From the ninety three submissions in the 2016 NGV Architecture Commission five entries were shortlisted and four received commendations, generating many diverse ideas of what a public pavilion can be.
We asked three of those shortlisted/ commended practices for their perspectives on why they enter competitions and the incentives that drive the efforts.
Competitions provide new platforms for ideas which we find productive for our practice. They are useful for experimenting with architectural and urban ideas which ultimately develop our design work. Recently, our practice has undertaken three competitions; Nanjing Lake redevelopment – Nanjing, China (limited competition), Urban Freeway Marker- Power Street Loop Southbank and the National Gallery of Victoria Architecture Commission Competition 2016 (shortlisted). These competitions all offered opportunities to expand and experiment with new ideas, forms and scenarios. For example, our shortlisted ‘Splatter Pavilion’ for the NGV Gallery allowed us to explore a fluid and liquid type of architectural form. We investigated a ‘splatter’ form which was folded as a self-supporting pavilion that originated and extended from our interests in DADA, Rorschach tests and Abstract Expressionism. These design notions are not always possible to investigate in the day-to-day; however now these ideas have been investigated they will be much easier to incorporate them into our design practice.
Architecture competitions can be a marvellous thing. I was fortunate to have been commended for my entry into the 2016 NGV Architecture Commission. I proposed a simple, and dare I say elegant, intervention which critiqued the prevalence of overly stylistic pavilion architecture, drawing attention to the real treasures of the NGV courtyard – its sculptures. While I didn’t win the competition, it sparked a dialogue with the gallery’s curators of contemporary design and architecture that eventually led to a 3D printed jewellery collaboration for the NGV store.
I see competitions as a kind of architectural muscle building because they are a day to day reality in the world of large scale projects. Having seen and lived through these long drawn, complex and often political duels, they can be cruel and gruelling beasts. Architects and firms involved in these competitions pour in vast amounts of resources, energy and personal sacrifice. There is, however, an upside to these tournaments. By participating, one is forced to untangle often large and complex briefs to propose an ideal and distilled architectural solution which resonates with the judges and various stakeholders, all in a very short amount of time. It builds grit and forces you to refine your techniques and skills to become a better architect.
THOMAS WINWOOD ARCHITECTURE
During Stage 2 of the NGV competition, we explored using water as a primary material and creating reflective doubly curved surfaces using large scale digital fabrication techniques. As a studio that is focused on detail, collaboration and fabrication, imagining new materials and forms was an exciting and productive time. The scale and quality of CNC fabrication techniques (3d printing metal, robotic welding and large scale CNC milling) available in Melbourne is remarkable. Working with Arup we resolved the technical and functional requirements of a surreal and, what would have been, unique space in a highly economical way.
The potential for research and development of ideas within small scale residential projects can at times be limited. The challenge my practice is currently addressing is how to incorporate these ideas and modes of research into practice without compromising the value of design and the services architects provide. Competitions have the potential to energise both the practice and the culture of architecture. However, a significantly higher value needs to be placed on the time and resources required to develop effective and considered ideas, and explore new possibilities and technologies to ensure a sustainable model for architectural practice.