How we won that competition? | Emergency Operations Center – Kaira Looro Competitions

With this text we are starting new series of arcticles on We will be showcasing the case studies of the projects that were awarded in various architecture competitions.

The main focus of this series is to understand the design process behind all winning submissions. Thats why we will be asking all architects and designers ‘ How you won that competition ? ‘. We’re curious about their path, from the first draft, first blueprint to the full-scale plan. We’re also interested to see which solutions had been dropped on the way, what kind of choices had to be made, and most importantly, what was the grand idea behind the project. That is why we will be asking for sketches, drafts and detailed description, so that we can fully understand their technique and the process that resulted in the awarded works.

This article is part of Architecture Competitions Yearbook 2020 – where more stories and inspirations like the one below can be found.

Our acquaintance began at the Delft University of Technology within the Netherlands. All three folks started there Master of Architecture and chose Extreme Studio wherein we were designing the Chamber of Commerce on the Caribbean Island Sint Maarten. albeit we were in several groups, we met in one among the primary classes. Probably it wouldn’t have happened if not the international environment that surrounded us and therefore the great desire to speak to someone during a language , that’s Polish. In such circumstances, people from one country attempt to establish a thread of understanding. Maybe it results from a looking for a just abandoned homeland, customs that are on the brink of us, behaviours and things that we all know . However, we are connected by something more. Sometimes it’s in order that you only need to exchange a couple of words with someone and you already know that you simply have found your lover . We felt like we had known one another for an extended time. it had been natural for us to satisfy up again and again, to review together at the library at the university, to travel and also to require part in various events.

kaira loroo 1st prize
Authors: Aleksandra Wróbel, Agnieszka Witaszek, Kamil Owczarek

The experience we gained while designing the Chamber of Commerce clothed to be helpful for the competition. it had been supported similar design assumptions because it had been during a tropical climate zone, was related to natural disasters like earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, for its construction most folks used wood as an ecological and sturdy but flexible material and its construction had to be financially accessible to the Caribbean community. Two folks also went on a visit to Sint Maarten, where we met the natives and listened to their touching stories about how their entire life’s assets were destroyed during a moment. All the experience gained during the planning of the Chamber of Commerce later helped us with the Emergency Operation Centre. We not only wondered what construction of the power would be the foremost appropriate but also tried to imagine what people suffering from the disaster felt and what they needed. We knew that good architecture can give them a way of care.

First advice – a transparent presentation

To win an architectural competition you would like to be ready to show your idea. Jury usually has only a couple of seconds to seem at the charts and can not read the descriptions or check out the small print . Only works that appear interesting are later analysed. the remainder is discarded. Of course, everyone wants to be within the first group and thus beat a part of the competition already at the beginning . it’s the simplest if the project has such a transparent and straightforward concept one scheme is enough to elucidate it. It should be, in our opinion, the simplest possible solution to the matter that the competition is posing for . In our case, it had been an opportunity to move the thing with one truck, its easy assembly and disassembly. of these 3 elements are shown during a simple and a transparent diagram. After establishing the thought , preliminary sketches of the shape and plans, we will advance to a different important tool in our hands – visualisations, because of which we will not only present the project but also create the atmosphere of the place and thus influence the emotions of the recipients. Renders take up most of the space on the board and can probably be the foremost noticeable ones by the jury. it’s not about being photorealistic. Often, for instance , the shape of a university is enough, but it should meet certain composition and aesthetics requirements. Here we might wish to describe our main render and indicate its strengths.

Render – eye-catching element

Before beginning to visualise the building we were trying to find pictures of places where it might stand. We wanted to urge to understand the landscapes of Sub-Saharan Africa , its vegetation, terrain and a color palette. Then, from the collected materials, we used the weather that we thought would work best – a rocky slope, cracked earth, dry vegetation and a variety of mountain peaks in

the distance. during this way, we reduced the amount of dominant colours within the picture to 2 main ones: beige and azure (sky). If you check out most of the highly acclaimed films, their pictures also are shown in 2 dominant colours (e.g. Ad Astra, shot by Hoyte van Hoytem). it’s important what colours are used because there are certain stories and emotions hidden behind them. On the most render – a view when approaching the building, we decided to put the view of the building during a single-sided perspective, perpendicular to the elevation. Actually, we didn’t even consider other options during this matter. We knew that such a frame arrangement works well with simple objects which geometry are often visually simplified to at least one mass, e.g. a rectangle, a square or a triangle. a person’s eye is sensitive to such forms and unintentionally simplifies a geometry to them. Moreover, our brain considers them harmonious and thoughtful. In our case, it had been also extremely important that during this perspective, a foreign landscape are going to be visible between the structure and thus the entire object will appear to be a neighborhood of its surroundings. during this way, the building blends in with the environment.

