Graphic analysis of competition entries as a methodology for discussing design intentions in adaptive reuse

Author: Nadin Augustiniok


The architectural competition, as an instrument to encourage a diversity of entries and thus creative potential, is an integral part of the discourse on architectural quality. The individual entries analyse, reflect and experiment with a specific situation within a framework defined by the competition brief. In this way, the various competition proposals can be seen as ‘research-by-design’ projects by the participating architects. Research into the architec- tural design process increasingly uses design proposals as a source of knowledge to enrich ‘classical’ research.

One difficulty here is the different orientation of the approach of researchers and designers. While the former are problem-oriented, the latter are solution-oriented and, therefore, more willing to reformulate the question to arrive at a solution. The act of drawing is part of the problem-solving process both in the design and in the investigation of an already realised building. As an essential element of communication, with its own language and codes, it can conversely be used as a means of analysis to ‘read’ architecture, to decode the architectural idea. As part of my re- search, I examined several best practice case studies as a basis for data, illustration and research. Selection criteria were their recognised architectural quality (overall positive recognition by experts and the public), listed building status or incorporation of the existing building fabric, and the participation in a competition process.

The unifying, abstracting graphic representation of the proposals allowed me to gain spatial knowledge about the projects and to compare them with each other. I applied this methodology of creating and comparing diagrams with other research methods to investigate my topic regarding the value assessment in adaptive reuse projects. Starting from the existing discourse on heritage values as a means of determining the significance of cultural heritage, I investigate the framework of values in their historical development and their application in theory and practice in the context of the two Belgian regions of Flanders and Wallonia. Adaptive reuse as a strategy for reintegrating the existing into the contemporary built environment seeks to balance the needs of utility with those of conservation, taking into account the often far-reaching implications for the material and meaning of the buildings. The built heritage as a representative of our history and culture of the past requires an assessment process of what was, what is still there and what should be there in the future. In times when technical and economic arguments tend to domi- nate the design of our built environment, we need opportunities to identify, evaluate and discuss cultural, historical and architectural values. My research explored the assessment of values in adaptive reuse projects from a design perspective and considering the architectural heritage’s physical, visual and spatial qualities.

The Flemish Research Foundation is funding this PhD research (FWO G050519N).

Keywords: diagrammatic drawings; architectural competition; research-by-design; value assessment; adaptive reuse