use visual material such as: maps of the project 
area (current and historical), photographs of the 
projects context, and pertinent planning information. 

All parties to a competition must recognize that the 
competition program implies certain contractual 
agreements between the sponsor, professional 
advisor, awards jury, and competitors. The program 
sets forth the basis of conduct for all participants, 
and therefore must be carefully thought out during its 

Competition programs range from bare bones lists of 
requirements to detailed documents with very spe- 
cific regulations. Although the forms vary widely, all 
programs should have one essential ingredient: abso- 
lute clarity of purpose with a clear statement of the 
roles and responsibilities of all participants. 
Appendix 3 outlines the competition program for the 
Portland Pioneer Square Competition. 

page 11 


Trinity Church 

An invited competition was 
held by the members of the 
Old South End Episcopal Parish 
for their new Church in 
Boston's Back Bay. The winner 
of the competition was Henry 
Hobson Richardson whose 
office had begun preliminary 
designs in the spring of 1872. 
The church did not actually 
get under extensive construc- 
tion until 1874 when Richardson 

moved to Brookline, Massa- 
chusetts. The grand edifice on 
Copley Square eventually 
became one of the great 
watersheds of American archi- 
tecture in that it firmly estab- 
lished the Romanesque 

page 12 

5. How are Design Competitions 

Once the preliminary planning is complete and the 
program has been finalized, sponsors initiate the 
design competition by calling for entries from com- 
petitors. Once alerted, design competitors will contact 
the sponsor to register for the competition and to 
seek further information. Competitors may be 
required to fill out an official application form, supply 
requested particulars, and pay a registration fee. The 
fee may be set to cover at least some of the cost of 
advertising the competition and producing and dis- 
tributing the program. A registration fee can help 
encourage only the serious competitor, but it should 
remain nominal or less affluent designers may feel 
prohibited from competing. 

A local or regional competition is often initiated by 
advertising in the local press or by direct mailing of 
the design competition program to a list of local 
design arts professionals. Such a list can be prepared 
by the sponsor or advisory board with the assistance 
of local design societies. Announcements of a 
national or international competition, by contrast, 
require an extensive invitation period to be effective. 
The national press, professional design journals, and 
national design society bulletins require two or four 
months before an announcement of a design compe- 
tition can be printed and distributed. After the 
registration period ends, a list of qualified applicants is 
developed by the advisory board or professional 
advisor to whom the competition program and all 
other pertinent information is then mailed. 

After the program mailing, most competitions estab- 
lish a specific period for Questions and Answers. To 
ensure fairness and equity, the sponsor or professional 
advisor must send all answers simultaneously to all 
applicants with the identity of the questioner kept 

In an invited competition, sponsors may elect to hold 
a meeting with selected competitors before the 
design phase begins. Depending upon the particular 
situation, it may also be beneficial for invited compet- 
itors to meet with the public to learn of community 
concerns relevant to the proposed project. 

The design development phase of the competition 
must allow competitors ample time to analyze the 
competition problem and develop creative and prac- 
tical solutions. If the project necessitates specific site 
analysis, sufficient time should be provided for travel 
and field inspection. 

During the design phase, the sponsor is responsible for 
the receipt and handling of all entries and for guar- 
anteeing the safety of the drawings, models, and 
other design components. The sponsor must also pro- 
vide ample storage space and insurance for compe- 

page 13 

tition materials. Finally, all respondents should be 
notified that their proposals have been received by 
the sponsor. 

If the competition is best served by the anonymity of 
design proposals, this can be ensured in the following 

1) a sealed envelope containing the respondent's 
name can be placed on the back of drawings and 

2) a competitor can be issued a code number 
during the initial application process. All proposals are 
then marked with the applicant's code number. 

3) each competitor can select a symbol and register 
it on the competition application. The symbol is then 
placed on all proposal components. 

The Cambridge Arts Council announces the first 



For individual performers or groups, 

For artists, architects, planners, 

including poets, musicians, composers. 

designers and individual citizens 

dancers, choreographers, vocatists. 

neighborhood groups. 

instrumenta&sts, mtmes, actors and 

Choose one or two of these categories. 

playwrights. All anginal works submitted 

should be planned for perfonnartce 

1, Fbrks and Playgrounds 

between July and December, 1976. 

