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Thursday, February 15, 2007
Design for London competition launched
Six 'young' architecture practices have been invited to participate in a competition for a site in South London, in one of Design for London's first projects. If this is an example of 'start as you mean to go on', it is both encouraging and a little disappointing. The invited practices are all good, characterful designers who aren't on every developer's speed-dial at present, so that's got to be a good thing. But they are not particularly risky or even small - of S333, de Rijke Marsh Morgan, FAT, Brisac Gonzalez and 6a, perhaps only the last two are at a stage where they need this kind of push up. And there is also no guarantee that the winning architect will actually get to build the project - "A preferred design will be chosen in April and that architect will work up its plans to detailed planning application stage. Subject to a successful planning application, the winning architect might work with an LDA development partner to see the project through to completion," according to the AJ.

And somehow, there's something a little unoriginal about a design competition, as if more of those will solve everything. The format is tired and doesn't really allow for the close client collaboration that is at the heart of a really good building project. I admire those who, as my old colleagues at Haworth Tompkins did recently to win a competition for the RCA, dare to not design a building and instead, design a process, a series of questions, and give the client a sense of actually what it might be like to work with these people. And equally I admire a client who has the good sense to choose that kind of approach over and above a sexy design, because it will stand them in much better stead.

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