Reflections on DAF2012

Hosting our first international student competition has been invaluable for the research – seeing how the AF concepts can be embedded into design solutions. The competition asked students to illustrate how the life of their proposal – whether product, building or urban intervention – would unfold through time: over an hour, day, year, decade, or perhaps a century.  We received a large number of submissions from 26 countries of which thirty were shortlisted from which the judges selected three winning submissions (a joint first place and a third place) along with five submissions deserving honourable mention (view short-listed submissions). Regarding the winning submissions, Daisy Froud of AOC stated;

I’m really glad that the two joint winners reflect two very different approaches, one more traditionally architectural – it’s a big building with bits that slide, but that is nonetheless rooted in thinking about how people in central London live and work – and one that has more in common with social sculpture, its speculations based on research into a specific cultural and perhaps even ‘small-p political’ context.”

The integration of time in their design proposal was framed around three criteria presented in the brief:  strategies for change (AF frame cycle), building layers and design guidelines (spatial, material and mind set).  Students were allowed to submit two A0 boards and/or a three minute film. The three competition winners will share a £3,500 cash prize and have been invited to participate and present at this autumn’s AF event in London.

Given the limited time each submission has to be understood, projects which offered a clear explanation of the ideas and illustrations supporting the design application were much more successful.  The jury tended to engage better with projects that explored more than just the technical solution; ones which dealt with the context in which the project was situated – the social, political and economic issues unravelling both the how and the why change would be needed.  David Rowley of Nightingale Associates commented;

“The competition resulted in a wide range of approaches to adaptability, some much more likely than others to be viable, given the need to consider the likelihood/frequency of change in conjunction with the benefit, cost and difficulty of achievement.”

Proposals which were too product specific were not favoured – they were felt to be too symbolic of the post-war 1960’s perspective of developing a particular system that can be applied to multiple contexts (one product fits all) – many of which were presented as a metabolistic approach (mega-structure w/ units that could be plugged in and out) offering too deterministic of a solution.

Successful submissions were ones that illustrated an understanding and depth to their proposal and allowed for a debate to occur around the innovativeness of their ideas. The international jury of architects was inspired by the quality of the visual and narrative ideas presented.  Testimony to the high quality of the submissions, all the winners and runners up will be published in the upcoming AF book. Søren Nielsen of Vankunsten Architects observed;

“The DAF competition introduces a new and important agenda to architectural education: The discipline of designing for future change which is crucial for the topical resource saving discourse. The proposals have delivered a full range of strategies for adaptability, some of which contribute substantially to the research field by pointing towards new social and urban potentials from integrating time into the design mind set.”

David Rowley added,

“I was impressed by the time and effort many of the students put into the submissions, and how effectively they showcased their ideas using both presentation boards and film.  The best submissions fully embraced adaptability with sustainability in its broadest sense, taking into account social and political factors as well as accounting for the visual environment and longevity.”

AF intends on running the student competition again next year as Professor Simon Austin finished with,

“The response to the competition has shown that young designers are enthused about, and challenged by, the need for sustainable architecture to have multiple lives.”


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