For those that haven’t yet heard of Arcbazar, you might want to take a look – this site hosts design competitions. With a variety of projects from kitchen and bathroom remodels to house designs, it's an intriguing way for clients to get ideas for projects they are considering from trained designers.
I have an image of an architect sitting in his office, working on a design for a client. The phone rings – it is a potential client who found the architect’s name in the yellow pages. She is interested in re-designing the interior of her house. The architect briefly explains the design process, then invites the potential client to come to his office for a meeting …
I’ll stop right there. As many of you know, architects traditionally do not advertise. Clients are gained through word of mouth and in some cases, through published work. But many people looking for design services don’t know of any architects and don’t subscribe to Architectural Record. So instead of blindly calling up architects they may find on the internet (who uses the yellow pages any more???), how about using a website where they can post their project and have the designs come to them?
Arcbazar is just that site. Started in 2011 with a name that merges "architecture" and "bazaar", their model is to connect clients and designers through architectural competitions. Through the process, clients can receive many design ideas/solutions for their particular project. And designers can win cash awards and build their portfolios. But there's some controversy with this website and its process.
First, let’s talk about “crowdsourcing.” Now, here’s a term I had never heard before. While researching Arcbazar, I came across this article on ArchNewsNow, “Crowdsourcing Design: The End of Architecture, or a New Beginning?” and thought to myself, what the heck is crowdsourcing? Michael Crosbie tries to explain it in his article, and although I think I now understand the concept, I’m still kind of put off by the name and the whole “disruptive” explanation of the term. I understand the crowdsourcing concept is to use the internet to gather solutions to virtually any problem or task from people all over the world. And Arcbazar’s founder, Imdat As, says that Arcbazar was designed as a vehicle for architects and designers to be involved in small project for clients who would typically not seek design services. But the site hosts more than just small projects.
In looking through Arcbazar’s website there have been competitions for many different types of projects, from basement fit-outs and bedroom re-designs to yard landscaping and new house designs. There have also been quite a few commercial project competitions. As I write this, there are 26 active competitions taking place, with prize awards from $250 to over $4,000 (Arcbazar makes a 15% commission). Project locations are predominantly in the US, but there are current competitions for projects in Russia and New Zealand. Clients start each competition by posting their proposed project. They provide a written description of their program, with as much detail as possible. Clients also typically post photos of existing spaces and pictures or links of inspiration, along with any plans or drawings if they have them.
Through the competition, clients and designers remain
anonymous. After the competition, the
clients can remain anonymous and the designers can choose to either be
anonymous or have their name published. On average each project receives about 10 submissions. The client then ranks their top 3 entries and
the prize awards are split amongst the top 3 (60%, 30%, 10%). Some projects with many entries also award
honorable mentions to some entries. There are extensive FAQ’s for both clients and designers on Arcabazar’s website, and a lot can be learned about how the competitions operate from just reading through the list.
So, for the purposes of writing about Arcbazar, I thought I'd show an example. I've chosen to highlight a competition that ran on Arcbazar in February, 2014, a project I found to be very typical of the type of design solutions clients are looking for, as well as it being located here in Boston, not far from where I live.
Project: Boston Loft Interior, Boston, MA, USA
Client Project Description:
I am a single guy who bought his first condo in August 2013. I live in Boston, MA and work in the tech industry. I am looking for help in coming up with a theme/style for my loft space. I like clean, contemporary and modern, but it has to be comfortable. I do not like a lot of clutter.
My overall budget for this project is $10K- $20K.
Main purpose is for watching TV and entertaining guests. I often have friends from out of town stay over on weekends, so I would like to have one piece of furniture be a full sleeper pullout. I have looked around a little, and I like the Crate & Barrel Axis II sectional, but am open to other ideas.
- My current TV is a 58" plasma.
- I would like an area rug here.
- I like a chaise sofa or something with an ottoman to put feet up.
- I don't love the current wall color (sky bluish), so I am open to changing it.