B. Hidden Spaces 

Dates and locations of all performances 
must be specified with priority; given 

IS. Forgotten Places 

to such public spaces as: 

TV intersections 

1, Schools, neighborhood organizations 

U Urban Jewels 

and open spaces Jn Cambridge, 

An opcncategart/foffowilalnt. 

2. Public. phuatearKieldetiy housing. 

S^X cnfranrchc^fco**,,, 

3. Cambridge Cdy Hdl and Annex, 

4. MWdlesec County Courthouse 

ELlGIBILnY: Open to dl who live or work 
in Cambridge and others Entrantsare 

ELIGIBILITY: Open to aH who Hue or work in 

kmied to two categories but may submit 

Cambridge At least two performances should lake 

designs for more than one site 

place between July and December. 1976. 

in categories chosen 



Deadline June 15. Winners announced July l.Mmnum prize $1,000 in cash. 

Quality of Life Competition 

In 1975 the Cambridge Arts 
Council was created, starting 
with a $25,000 National 
Endowment for the Arts Grant 
which was matched by the 
City of Cambridge with Com- 
prehensive Employment Train- 
ing Act (CETA) funds. The 
Council decided to hold two 
environmental design compe- 
titions which invited proposals 
"that would create a more 
joyous and livable 

One competition was open to 
artists, architects, planners, 
designers and neighborhood 
groups to create environ- 
mental designs for selected 
urban sites. Entries were 
divided into the following cat- 
egories: 1. Parks and Play- 
grounds, 2. Hidden Spaces, 
3. Forgotten Places, 4. Inter- 
sections, 5. Urban Jewels. The 
other competition was for 
Urban Stages, open to indi- 
vidual performers or groups, 
including poets, musicians, 
composers, dancers, choreog- 
raphers, vocalists, instrumental- 
ists, mimes, actors, and play- 
wrights. The minimum prize 
offered for each winner was 
SIOOO in cash. The Council 
received 170 entries. 


page 14 

6. How are Design Competition 
Winners Selected? 

To attract the best participants, any competition must 
be evaluated competently and fairly by a field of 
experts in the relevant design field. Therefore, a jury 
must be carefully selected. 

Although an awards jury should be composed primar- 
ily of design arts professionals in the relevant discipline, 
it should be balanced by several non-designers 
representing other interest groups and expertise. Arts 
administrators, local government officials, or local 
business representatives often make excellent 
representatives on awards juries. Again, to ensure 
fairness, jurors should not be associated with the 
sponsoring organization or any potential competitor. 

Jurors should be selected not only for their general 
experience and overall reputation, but also for their 
personal interest in, and familiarity with, the subject 
matter of the competition. Candidates for the jury 
should be provided with a clear statement of their 
functions and responsibilities. They will need to read 
the competition program carefully to understand the 
competition goals and requirements before accept- 
ing the invitation of the sponsor. 

Guidelines for the selection of a winning proposal 
should be outlined for the awards jury at the outset of 
the competition. Design review criteria may be pro- 
vided by the sponsor to the jury or the jury may be 
instructed to develop its own review criteria as long as 
they conform to the rules and specifications of the 

White House 

Thomas Jefferson was suc- 
cessful in persuading President 
Washington to use design 
competitions for the Capitol 
and the President's House. The 
first prize for the President's 
House went to Irish-born archi- 
tect James Hoban. He 
employed a Palladian design 
which was inspired by the 
English architect James Gibbs. 

page 15 

Design Review 

Each entry, upon receipt, should be examined by the 
professional advisor or advisory board to make sure 
that all technical requirements and other specifica- 
tions detailed in the program have been satisfied. In 
certain cases competitors may supply incomplete or 
excessive material. At this point such entries should be 
disqualified by the sponsor or delegates. The sub- 
missions can then be prepared for display and 
reviewed by the jury and perhaps the general public. 

Jury deliberations can be, and in some states are 
required to be, open to the public. For example, the 
Minnesota II, National Terratecture Competition, held 
for the design of an addition to the Minnesota State 
Capitol Building in 1976, had an open review 

Jury deliberations can be time consuming, and the 
method of selection is often a gradual screening of 
inadequate or inappropriate solutions. As the field of 
proposals narrows, the debate over style and philos- 
ophy will increase. Ultimately, a series of votes may be 
taken and a winner will be selected. The jury then 
informs the sponsor and professional advisor of its 

The jury's decision should be documented by a report 
to the professional advisor or sponsor. The jury report 
should state the objectives of the competition, the 
design review criteria used in evaluation of submis- 
sions, the method of selection, the comments of the 
jurors, and the votes leading to the final decision. 
Contested decisions should be noted and minority 
opinion reports included. 

