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The Design Competition Conference – Keynote Panel

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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.

Conference Co-Chairs

Jerold S. Kayden | Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planningand Design, Harvard Graduate School of Design

David van der Leer | Executive Director, Van Alen Institute


Craig Dykers | Founding Partner, Snøhetta

Francine Houben | Creative Director, Mecanoo

Mohsen Mostafavi | Dean, Harvard Graduate School of Design


Cathleen McGuigan | Editor-In-Chief, Architectural Record

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