I would like the bedroom to be tranquil. I often read at night, so I would like a nice lighting option that can be turned on/off from the bed. I am thinking it would be nice to have a little separation between my bedroom and the bathroom entrance. This way, when people come over they don't feel like they are walking right into my bedroom when they have to get to the bathroom. I like the wall color in this room (some sort of brown), so it can stay the same, or I'm open to another darkish color.
The kitchen needs some storage added for plates and glassware. I have a tiki bar that I would like to keep. I am not sure how this will blend with the rest of the style of the loft, so I am hoping it can be made to work. I would like a rug or something beneath the bar and stools to help cancel noise for the downstairs neighbors. The cocktail table (see pictures) can stay or go. I am open to having a dining table or somewhere to sit and eat with guests. It would also serve as a place to play cards and board games.
- I would like a work area for a computer. I am a software designer, and I occasionally work at home.
- I would like ideas for artwork, wall decorations, and window treatments.
- Please provide names and brands of items and where to purchase.
- Ideas for the bathroom would be a bonus, but not needed to win this contest.
The client also posted pictures of the existing space and pictures and links of "inspiration". During the competition, designers are allowed to anonymously ask questions to the client on a “Wall” dedicated to that particular project, as well as clients posting additional information to the designers.
I've been receiving submissions and I am really excited to start seeing your creative ideas for my space. One thing I wanted to mention that I put in my description, but may have gotten lost in the details.
I require a shopping list that itemizes the furniture, lighting, bed, etc., so I know where and what to purchase if I chose the design. Thanks and good luck to everyone!
Do you need hood over the stove? And if yes, where can I connect it to the exhaust system?
Hello ARC 389,
I do not need a hood over the stove. Let me know if you have any other questions.
I have some more questions:
1. Would you like an electric fireplace in the living room? The most images of living room design you liked show a fireplace in the room.
2. Is it possible to replace the wall between the laundry and bathroom and install a separate shower cabin or a double sink vanity, or you prefer to leave all in the bathroom-laundry as it is except to finish the walls and the floor?
I wasn't really thinking about getting an electric fireplace. It was coincidental that many of the living room images I tagged have a fireplace.
I think the wall between the laundry and bathroom could probably be removed. There is a beam right behind it though (on the bathroom side). Also, the closet in the laundry room has my hot water tank and furnace, so that cannot be moved. I am open to ideas for changing the vanity and shower.
I have two questions:
1. How big must be a working area? Should it be just a movable computer table near the wall shelves, or it must be a desk, or a long narrow table by the wall? How do you see it as the most comfortable for you?
2. Would you like the bathroom and laundry area be finished with some sort of tiles (floor and walls)? or you prefer any other material?
Hello ARC 143,
The work area should not be too big. I want it to be functional, modern, and minimalist. A desk, table, or custom shelf are all acceptable. I've attached a couple of pictures that I like. I also like chairs, monitor arms, and keyboard trays from this company: www.humanscale.com.
I am open to all ideas for the bathroom. A stone or tile floor could be nice. I've put images of bathrooms I like on the houzz link. Let me know if you have any other questions.
I am wondering if you currently have a dresser in the bedroom. If not, do you want or need one?
I do not currently have a dresser. My bedroom closets have some shelving and rods for hanging clothing. They have a good amount of storage, so I do not need a dresser.
I read you are going to leave the kitchen structure as is. I was wondering if you are interested to move the same kitchen?
Hello ARC 781,
I am not sure if I understand your question. Here are my thoughts on the kitchen. I would eventually like to remodel the kitchen. I want to do this in the future, when I have the budget for it. Therefore, any major remodeling should not be part of this design project. I do not like the countertops. I think the oven and sink could be updated. The use of space is not great. I think an island could be added. If you have ideas for the kitchen that keep within my budget, I am willing to make changes. I feel that any major changes will put me way over budget.
I hope this answers your question. If not, please add some clarification. Thanks!
So far this experience has been extremely positive, and I thank all of you for your comments and input into designing my first home. It's very exciting and I admire your creative talents (which I sorely lack).