Other aspects that guided us within the creation of the most visualisation were the hidden lines of sight and therefore the story written by them. Here we mean the trail resulting in the EOC, a clump of grasses on the proper and left, the form of the gradient of the sky and other people heading towards the building. watching such an appointment of elements we’ve little question which a part of the visualisation is that the most vital and thus our eyesight doesn’t stray within the picture. All the weather form one , coherent story.

architecture competition

Authors: Aleksandra Wróbel, Agnieszka Witaszek, Kamil Owczarek
architecture competition
Authors: Aleksandra Wróbel, Agnieszka Witaszek, Kamil Owczarek

The human eye is used to seeing more of the sky than the earth, so it is also important to show such proportions in the render. The horizon should not be higher than halfway through the picture. The position of the sun is also important because from its side we should leave more space on the visualisation. Following this advice, our visualisation can breathe and the frame is not crowded. The element that adds lightness are the birds flying towards the sun, which provide a rest.

Planning and management.

Teamwork requires excellent communication – effective contact with each other to achieve the best possible final design while having a pleasant time. We must admit that we created this team, knowing our characters and abilities. We knew that it would allow us to work dynamically, that we can rely on each other and complement each other’s skills. The three-person team consisting of friends with a similar view of architecture seemed to us to be ideal for achieving the desired goal.

Plan your work and plan your collaboration.

Even if you know the rest of the group well, what you can do before the start of the collaboration is to write an agreement. It could include the requirements and expectations for all the team members, how people want to contribute, and how much time they can devote to working both together and individually.

A good plan is a feasible one, one that motivates, but is not excessively demanding. After two meetings, which were supposed to be a loose start to work sessions, we have arranged a meeting plan together. Each meeting was tailored to a specific topic – we knew how much time we wanted to spend on what. We also set up a time reserve knowing that in the design process not always everything can be predicted.

The points we distinguished in the calendar:

  • ​Developing a composition of plans and ideas for the technique in which it is solved;
  • ​Designing the roof and foundations.
  • ​The final floor plan and a cross-section
    ​Diagrams explaining the idea of the project
  • Description
    All the materials needed as a base to create a 3D model

Further meetings were about presenting what we had designed. We planned the add such how , on know once we want to possess a finished element of the project. However, this didn’t mean that we might not allow ourselves to travel back within the process and rethink decisions made in previous stages.

At first, we met for extended sessions. During the lockdown, the meetings were online, and that we usually met twice every week for two hours. We wanted to stay the balance between individual work and meeting together where we were discussing the progress. That’s why we gave ourselves time and didn’t meet a day . This had an honest impact on our creativity and productivity. We gave ourselves time to think and approach with a fresh mind. We believe that the longer we spend doing competitions, the higher the probabilities permanently and fruitful cooperation.

An effective plan is one during which we all know the way to proceed to subsequent stage. for instance , it wouldn’t are possible to start out developing a plan if it hadn’t been for the research and sketches made during the primary meetings. We didn’t create an idea to urge stressed or frustrated; it had been only for our motivation and smooth thinking within the process.

Honesty in communication and Courage. We were open for a change, albeit the time was shrinking. we expect it came out naturally, so it had been not like we forced ourselves

to be honest and direct within the communication. it had been a clear incontrovertible fact that we always shared with other team members what was on our mind. It helped us develop the planning at every stage and kept within the position that each voice matter and once you sometimes think your thoughts wouldn’t contribute to the work you would possibly be wrong!

Attitude. We tried to stay the neutral attitude to what we were doing – being ready for change and not emotionally attached to what we do. The attitude to cooperation and style determines not only how you spend some time working together, but also what the result of design are going to be . Sometimes it happened that during a ll|one amongst|one in every of”> one among us was in a bad mood or wasn’t ready to handle a task. it’s essential that the submitting the project for a contest isn’t a goal in itself. it’s also about being positive about the time you spend designing; to offer your best, but to require care of your psyche – for the sake of yours, the project and therefore the people you’re employed with. Before jumping to figure we usually talked about the items aside from architecture and that we recommend small talks to each architecture student!

Manual:Thinking through sketching

  1. Think what is needed

One of the very first remarks that we would like to address to anyone who sets about an architectural competition is that you should not focus on designing each element separately nor that you should design an overall appearance first to give it a certain impression. Instead, it is needed to focus on essentials that are required for the competition as they will be a departure point for your design.

Therefore, it is crucial to carefully read the competition brief to get an idea what are the most important parts of your future design- which aspects are obligatory, which might be freely explored and which are just optional. Moreover, it is helpful to look at the other projects from previous editions to get an idea about the scope of the design that you need to produce: should it be a conceptual project? Or maybe a more detailed one, with technical drawings and diagrams? This will definitely direct your thinking into the right track.

  1. Look at what do you have

The second step is to critically access your findings.
In our case, we analysed the competition brief a multiple of times and later we wrote down the aspects that can be categorised as ‘crucial’ for our future design. We divided them into four groups:

  1. adaptability/flexibility of use
    2. easy assembly/disassembly process
    3. structure that is easy to transport
    4. sustainability, usage of leftover materials

Then we looked at the brief again in search of aspects that could give us certain freedom of choice. It was stated clearly that participants were given two options- to either design a temporary structure (one that is easy to build and transport) or a permanent one that later might be adapted to the different uses of the community. Also, the strong emphasis was placed on a sustainability aspect and a usage of leftover materials, those available on the site or even those coming from the emergency itself.

