#131/Bigtime Architecture Competitions: Susanna Sirefman + Robby Johnston


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Sometimes the controversy about a building, particularly about a huge museum or government project, starts way before it opens or even before a Mayor, or a Governor, a Prime Minister, or even a Kardashian moves the first shovel of dirt. Today we welcome Susanna Sirefman, founder and president of Dovetail Design Strategists, an architect selection firm specializing in design competitions. Also with us, not by coincidence, Robby Johnston from Raleigh Architecture, a North Carolina firm thinking about entering national design competitions.

Most public projects in the US are chosen by a committee that reviews architects past projects. Entering a competition is a time-consuming task generating high-detail photos and renderings that while the winner may or may not get a huge commission, there are no promises and typically no compensation for the time spent entering. The carrot at the end of the process is what propels firms, small and large, to put in the time and expense towards what could be a career-defining iconic building with an eight- or nine-figure budget. What’s the future of competitions, and can small firms realistically compete?

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