I wanted to clarify my desire for keeping the tiki bar. I love to bartend. I'm not a professional, but I have been dabbling with it for many years now. Most of my friends and family have come to rely on me for whipping up their favorite cocktails. When people come over, we hang out at the bar a good amount.
With that said, it would be great to keep the tiki bar if it can be made to work with your creative visions. If not, I am open to a new bar that is more inline with the style of my loft. I am also open to making changes to the current bar. Whichever direction you go with, the size should stay about the same (it should seat 4 people).
I don't think I made that clear enough in my original description, so I wanted to give an update while there's still a lot of time left in the competition.
There were more Wall posts for this project, but you get the idea of the communication, which seems to do a good job in clarifying information and refining the program for the designers.
Competition Design Submissions:
Ivanov Catalin, Bucharest, Romania:
Davide Tessa, Milano, Italy (DATE Architectural Visualization):
Nathalie Torossian, Waltham, Armenia:
Nevena Angelova, Sofia, Bulgaria:
Veselin Alexiev, Sofia, Bulgaria (Estetix Studio):
Once the competition ended, it was up to the client to choose the winning entries. Then, in early April, the client wrote the following testimonial:
Setting up my contest was easy.
1. I wrote a description of what I was looking for.
2. I chose the prize money based on my criteria.
3. I picked a deadline of 6 weeks.
4. I attached photos and floor plans of my space
Once done setting up, I reviewed that everything looked good. I then launched the contest. Arcbazar announced my new contest on Facebook and notified their designer contacts. I soon had designers signing up and posting questions using the “Wall” feature. This is where you exchange info with the designers for everyone to see. I ended up adding much more detailed floor plans and pictures, and answering a lot of questions for the next 6 weeks. I had 42 designers sign up from all over the world. I ended up receiving 16 submissions. It was a great experience. I got a ton of ideas. The hardest part was picking the top 3 designs, since there were incredible ideas from many of them. The quality of the submissions varied from designer to designer. Most provided high quality materials that were easy to follow. There were a few that were more amateur than the rest of the designs.
Will the client actually get his loft interior built? Well, that’s up to him, and outside of Arcbazar’s involvement. But Arcbazar does offer to give the client the names and contact information of the designers once the competition is complete (with the designers’ permission), and can continue working with a designer if he or she chooses to do so.
After looking at the projects completed through the Arcbazar competition process, I have mixed feelings. Many designers are using 3D software that make for enticing images. But as I look closer at some of these designs, I see entries that are lacking in fundamental design principles. However, many of the designs for projects have well thought-out solutions, and often are presented with 3D software to give clients a realistic look at what the completed project could look like. In the end, it is up to the client to determine the most successful entries and hopefully they are savvy enough or elicit some help in order to choose the best solutions.
The most-used quote by those who criticize Arcbazar is Dwell Magazine’s “This is the worst thing to happen to architecture since the internet started.” That Arcbazar even posted this on their own News/Blog/Testimonial pages on their site shows they are willing to take part in the discussion of their place in architectural design. I think the Dwell statement is overblown, but at least raises the question of how Arcbazar operates in the architecture design world.
Another criticism regards a project’s context. Sometimes the siting and orientation of a project are key to a successful solution. Arcbazar lists this response on their FAQ: “Although there are many benefits of visiting a site in person, designers are trained to deal with contextual constraints of sites they have never visited. Designers have to deal with this all the time whenever they participate in international competitions. Not visiting a site does not necessarily lead to design solutions that are inferior, or vice versa.” The Boston Loft Interior project I highlighted had the top entries from Romania, Italy, Armenia and Bulgaria, so for this type of project not being able to visit the site was not a problem.
Others criticize Arcbazar for aiding the practice of architectural design services by non-registered architects. On this point I understand that these competitions are conceptual in nature, not contract documents to be stamped so that the client can get their project constructed. And most of the competitions on Arcbazar are for projects that don’t require licensed architects and/or engineers to provide stamped drawings.
