Embracing paradoxes to manage architectural competitions

Beatrice Manzoni, Leentje Volker, Hedley Smyth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

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dDespite being one of the most important means to obtain commissions, to explore in design terms and to develop design quality, architectural competitions are an extremely controversial procedure, in both research and in practice. Competitions present contradictory features and competing demands. Nevertheless, they are increasingly used within the European procurement law, to the point that exploring and understanding these debated elements is essential to improve their effectiveness.
In this paper we use a paradox lens to reveal managerial insights from competitions. A paradox is a set of contradictory elements that are logical when considered separately but become illogical when considered together. We identify four paradoxes and propose accompanying managerial implications for architects, clients and their juries with regard to each competition phase: programming, shortlisting and selecting, designing a proposal, making a decision.
We suggest that embracing and managing paradoxes means dealing with the open yet prescriptive character of the brief in the programming phase, ensuring an open competition while shortlisting and selecting the relevant competitors, confirming the brief but also instructing the client on the better options in the design phase, and balancing emotions and rational thinking in the jury decision-making process.
With regard to each paradox we provide examples from international competitions held in The Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and UK.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArchitectural Competitions as Institution and Process
EditorsJonas E. Andersson, G. Bloxham Zettersten, M. Rönn
Place of PublicationStockholm
PublisherKTH Stockholm
ISBN (Electronic)978-91-98151-28-2
ISBN (Print)978-91-7729-048-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • paradoxes
  • juries
  • clients
  • architects
  • managerial implications
  • competition tradition
  • procurement system
  • competition stages


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