imam* ' ~* 




Kite Competition and Festival 

Over the past twelve years, 
the Great Boston Kite Festival 
has grown to be the third 
largest kite festival in the 
world, surpassed only by India 
and Japan. In 1979, 10,000 
people participated in the 
open competition. In recent 
years, the Design Kite 
Competition for design 
professionals has drawn kite 
designers or would-be 
designers from all over the 
world. Their challenge is to 
make the largest kite that can 

page 16 

Eiffel Tower 

The Eiffel Tower was con- 
structed as the symbol of the 
Paris Exposition of 1889 which 
commemorated the Centen- 
nial of the Storming of the 
Bastille in the French Revolu- 
tion. The design competition 
for the tower was sponsored 
by the French Government 
which viewed the construction 
of the Exposition as a good 
way to prevent a major 
national strike, which eventu- 
ally occurred in 1900. In all, 
700 entries were submitted 
including one fantastic pro- 
posal for an enormous tower 
which would shower water at 
regular intervals on the City of 
Paris. Gustav Eiffel, already 
celebrated for his bridges and 
viaducts, incorporated an 1884 
design for a 300 meter tower 
by Maurice Koechlin and Emile 
Nouguier into his 1886 design. 

7. What are the Costs of Design 

The dollar costs of competitions vary widely 
according to the type of competition, the program 
complexity and number of competitors. For a sand- 
castle competition, such as the one held each spring 
at Steep Hill Beach, north of Boston, the dollar costs 
are minimal. 

The Royal Institute of British Architects has estimated 
the costs involved in the preparation, advertising, 
running, judging, and publicizing a design competition 
for a building usually amount to less than one-half of 
one percent of the construction costs for the entire 
project. This total competition cost is roughly equiv- 
alent to the normal professional fees for schematic 
designs. (See Appendix 2 for a list of competition cost 

During the 1979 competition for the Fort Mason Cul- 
tural Center in San Francisco, eight design teams were 
invited to a three-day on-site competition to design a 
cultural complex for an abandoned wharf. Each 
participating team was given a $1,000 honorarium to 
cover time and expenses. According to the Fort 
Mason sponsor, the actual value of the professional 
services rendered by the competitors exceeded by 
many times the cost to the sponsor. The on-site 
presence of these designers generated invaluable 
design concepts. 

While the costs of running a design competition do 
not have to be exorbitant, finding funding sources can 
be difficult. For non-profit organization, grants can be 
obtained from federal agencies such as the National 
Endowment for the Arts or the Department of Housing 
and Urban Development, from state art agencies, or 
from local philanthropic foundations. For a private 
sponsor, the cost of a competition can be absorbed 
as business overhead or a public relations expense. 

page 1 7 

8. What Makes a Design 
Competition Successful? 

An essential ingredient in the success of a design 
competition is an appropriate sense of timing. A 
clearly stated, tautly structured, strictly enforced 
schedule is essential to assure the competitors that 
their tremendous intellectual and emotional invest- 
ment is worthwhile. The second characteristic is 
clarity; clarity in the definition of goals, clarity in the 
delineation of the competition process leading to the 
achievement of the goals, and clarity in the release of 
pertinent information. 

And, finally, the most essential ingredient of all 
competitions is fairness. While the stopwatch for the 
lOO-yard dash does not lie, the appraisal of quali- 
tative factors such as style, degree of artistic difficulty, 
and the depth of creativity poses a unique and chal- 
lenging problem. The evaluation of design ultimately 
demands an exercise, in human judgement. Compet- 
itors must be assured that all entries will be evaluated 
equally and fairly. 

Annual Boston Sandcastle 

The competition is sponsored 
by the Boston Society of Archi- 
tects, the Children's Museum, 
Harvard University Department 
of Landscape Architecture, 
and Water Music, Inc. The 
competition rules state that 
the castles should ultimately 
have human scale whether 
they are real or imagined 
designs. The event is held at 
the Steep Hill Beach near 
Ipswich, Massachusetts. 

