Wolf Prix says 'stupid' architecture competitions are making studios 'slaves to money'

Can you imagine 100 or 200 surgeons having to prove they can perform heart surgery, without getting any money? Only the stupid architects are doing it
– Wolf Prix

Wolf Prix, the design principal and CEO of Austrian architecture studio Coop Himmelb(l)au has slammed design competitions, arguing they “diminish the value of our thinking.”

In an entertaining and frank talk about the state of the industry and the challenges of tomorrow, made at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin last week, Prix claimed that “to make a competition is a very stupid thing.”

“I repeat myself a thousand times, but can you imagine 100 or 200 surgeons having to prove they can perform heart surgery, without getting any money?” he said. “Only the stupid architects are doing it. I read in the newspaper recently an investor said ‘I’m happy to have competitions because I get 100 ideas for free.’”

Expanding on the point later, Prix continued: “I don’t want to work for nothing. It is a diminishing of the value of our thinking. And anonymous competition contributions are making architects slaves to money.

“One of my former students won a competition, and I calculated with him what he will gain after five years. It turns out he will make a loss of €200,000. That means he has to do everything a client wants to pay this back.”

Prix also used the platform to criticise wider architectural discussion, which he compared to an iceberg that ignores the big issues beneath the surface.

“We are talking only about the peak of the iceberg - the buildings and so forth. No-one considers the invisible aspects of architecture, which are much more dangerous.

“This covers politics, economy, clients. We have to discuss these things more seriously and more precisely get free of the chains these things create.

“As architects, we think we save the client and that we can walk on water. But I haven't seen an architect who could walk on water. Or we think we’re supporting the whole world on our shoulders. No way. We are really like Chaplin, because the invisible aspects of architecture are suppressing our ideas.”

Prix, and Coop Himmelb(l)au, are known for their boundary-pushing projects featuring structural, abstract forms, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning Exhibition in Shenzhen, China and the forthcoming House of Bread in northern Austria.

Wolf Prix  architecture competitions  World Architecture Festival  Berlin  Coop Himmelb(l)au  
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Wolf Prix, the design principal and CEO of Austrian architecture studio Coop Himmelb(l)au has slammed design competitions, arguing they “diminish the value of our thinking.” In an entertaining and frank talk about the state of the industry and the challenges of tomorrow, made at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin last week, Prix claimed that “to make a competition is a very stupid thing.” “I repeat myself a thousand times,
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Wolf Prix, the design principal and CEO of Austrian architecture studio Coop Himmelb(l)au has slammed design competitions / Coop Himmelb(l)au
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