But I did have a question about design ownership, so I reached out to Arcbazar in order to understand if the rights to the design transfer from the designers to the client after the competition. Ana Batista of Arcbazar promptly answered my e-mail with this response:
In regards to your question: the design product is owned by the client, and they can use it to implement the work locally. However, the designs themselves are still owned by the designer, that is, the designer can use the same design anywhere else, say for example, for another project. And although the design product is owned by the client, they have to credit the designer at any point - for example, if they post the designs online, write about it, etc.
I think even the media is confused. This article published in the Orange County
Register on 2/21/14 entitled “Architects miffed at website thatoffers low-cost bids” only has a couple of sentences that are critical of the
concept, but in the end quotes a client of a successful project saying “it’s a
great tool if you have a limited budget.”
And as far as the quality of design talent on the site, I think there are some very talented designers. Some are architects, some not, but that's not so important. Over time, the quality will only improve as the not-so-talented designers will drop off the site (if you're not winning any competitions, then you probably won't take the time to enter any more) and more designers sign up and take part.
Is Arcbazar for everyone who is seeking design services? I think not. There will still be plenty of clients who seek an architect or interior designer for their project based on a more traditional method of finding and hiring someone to design their project, especially if the project is complicated and/or of a building type where only experienced designers who know what is required for a particular program are able to come up with a successful design. I’m guessing that if site constraints were such so that the siting of a proposed project was important to a successful design, then Arcbazar may not be the best source for getting design solutions. But for those seeking designs for projects that aren’t too complicated and are looking for a myriad of ideas and possible solutions, I think Arcbazar is a great resource.
For someone like me who loves mazes, this is a cool thing. I remember back in 1983 when the 4th year architecture students at Kent State University built a big outdoor maze out of cardboard in the main plaza. I think they charged a minimal fee for people to go through the maze, and I remember going up into the library to look down on the maze to see it from above.
The BIG maze is planned to be about 60 feet by 60 feet (outside dimensions) with 18-foot-high walls along the perimeter. The walls will be made out of baltic birch plywood but instead of having everyone blindly find their way through the maze, the walls will taper down toward the center so that once you’re near the middle of the maze you will be able to see the path you need to take to complete it.
The maze is set to open in July, 2014 and will run until September 1, 2014, and is a preview for a Bjarke Ingels exhibit that will open in the Fall of 2014.There are many references to mazes and labyrinths throughout architectural history, like the Minoan Palace at Knossos, Crete (18th Century BC) I remember studying in college. Perhaps more well-known are the European hedge mazes built between the 16th and 18th centuries.
And here's a fun video review of landscape hedge mazes around the world, entitled "aMAZEd - Google Earth":
Mazes can create a sense of wonder and are sometimes used by architects as either a symbol or style. Some are found on facades of buildings, like these:
Al Rostamani Maze Tower by Planquadrat and DAR,in Dubai
Maze Apartments by CHT Architects in Richmond, Victoria, Australia
And if you’ve ever been in a glass maze at a carnival or amusement park, here is Phil Pauley’s concept design of what he calls the “Cubed Maze3”, a nine-level cube labyrinth with stairs and ramps with a rooftop café bar!
Video games are a great way to experience mazes. The original Pac-Man video game is based on a simple maze, which I think lent to a lot of the game’s appeal.
I remember when my brother first downloaded Wolfenstein 3D in the early 90’s. This was my first experience of being inside a virtual maze and, despite the violence, I found myself spending time just exploring the maze as opposed to trying to get to the end of each level as quickly as possible.
Wolfenstein led to Doom and Quake, even more violent games that have been accused of causing increased aggression in teens. I remember starting Doom and then stopping because of all of the shooting. Then, once I found the “invincibility cheat”, was able to go back in and explore the many levels and hidden passages.
I’ve also played a number of labyrinth-type games. My first when I was a kid was the wooden box kind with a steel marble. You used knobs to tilt the top “table” of the box to move the marble and avoid the holes.
There’s an iPhone version of this same game, Wooden Labyrinth 3D, which I enjoy playing every now and then.
In movies, the film “Labyrinth” is a fantasy starring David Bowie as the Goblin King and Jennifer Connelly as a girl who must traverse a series of mazes to reach a castle at the center of the labyrinth in order to save her little brother.