Here we had to make the first important decision – in which direction do we want our project to go? We were tasting and discussing different material and construction options, e.g. thinking about materials available on-site that can function as a building material (like bags filled with sand) but above all aspects like flexibility and sustainability were the key ones to push our ideas further. Taking into account the unpredictable conditions of emergencies that may threaten the Sub-Saharan region we concluded that building from materials available on-site may significantly limit our design as the project will have to vary from site to site and such alterations will be labour and time-consuming. Moreover, using materials that come from emergencies may create a certain danger of introducing harmful particles to the construction and consequently, have severe consequences on people’s health.

Therefore, we decided to design a temporary structure that will be easily transportable and quickly assembled on any site. Such a decision implied that the subject of sustainability will be satisfied by durable materials that can be used a multiple of times and which will not leave any traces on the site. This decision has immediately brought us to the next subject, namely that of ease of transportation- how to transport all the elements quickly, preferable by one truck? And also how to design them so that a repetitive assembly and disassembly will not cause any damage?

Having all of these questions in mind we realized that construction was the most important aspect of our design. So we sat down together and through sketching, we started to discuss and express ideas that we had in our minds. Sketches took the form of loose thoughts, diagrams or even more technical drawings. We were trying to test different options, then comment on it together, draw it, again and again, to understand what is the most accurate answer to a particular problem. We were not in a rush. We gave ourselves enough time as we knew that the decisions we will take now will significantly define our project – the rest will be just ‘an outcome’ of it. Also, it is important to say that we were not thinking about the final form yet nor that we were very attached to our own ideas. We were bringing them only as a trigger for a bigger discussion.

One of such discussions brought our attention to a simple box that in fact is both an inseparable element from humanitarian actions (transporting goods) and a basic unit to store things. We realized that theses two aspects explain the essence of our shelter- we only had to translate it into an architectural language.
The main challenge was to think about the structure that will make use of a rigid box but at the same time, its elements will not occupy a lot of space during transportation.

We started to look at the essential characteristics of a box- it is composed of four planes that define a space in the inside. We realized that the same happens in the bookshelf, only in a reversed condition- a box is defined by a void. Having that we looked at ways to construct a simple shelf that later can be flattened down and easily transported. We came up with the idea of single boards with cuts that can slide one into the other and create a waffle-like structure. This solution allowed us to get rid of any screws or glueing adhesives and therefore the structure might be assembled/disassembled a multiple of times without any damage to the construction.

architecture competition figure 4

architecture competition figure 3

architecture competition figure 2

architecture competition figure 1
Authors: Aleksandra Wróbel, Agnieszka Witaszek, Kamil Owczarek
  1. Make it work

Answers to all of the aspects mentioned in the brief do not necessarily mean a successful project yet. The last step you have to take is to think about your project through the associations it should evoke: an emergency shelter by its nature should be quite simple and modest while the conference centre for example- more elegant and complex. It is important that these keys values are visible in all of the elements of your project like the floor plan, a section, details and the overview of the building to create a coherent whole. Additionally, think about people who will use the space – what are their needs? How would they feel there? Which emotions will the space trigger in them?

architetcure competition figure
Authors: Aleksandra Wróbel, Agnieszka Witaszek, Kamil Owczarek

In the example of an emergency shelter, it’s clear that a building should also find a right balance between openness and privacy – people shouldn’t be scared of seeking help there but on the opposite hand, they ought to also feel safe and guarded inside. Moreover, its structure should be quite simple and will clearly define spaces with a special function but also must be very flexible and adaptable to changing needs of emergencies. Also, a decent budget doesn’t necessarily mean a poor quality design.


A plan which we designed after 100 of sketches tries to capture these essentials during a simple square-form plan. It clearly defines two spaces by having two different entrances on all sides but also connects them by means of a storeroom located within the middle. Also, the outside space shows a palette of various niches that give different levels of privacy, adequate for various users of the space- wider lounge for people visiting and a narrower corridor at the rear for volunteers taking a rest. This simplicity was also expressed within the construction principle as we were aware that our building could be constructed by unqualified workers so it should have an intuitive method of assembly and a transparent function. At the very end, after combining all of those elements together we took a more distant look to ascertain if the general design satisfy our aesthetic needs and just in case it does not- undergo the entire process again and think what are often adjusted.

We believe that the above mentioned way of working isn’t the sole thanks to achieve a successful project. However, it worked alright for us when at the very beginning we detached ourselves from the ultimate image and instead engaged within the process of discussions, sketches and tests to urge to the essential elements of the project. regardless of which way you follow, confirm that each one decisions you’re taking structure a coherent final image.

Authors: Aleksandra Wróbel, Agnieszka Witaszek, Kamil Owczarek

If you would like to ready more case studies like the one above please check our annual publication – Architecture Competitions Yearbook. This book is perfect for you if you want to know:

  • Whats the secret behind winning submissions?
  • What makes a good project?
  • How to create an innovative solution to the given problem?

…and much more.

Learn more by clicking the banner bellow.

architecture competitions yearbook 2020

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