Carmela Cucuzzella, PhD

Concordia University; Université de Montréal

Exploration through constraints: Sustainability in the Architectural Competition
Text for video-clip-abstract:

Often we think that exploration and constraints are at odds with each other even if architects want to design within constraints. Yet, they often complain that there are too many in the competition, particularly when it comes to environmental norms or budget.

Therefore a good design process involves a good exploration through constraints. However, there is a new problem emerging, which is when environmental certifications become the new steps in the design process itself, becoming the imposed framework for competitors and jurors. What I am saying is that competitors are increasingly reorienting their design process in order to accommodate such certifications.

The paradox of environmental certifications is that they are directly associated with a predefined framework of sustainability. Yet, we know that sustainability issues can be anything depending on the framework and specific context we are working from. Most competitors and jurors understand issues of sustainability within their own world-view and may see the issues of a specific situation very differently.

Now, what I am proposing is that each competitor articulates within their own framework and vision of sustainability, their own exploration process, respective strategies, solutions and justifications.

In this approach, the competition would not only become a space for sustainable innovation, but also a space to make public the many creative visions rather than be restricted to the idea of ‘accumulating credits’ in order to obtain the required certification, which often leads to a kind of ‘connecting the dots’ approach to architectural design - a very limiting process.

So rather than requiring an environmental certification in a competition, the question would be: What is the best project you can design that would best and most responsibly fit the given context and space?

There are 2 consequences to this. First we must accept the explorative dimension for sustainability rather than simply rely on the more easily comparable certifications. And second, this becomes a more open and complex process for organizers, jurors and investors, since each competitor will have their own set of strategies that must be judged differently.

The fundamental shift then is that organizers must be willing to invest in this exploration and in the belief that the competition can again drive the best solutions; something it has been historically meant to achieve, and something that is immensely important for sustainability.
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