Design competitions better: architect

AUSTRALIA needs to reassess the way builders are chosen to undertake a construction project. The emphasis should shift away from construction to design competitions, according to Perth architectural firm CCJ DesignInc Perth.

“We hope construction competitions aren’t going to become the way of the future, particularly as it’s not going to cost our community any more for design. The increasing awareness and the need for environmentally sustainable design and development is becoming a greater social and political force, in our communities,” CCJ DesignInc Perth director Peter Christou said.

“If open competition for design is structured along the lines sanctioned by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, which allows some payment for the design effort of those shortlisted, then entering the competition does not become prohibitive, nor does it devalue the creative and democratic process.

“The end result being that both the client and the community gets a broader and a more competitive imaginative input from the architectural profession.”

Mr Christou made the comment following the announced merger and expansion with a number of firms to form a fully integrated national and international company called DesignInc Limited which is currently ranked in the top 10 in Australia by the World Architecture Survey.

CCJ DesignInc Perth was formally called Christou Casella & Jee.

The Royal Australian Institute of Architects president Harry Schubert said open design competitions should only be used sparingly on major public buildings rather than on the local police station or school because it would end up less efficient than the normal consultative process between architect and client.

The problem with the design competitions was that the project was not tailor-made.

But he said design competitions were attractive to architects because it put the architect in charge of any building outcome as opposed to construction designs when the builder has the front foot.

He said one of the criticisms with the Olympic games buildings’ was that they were chosen from construction competitions where the architect was restricted. This has meant many of the buildings were functional but very bland, he said.

Mr Christou said France had about 50 open architectural design competitions a year whereas WA has probably about 50 in the past 100 years.

“Opening up such projects to the widest practical architectural input such as open design competitions rather than construction competitions will advance the one sustainable resource we know we can continue to draw on – human ingenuity,” Mr Christou said.

“WA is obviously not a front runner yet but we could be if we learned quickly from how the rest of the world, particularly Europe, casts the net wide within its own communities for innovative design solutions.

CCJ DesignInc has just secured the design of the new $34 million CSIRO Australian Resources Research Centre in Bentley.

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