Wolf Prix, the design principal and CEO of Austrian architecture studio Coop Himmelb(l)au has slammed design competitions, arguing they “diminish the value of our thinking.”
In a frank talk about the state of the industry and the challenges of tomorrow, made at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin, Prix claimed that “to make a competition is a very stupid thing.”
“I repeat myself a thousand times, but can you imagine 100 or 200 surgeons having to prove they can perform heart surgery, without getting any money?” he said. “Only the stupid architects are doing it. I read in the newspaper recently an investor said ‘I’m happy to have competitions because I get 100 ideas for free.’”
Expanding on the point later in the talk, Prix continued: “I don’t want to work for nothing. It is a diminishing of the value of our thinking. And anonymous competition contributions are making architects slaves to money.
“One of my former students won a competition, and I calculated with him what he will gain after five years. It turns out he will make a loss of E200,000. That means he has to do everything a client wants to pay this back.”
Prix also used the platform to talk about the role of architects more widely.
“As architects, we think we save the client and that we can walk on water. But I haven’t seen an architect who could walk on water. Or we think we’re supporting the whole world on our shoulders. No way. We are really like Chaplin, because the invisible aspects of architecture are suppressing our ideas.”
Prix, and Coop Himmelb(l)au, are known for their boundary-pushing projects featuring structural, abstract forms, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning Exhibition (MOCAPE) in Shenzhen, China, which opened in October 2016. The House of Bread, a museum and events centre for Austrian bread company Backaldrin, is due to open in Asten, northern Austria, this year.