You might think that when an architect achieves a high level of public recognition — when the word “starchitect” starts appearing in articles about them — that things are easier for the designer and his or her firm. Not so, as the new documentary The Competition demonstrates. Created by Spain’s Office for Strategic Spaces, the film recently debuted in London, where The Guardian‘s architecture and design critic, Oliver Wainwright, had a chance to view it.
[The documentary] follows the trials and tribulations of five stellar practices competing in a doomed bid to build a new national museum for Andorra, back in 2009. As the global financial crisis hit rock-bottom, no job was too small for architects whose dreams of dotting Middle Eastern deserts with their snazzy signatures had been revealed as a hopeless mirage. A museum the size of a department store, for a tiny microstate nestled in the folds of the Pyrenees, was not something to be sniffed at.
With an application form open to anyone who had won the Pritzker Prize, “or similar qualifications”, the callout attracted the likes of Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel – as well as the Pritzkerless but plucky Dominique Perrault.
The documentary, to which the architects agreed as part of the entry requirements, charts the surreal process by which “iconic” projects are conjured, over a matter of weeks, by bleary-eyed interns, in a mysteriously haphazard manner.
This is definitely a must-see for any fan of architecture.