David van der Leer (Executive Director, Van Alen Institute) and Francine Houben (Architect/Creative Director, Mecanoo) will speak on the Design Competition Conference in Cambridge on April 23. The event is organized by Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Van Alen Institute.
Design competitions are increasingly used to procure the design of, well, just about anything. Governments, philanthropies, advocacy organizations, developers, and even celebrities are offering ever-larger awards and visibility for buildings, landscapes, and products, as well as for solutions to complex economic, social, and ecological problems. Competitions can mobilize thousands of talented people across disciplines to creatively tackle pressing challenges in publicized—if not public—settings. They can also be wasteful, less-than-fully transparent, and even exploitative.
The Design Competition Conference will review the state of design competitions today and their impact on competitors, sponsors, design, and the public interest. Using the lens of professional, ethical, business, legal, aesthetic, and public policy perspectives, we’ll ask: do competitions enhance creativity and excellence in the production of built and landscape environments? Do they advance the skills and interests of the designers who participate in the process? Does the public get to participate and benefit? Do they make for better financial outcomes and, if so, for whom? Are they an ethical method for securing design given the mechanics of the process? Do competitions strengthen or weaken the design professions as a whole? Do they identify new talent? These and other questions will emerge through discussion of cases studies and thematic presentations.
About David van der Leer
David van der Leer is specialized in the contemporary urban condition and runs programs that address urban issues through dialogue, academic research and experiments as well as experiential installations. Van der Leer’s programs bring together professionals and students from the design and art fields, with academics, scientists, policy makers and city officials as well as engaged urbanites in cities around the world.
Since May 2012 Van der Leer is Executive Director at the Van Alen Institute in New York City. Prior to Van Alen Institute Van der Leer was Curator for the BMW Guggenheim Lab and Associate Curator, Architecture and Urban Studies at the Guggenheim Museum where he took the Guggenheim’s programs out of the gallery context into the city.
Besides his other Guggenheim projects such as Stillspotting NYC, Van der Leer was one of the three curators for Spontaneous Interventions at the American Pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2012, and for the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture of 2011, he was curator of the exhibition And Then It Became a City: Six Cities Under 60.
Van der Leer has lectured internationally on architecture and cities and is a regular contributor to publications such as Domus, Mark, The Architect’s Newspaper, Azure, and PIN-UP.
About Francine Houben
“Architecture must appeal to all the senses. Architecture is never a purely intellectual, conceptual, or visual game alone. Architecture is about combining all the individual elements into a single concept. What counts in the end is the arrangement of form and emotion.”
Francine Houben began to formulate the three fundamental concepts of her architectural vision whilst studying at the Technical University in Delft, the Netherlands.
Designing primarily for People, constructing spaces that are relevant to Place, and forging connections that give a building Purpose have remained consistent, underlying values to Mecanoo’s practice over the past three decades.
Always seeking inspiration in the details of specific sites and locations, Francine bases her work on precise analysis coupled with an intuition built over three decades. She interweaves social, technical, playful and human aspects of space-making together in order to create a unique solution to each architectural challenge.
Francine combines the disciplines of architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture in an untraditional way, with a profound sensitivity for light and beauty. Her use of materials, which often contrast in a complementary way, are the sum total of her creative expression.