There is a body of opinion that says you get much better value for money when lotto tickets are bought on a Monday rather than leaving it until just before Saturday’s draw. This is, of course, because there are five whole days to look forward to the life-changing effect of Hilary Timmins reading out your winning numbers.
The competitors in the second stage of the Britomart competition had about 3 months to contemplate their imminent fame and fortune – which doubtless became a little distracting in this last week or two.
In the end though there can only be one winner and this time it was Mario Madayag. Congratulations to him and his team. There has been a generally held belief that this jury was capable of picking the best scheme. Now I think all would wish the winning team luck and urge them to continue the good work.
Mario’s words of acceptance at the prize giving function were interesting in that they showed a philosophy of forming alliances that has probably played a part in the win. A relationship with Jasmax was formed at the beginning of Stage 2 and Mario worked predominantly with Greg Boyden and Barbara Draper, with other Jasmax staff brought in as needed. The construction company Multiplex were also approached early on, which in these days of partnered design/build contracts seems a convincing thing to do. Multiplex paid for getting the American landscape architecture firm Peter Walker Associates to send a couple of people over to work on the project for a week.
Then there was also a mention for the various people who had helped Mario along the way: Andrew Krukziener, Jenny Gibbs, Gary Langsford and the several artists and Tangata Whenua representatives. It seemed that this was intended as a genuine expression of gratitude for the help given to him – but also seemed to be a way of establishing his credentials in the city over which he will have considerable influence in the next two or three years. Not wasting any time in getting around town probably bodes well for the future, as the success of the development will be dependent in part upon the buy-in from the private sector. One positive outcome of having a foreign winner who is not that well-known here is that there will probably be fewer tall-poppy attacks on the scheme in the post competition stage from within and outside the profession.
Establishing credentials of a different kind seemed to be behind the mention of Rem Koolhaas’ name on the team lineup. There was a synchronised gasp from around the room when that was announced. I am sure a few architects in the audience were excited at the thought of having him in town doing a bit of work. The upshot though was that Koolhaas hadn’t played any role in the competition entry thus far, but that Mario was keen for him to take part in the next stage. Having Koolhaas involved could be expected to have the benefit of focussing some international attention on Auckland and presumably therefore raising the profile of architecture locally. On the other hand he is predominantly a magazine architect and the photos of the work his firm has done in Lille seem more akin to the proposed Newmarket super malls than the type of urban sensitivity called for in Mario’s scheme.
From a few overheard comments there seemed to be a general feeling that this competition was well run. John Duthie and Mark Vinall were predominantly involved from the council’s side. The jury seemed to have a good mix of talents and points of view. Three members had links to the architectural profession: the convenor John Hunt provided design understanding, management and process integrity, Clinton Bird brought both architectural and urban design skills and Athfield came with a sense of humour, wisdom and professional mana. Apart from the winners nobody outside the council and the jury seemed to know who had won before the announcement on Tuesday evening.
So what future for architectural competitions? As a generalisation the larger, more established firms probably dislike competitions preferring to gain work based on the merits of past projects and established business connections. While, for the smaller and younger practices, the competition presents the opportunity to shortcut the years it takes to work up through ever-larger projects and a chance to break through established client/consultant relationships. Whatever your point of view, Auckland seems to have been the winner in this case with a wide range of ideas being put forward in both stages of the competition that tested the boundaries of what the project could be. The council is now very positive about the competition process and are supporting next year’s medium density residential competition.
It would be expected with such a well patronised competition that all the competitors, and the public that were attracted to their schemes, should maintain a keen interest in the project as it unfolds. This ought to provide even more incentive, if it is needed, for the winning team and their clients to work hard for the best possible solution for the city.