Perhaps the most iconic maze scene in a movie is the one at the end of “The Shining” starring Jack Nicholson. Jack takes a job as a caretaker for a hotel while it is closed for the winter and brings his wife and son, Danny, with him. There is an early scene in the lobby showing a model of the hotel’s hedge maze, foreshadowing the movie’s climax:
At the end of the movie, Jack has gone completely insane and believes he needs to kill his son. Danny runs away from his father and eventually escapes outside in the middle of a snowstorm and runs into the hotel’s hedge maze. Jack chases him into the maze but soon gets lost. Danny retraces his footsteps in the snow to find his way back to the hedge maze entrance:
Mazes will continue to inspire designers and fill people with wonder and joy. Maybe someone will try and solve Escher's "Relativity" through the 4th dimension!
From the submissions I’ve seen, this year’s entries covered a wide range of ideas, only some of which were able to successfully show a high-rise structural and architectural solution to the self-made problem statement.
Below are the 3 winners and some of the honorable mention recipients, along with some of my thoughts on each:
Vernacular Versatility Versatility – Yong Ju Lee (First Place)
I don’t know a lot about traditional Korean architecture, but applying computer modeling software to redesign ancient construction techniques is great. I thought it was a bit of a stretch to reference a standard square plan but then show a bending, curved structure, and I would have expected the final solution to have at least some symbolic roof elements to tie back to the traditional Korean house. However, the entry is carefully rendered and shows how the individual columns, beams and girders are assembled to form the entire structure. From all the entries, this may be the most realistic while also being a beautiful structure.
Car and Shell: or Marinetti’s Monster – Mark Talbot and Daniel Markiewicz (Second Place)
The suburban grid gone vertical! A fun solution (although completely unrealistic) but a nice commentary on suburban sprawl.
Propogate Skyscraper – YuHao Liu and Rui Wu (Third Place)
Interesting idea for a skyscraper to naturally expand using a patterned framework at its core. However, I think the innermost parts of the building would become un-useable once the material expanded outward.
I like the idea of using a solar-powered 3D printer to create the structure and this entry’s sustainable grand idea.
Climatology Tower - Yuan-Sung Hsiao, Yuko Ochiai, Jia-Wei Liu, Hung-Lin Hsieh (Honorable Mention)
A skyscraper that analyzes its surrounding urban environment is interesting, but I’m not sure how the outer skin could be constructed.
Rainforest Guardian Skyscraper - Jie Huang, Jin Wei, Qiaowan Tang, Yiwei Yu, Zhe Hao (Honorable Mention)
This is a similar entry of an environmentally-friendly skyscraper, this time in the Amazon Rainforest.
PieXus Tower - Chris Thackrey, Steven Ma, Bao An Nguyen Phuoc, Christos Koukis, Matus Nedecky, Stefan Turcovsky (Honorable Mention)
A beautiful, organic design, but has no relationship to the surrounding city and seems to rely only on automobile and helicopter traffic to get people in and out of the structure.
Project Blue - Yang Siqi, Zhan Beidi, Zhao Renbo, Zhang Tianshuo (Honorable Mention)
Another tower design that has a main purpose of energy efficiency and sustainability.
Urban Alloy Tower – Matt Bowles and Chad Kellogg (Honorable Mention)
Building around and above a city’s transportation spines considers a great use of unused space, although how it all gets supported in and around the roads and train tracks is questionable.
Skyvillage for Los Angeles – Ziwei Song (Honorable Mention)
Another entry the builds above transportation, this one with a more fantastic concept.
21st Century Neoclassical Skyscraper – John Houser and Parke MacDowell (Honorable Mention)
A new mannerism style using computer technologies to re-invent classical forms. I like the idea, but the solution looks like too many columns and arches, more like roman aqueducts piled on top of each other.
There are many more entries shown in the eVolo Skyscraper Competition 2014 website, as well as previous years’ competitions. I encourage everyone to explore the ideas and form your own opinions!