GSD/Van Alen Institute conference explores highs and lows of design competitions

Last week’s Design Competition Conference, co-sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Van Alen Institute, probed both the bright and the dark sides of design competitions. A series of panelists and moderators observed how design competitions can stoke creative energies and launch promising new talents, but also can raise frustrations over winning designs that never materialize, as well as minimal—or absent—compensation for immense amounts of work.
Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design Jerold Kayden, who for two years has been teaching a first-of-its-kind course on design competitions, co-chaired the conference with David van der Leer, executive director of the Van Alen Institute, which has been organizing design competitions for 120 years. Van der Leer also announced feedback from a Van Alen Institute/Architectural Record survey on what motivates designers to enter competitions, what designers like and dislike about the process, and what might be done to make competitions better.
Read a recap of the conference in The Harvard Gazette, or view video of the event.