A design competition can be the most effective and 
rewarding way to generate a design or select a 
designer, involve public participation or stimulate an 
idea. Its success will be dependent on the conscien- 
tious efforts of sponsor and supporters. Creative talent 
abounds, just waiting to be challenged with a site, 
building, park, room or concept. 

page 18 

Fort Mason Center 

The Fort Mason Center in San 
Francisco, California is a 
regional cultural and educa- 
tional facility located in the 
Golden Gate National Recrea- 
tional Center. The Fort Mason 
Foundation, an independent, 
non-profit organization was 
established in 1976, to convert 
and manage an old U.S. Army 
fort of nine buildings as a 
cultural facility for the creative 
and performing arts. The 6 
warehouse and 3 pier 
buildings enclose approxi- 
mately 350,000 square feet. 
Renovation of the buildings 
began in 1977. Since then, 40 
performing arts, visual arts, 
environmental education and 
humanities organizations have 
taken up residence in the Fort 
Mason Center. Another 150 
organizations rent space on a 
monthly basis. 

This growth created many 
problems: many activities were 
housed in spaces not designed 
for the intended uses and 
activities were not program- 
matically separated into com- 
patible use categories. What 
was needed was a Master 
Plan. Through a $20,000 
National Endowment for the 
Arts Grant, the Foundation 
held an On-Site Charette 

There were four reasons for 
the competition: The Fort 
Mason Center could gain 
broad public exposure; the 
Center could have a number 
of prominent architects 
address its problems; the on- 
site competition would pro- 
vide a forum for public contri- 
bution of ideas to the Master 
Plan; and the visibility of the 
competition project would 
create interest and provide 
the Fort Mason Foundation 
credibility in the funding com- 

munity. Letters of interest were 
sent to all architects in the Bay 
Area. An impressive list of 85 
architects responded. Fifteen 
were selected for personal 
interviews. Eight were invited 
to participate in a 3-day on- 
site competition and were 
given a SIOOO honorarium. 
The eight design teams 
worked in the same space 
and the public was allowed to 
visit with the architects as they 
evolved their designs. The total 
time elapsed from the deci- 
sion to hold a competition until 
the selection of a winner took 
6 months. 

page 19 


The following design societies may be able 
to provide information concerning design 

American Institute of Architects 

Competition Advisory Service 
1735 New York Avenue, N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20006 
(202) 626-7362 

American Institute of Graphic Arts 

Competitions Coordinator: 
Nathan Gluck 

Executive Director: 
Deborah Trainer 

1059 Third Avenue 

New York, New York 10021 

(212) 752-0813 

American Planning Association 

Executive Director: 
Israel Stollman 

1776 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20036 
(202) 872-0611 

American Society of Interior Designers 

Communications Department 
Competitions Coordinator: 
Deborah Kerben 

730 Fifth Avenue 

New York, New York 10019 

(212) 586-7111 

American Society of Landscape Architects 

Executive Director: 
Edward H. Able 

1900 M Street, N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20036 
(202) 466-7730 

Industrial Design Society of America 

Executive Director: 
Brian Wynne 

1717 N Street, N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20036 
(202) 466-2927 

Institute of Business Designers 

National Office 

Public Relations Administrator: 

Claudia Sloan 

1155 Merchandise Mart 
Chicago, Illinois 60654 
(312) 467-1950 

It is recommended that written request for information 
be submitted to these societies, if possible. 

page 20 


Cost of Competitions 

Most competition costs vary according to the type of 
competition format and the type of project. As with 
conventional design commissions, the cost of a design 
competition can be as lean or extravagant as the 
sponsor's budget will allow. 

Some of the items of cost for sponsors to consider 
when holding a competition are as follows: 

1 ) The Competition Advisory Board is usually a vol- 
untary committee. Sometimes they are paid an hon- 
orary fee, or on a per diem basis. All expenses are 
paid directly by the sponsor. 

2) The Professional Advisor can be paid on a lump 
sum basis for a specific scope of services to be 
rendered, or on a per diem basis with all travel, 
subsistence, and other expenses reimbursed directly 
by the sponsor. 

3) The Jury is usually paid on a per diem basis with all 
travel, subsistence, and other expenses reimbursed 
directly by the sponsor. 

4) Competitors may be paid or unpaid according to 
the type of design competition. For open competi- 
tions the competitors are usually not paid. For invited 
competitions the competitors are usually paid fees 
commensurate with the professional services 
provided. For charette competitions the competitors 
are usually paid on a cost-plus basis. 

