C. Abdi Güzer | critique

World Architecture Festival 2018

I keep myself at a distance from the mass presentation environments or the award programs that architecture offices have paid to participate. In other words, the proposition and selection of prominent projects in the environment by independent jury or critics or 3rd parties, not directly by the project owners, are not in line with the tradition of criticism and evaluation. The fact that the concept of reward has become an integrated phenomenon with marketing processes, therefore, the increase in the number of awards and awardwinning institutions or organizations brings an abrasion of the values of the awards. In most of these marketing-oriented award programs, the jury or evaluation processes do not represent an institutional formation as well as the processes of participation or nomination. When reversed, the projects that highlighted or have been promoted with the support of media provided by these environments can cause other projects representing some original values to be ignored and covered. On the other hand, this does not mean that projects participating in such programs are unqualified or unworthy.

The WAF which I have had the chance to participate and watch for a few years in a row is not only an exhibition and reward program that accommodates attendance for the ones who financially supports the program, it includes so many features in itself, which makes it different than the other events that I mentioned earlier. First of all, WAF is an organization that brings all architects together from all over the world – even though it is predominantly centered around Europe – to see each other and participate in a multi-dimensional discussion environment. Besides the names and the architectural offices that stand out in the world of architecture, young architects were also the participants. Regardless of the award program, WAF is one of the richest environments to see and compare new projects produced by current, privileged, qualified offices. Similarly, projects are classified on the basis of their typologies and functions as well as concepts that are decisive in design processes. Live presentation environments, independent jury and transparent evaluation throughout awarding process provide a very colorful discussion and evaluation environment. At the same time, this critical process provides continuity and consequent appreciation of the award.

In the great scheme of things, we observe that the WAF juries support unique projects which develop sensitivity from the environmental scale to the construction process, the ones that prioritize contextual relations; innovative and researcher projects, and some alternatives for the typological approaches with their cliché construction processes. As such, the WAF is the backdrop for a contemporary architecture compilation that is not limited to its own field of activity. On the other hand, the most important criticism for the WAF is the qualification of this convention. Both the conditions of participation and the structure of the award program ensure that the participation is limited to bigger players and their highlighted approaches. Some local and marginalized architectural research and experiments of new and small offices are not integrated with the ‘major axis’. For this reason, they unfortunately tend to be neglected in that system. Similarly, the fees of entrance as a visitor also restricts the participation of young architects.

To sum up, WAF is a wide and rich meeting platform of the architectural environment for brainstorming, regardless of its prominent awarding background. By considering its inclusive structure, WAF should be functionalized as an assessment and feedback base which is not limited to ‘the week of organization’, allowing for different side events, academic publications and sustainable discussions. On the other hand, WAF offers a repeatable model in similar or alternative environments. If the WAF creates a club of big players – either intentionally or indirectly – there should be an alternative environment that maintains open and participatory formations to functionalize similar and alternative models of different environments and scales.