Infoscience

Thesis

Recent Architectural Competitions for Collective Housing in Switzerland: Impact of this Framework on Architectural Conception and Innovation

Architectural competitions have a long tradition in Switzerland that is usually cited as one of the European countries with the largest numbers of competition procedures per year, along with Germany and some Northern countries – Finland, Denmark and Sweden. During the last fifteen years this tradition, concerning till recently, primarily projects of public character – such as schools, museums and other institutional buildings – is reactivated in the housing sector of the construction market. A significant number of housing competitions are organized systematically not only by State-driven services but also by private developers; the innovative aspect of desired solutions is set forward as crucial requirement, and an extended discussion on the quality of living in the new housing units, is promoted. Collaboration between public administration services and cooperative housing societies, has produced during the last decade impressive results, especially in the German-speaking part of the country. Despite the fact that bibliographical sources of previous decades report (mostly fragmentarily) Switzerland's competition culture, so far few scientific studies focus exclusively on the subject. Especially the situation in the housing market and the competition framework deserves to be analysed in detail, since it may provide important information not only with respect to the competition system in general, but also concerning most common housing types and contemporary domestic ideals. The dissertation examines competitive procedures held recently in the country, and attempts to cast additional light on different visions and applications of the system in various regions of Switzerland. In the first part of this study, emphasis is given, apart from the institutional aspect of competition procedures, to the prerequisite of innovative ideas and the way architectural innovation is generally perceived by implicated in this framework, actors. In the second part, significant tendencies of contemporary Swiss architecture in the domain of collective housing – as manifested in the framework of housing competitions – are identified through the morphological and typological analysis of a series of case studies, based on an already established classification; architectural devices bearing traces of groundbreaking investigation lines and particularly resourceful solutions, answering changing social and urban statuses, are highlighted. In the last part of the dissertation, the question of contemporary architectural representations concerning domestic spaces is discussed. It is argued that well-known domestic "myths" from the past – either originating from collective housing types or single-family house typologies – persist in contemporary architectural proposals; current versions of these ideals are presented and a contemporary domestic iconography is traced. The system of housing competitions is finally examined in relation with its materialised outcome: competitions are analysed as "discursive fields" that generate an active (though indirect) dialogue between architects, assessors and promoters; the influence of this interactive model, during and after a competition's completion, to the evolution of designs submitted in its framework, is commented and evaluated.

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