On awards (2) Previous thougths

Uptown, Oakland, a neighborhood selected in 2014 by the American Planning Association through its Great Places in America program

It is probably a good idea to propose some preliminary ideas before getting into the awards issue. I’m going to talk about awards to plans or documents that somehow have been approved by a public administration, or about ideas that have been built; I will even talk about awards to existing urban spaces in which there is no actual new construction. So architectural/urban competitions will not be included; don’t get me wrong, they can be really interesting (there can be interesting issues beyond the famous cases as the 1922 Chicago Tribune or the 1931 Soviet’s Palace competitions), but because I’m right now more interested in what I have described. Under these conditions, whatever receives the award must have been somehow endorsed by a certain amount of agents, resulting so from a (varying) degree of consensus.

An award is nevertheless similar to a competition or even to a school exam; you often see it just in one sense, as a choice between a set of proposals from which you pick the one more fit to the criteria you have set. But often it is also clear that the jury is also put to test (and sometimes fails). The award is a social construction based on a set of conventions, depending on the moment and the vision of the jurors (be it coincident or not with the majority views, even if they are far from reasonable), and even (let me hope that just in a minority of cases…) depending on the personal affinities with given candidates. Even if all the former can be interesting elements, I will not focus on them.

What I will focus on is, in the cases I will portray during the next posts, my vision on the awarded proposals when related to the remaining ones, as seen from a distance (for several reasons I will not talk about awards in my current direct geographical area). Judging their virtues is not always easy (even if sometimes you are tempted to say something is worthless…), but some questions arise that I think are worth sharing.


  1. It is/will be interesting to hear a knowledgeable view on these. Usually, if I read anything about such an award, it’s been written by someone on the receiving team, as it were and it’s very one-sided.

    1. Dear Dan: I’ve been in receiving teams, so I can understand that sometimes it can sound one-sided. I do not intend to criticize that, but rather to focus on questions that the award case can bring to mind, as even the best project will never be perfect. I’l do my best to be open minded and not to take just the winner’s side, but just felt I had to remind I’m also sometimes in that bussiness.

      1. Thanks for the clarification but that’s fine. If you’re invested in it that’s actually pretty cool. I’m sure you’ll give us the benefit of your perspective (which is why we read).

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