5) Awards are usually cash prizes to the winning 
entry or entries. The amount of the prize money varies, 
but can be estimated to be in excess of the sum that 
would have been paid for similar services if con- 
tracted for a normal design commission. Often the first 
prize is a professional services contract with the 

6) Printing and Publicity costs range from the 
minimal expense of mimeographed programs and 
press releases to elaborate books costing thousands 
of dollars. There are additional publication costs 
involved for the question-and-answer correspon- 
dence, announcements of winners, the registration 
form, and the final jury report. At the conclusion of the 
competition, there may be a publication or a public 
exhibit of the winning design. 

7) Handling and Submissions will involve the costs of 
storage, insurance, shipping, and display of submission 
to the jury. These costs may include space rental as 
well as personnel to receive, store, set up and take 
down entries, to handle them during the jury delibera- 
tions, and to package and return them to the 

8) For On-Site Charette Competitions sponsors must 
provide work space and drafting boards for 
competitors, as well as living accommodations during 
the competitive event for out-of-town competitors. 

page 21 


Competition Program from 

Pioneer Courthouse Square 

Design Competition, Portland, 


1. Introduction and History 

2. Design program requirements 

a. Boundaries of site 

b. Circulation requirements 

c. Quality and use requirements 

d. Design requirements 

e. Citizen Advisory Committee requirements 

f. Development option 

3. Site Description and Inventory 

(Maps and Drawings) 

4. Competition Regulations 

a. Competition procedure 

b. Jury of award 

c. Authority of the jury 

d. Professional advisor 

e. Those eligible to compete 

f. Compensation to competitors 

g. Exhibition of drawings and models 
h. Communication 

i. Anonymity of drawings and models 
j. Delivery of drawings and models 
k. Drawings and models 
I. Agreement between client and selected 

5. Jury of Award 

6. Schedule 

7. Submission Requirements 

page 22 

Minnesota State Capitol 

The drawing of the Dellinger/ 
Lee Proposal displays a sensi- 
tivity to the site and its sur- 
rounOings which is linked to the 
intentions and results of the 
original Minnesota State 
Capitol Plan. In 1893, when 
Cass Gilbert won the first 
Capitol design competition he 
desired to create a building 
which would do more than just 

meet functional reguirements. 
In the contemporary competi- 
tion, a different set of compe- 
tition criteria existeO which 
demanded a serious appraisal 
of what Cass Gilbert and 
others had done to the site 
and the surrounding city. The 
Dellinger/Lee Proposal can be 
said to reaffirm the tenets of 
the Beaux-Art from which 
Gilbert derived his inspiration. 

page 23 


This publication was written, designed and produced by 
Vision, The Center for Environmental Design and Edu- 
cation under a Cooperative Agreement with the 
National Endowment for the Arts, Design Arts Program. 
The following persons were major contributors to the 
production: Michael J. Pittas, Lance J. Brown, Joyce 
Meschan, Michael Robinson, Michael Dowling, Jean 
Paul Carlhian, Edward J. Halligan Jr. and Sandra 

Others who contributed their time, ideas, and encour- 
agement are: Maureen Melville, Lois Craig, William Lehr, 
Jennifer Canizares, Geri Bachman, Dennis Reeder,'and 
Michael Bruce. 


The Center for Environmental Design 
and Education 

Joyce Meschan Michael Robinson, AIA 
President Vice-President 

Note: The Center for Design and Education would appreciate any 
contribution of information, photographs, descriptions and drawings 
of other successful design competitions. This information will be cata- 
logued for use in future design competition publications. 

Illustration Credits 

Cover photo - Michael Dowling and Michael Robinson, Vision, Inc.; 
Introduction photo 19 - Michael Bruce/Denny Reeder; 1 - United 
States Senate Archives; 2, 3, 12 - Michael Dowling, Vision, Inc.; 4 - 
Norman McGrath; 5 - Gordon H. Schenk, courtesy of Dellinger/Lee 
Associates; 6 - Provincetown Playhouse on The Wharf, Inc.; 9 - United 
States Park Service; 10 - Jonathan Barkan' 14 - Al Gowan, 
Cambridge Arts Council; 15 - Office of the Curator, the White House; 
16 - courtesy of Gill Fishman Associates; 1 7 - Crombie Taylor, FAIA" 
18 - Antonia Mendoza; 23 - Dellinger/Lee Associates. 

Printed by House of Offset Typesetting by Together Graphics 

Somerville, Massachusetts Cambridge, Massachusetts 

page 24 

Distributed by 
Vision, The Center 
for Environmental 
Design and Education 
678 Massachusetts Avenue 
Cambridge, MA 02139