As part of a collaboration with the LABécole organization, the Canadian Competitons Catalogue is the first to deliver all 160 projects submitted in 2019 to the 5 competitions for the construction or expansion of elementary school in Shefford, Rimouski, Gatineau, Maskinongé and Saguenay. The official unveiling of the winners took place on Monday, August 24.

“Please, will you draw me an elementary school competition (about 5 competitions organized in Quebec by LAB-École in 2019-2020)”, by Jean-Pierre Chupin

LAB-ÉCOLE | Construction d’une nouvelle école primaire à Saguenay, sur le terrain de l’actuelle école Marguerite-d’Youville 

LAB-ÉCOLE | Agrandissement et rénovation de l’école Saint-Joseph à Maskinongé 

LAB-ÉCOLE | Rénovation et agrandissement de l’école primaire Pierre Elliott Trudeau à Gatineau 

LAB-ÉCOLE | Construction d’une nouvelle école primaire à Shefford 

LAB-ÉCOLE | Construction d’une nouvelle école primaire à Rimouski 

“In 2020, judging by the number of architecture competitions held in Quebec over the past two decades and the number of award-winning buildings, it is easier to find an excellent library than an elementary school worthy of the name. This series of 5 competitions – open and in two phases – organized by the LAB-École organization therefore confronted two contradictory convictions: the certainty that places of schooling forge and shape what we are since early childhood and this conviction, widespread among public decision-makers, that we could basically study and teach anywhere. Particularly well organized by LAB-École, these competitions show, on the contrary, that architecture is not a luxury, but a necessity. For contexts as different as Saguenay, Maskinongé, Rimouski, Gatineau and Shefford, the proposals prove to be rich in reflections demonstrating that the question of primary school remains complex and cannot be circumscribed in models that can be repeated – in blue, wood or aluminum – whatever the context.”


Thanks to the teams of students from Université de Montréal working on the CCC and to CRC-ACME for this intense digital documentation work.

For three weeks in May 2020, 3 groups of researchers and professionals across Canada participated in 3 brainstorming sessions per week, with 9 Zoom sessions per group, for a total of 27 sessions. This series of remote exchanges is part of both the establishment of a large collaborative and research network on the quality of built environments (AREA) and the design of a digital platform or « Atlas of Excellence in Architecture » capable of supporting long-term research on the understanding and dissemination of best practices in the Canadian context (AEA). This database is decentralized and in open access. Coordination: Jean-Pierre Chupin (Université de Montréal), Terrance Galvin (Laurentian University) Doctoral students and assistants: Mandana Bafghinia, Aurélien Catros, Sherif Goubran, Firdous Nizar, Lucie Palombi, Alexandra Paré, Anne-Lise Belbezet

This special issue on Awards of Excellence does not introduce new winners or reveal any results that were not previously known. Its purpose is to call for more attention to a phenomenon – the celebration of excellence – on which there is strangely little critical attention. What is to be understood from the plethora of award-winning projects, achievements and practices year after year? Certainly, the images are part of an intense ballet at each local, regional or national award ceremony. Images of architectural excellence, no doubt about it. However, it is necessary to “freeze frame” the images to begin to question the definitions of quality that they are supposed to summarize, symbolize, perhaps measure. The reader who would like to be convinced of the extent of the phenomenon in a few figures can start this issue at the end, as we draw up an unprecedented statistical portrait of it, revealing in particular the exponential increase in the number of organizers and prizes in a decade. Georges Adamczyk first of all proposes to shift the “waiting horizon” from the reception of architects or the public to the interest of the academic world. In fact, he takes award-winning projects as models: “projects that are judged excellent by their peers for their exemplary aesthetic and functional qualities are also potential projects for learning about design and production in architecture”. David Theodore places the Quebec awards in a broader Canadian context. While Quebec architects do indeed distinguish themselves in Canada and even abroad, his survey shows that it is certain types of buildings and architectural practices that are distinguished, rather than excellence or the best buildings in general. Paradoxically, he wonders whether the awards really promote good architecture. This is confirmed by Aurélien Catros‘ reflections on heritage distinctions. The recent history of the categories of excellence in conservation first reveals the fluctuations of the underlying policies. And what could be more up-to-date than a policy for school architecture? On this point, Alexandra Paré‘s retrospective look shows that school architecture remains a poor relation of awards. She agrees with the conclusions of Theodore and Adamczyk in inviting us to conceive of prices as a true school of architectural quality. The articles by Sherif Goubran and Carmela Cucuzzella question the growing importance of ecological and environmental criteria in contemporary quality recognition. The statistics compiled by Goubran shed light on the multiplication of definitions of sustainability. Cucuzzella’s analyses show in detail that certain awards literally force the use of ever more “eco-didactic” visibility. She concludes that awards would not only play a recognition function, they would determine a form of excellence. In essence, this inversion is the game proposed by Lucie Palombi who, by temporarily obliterating the images of the prize-winning projects, wonders what a foreign visitor to three prize-winning libraries might understand by considering only the rare comments of the juries. We’ll let you guess. For as long as the lists of prize-winning projects are not accompanied by the reasons, analyses, judging criteria and therefore the jury reports, there is a risk that the prizes will remain nothing more than nice celebrations and not stages in the full and effective recognition of an “architectural quality policy”.     Editorial: Prices, freeze frame! (Jean-Pierre Chupin, Professor, Université de Montréal) Taking Home the Prize: Distinguishing Québec in Architectural Awards (David Theodore, Professor, McGill University) Three award-winning libraries (the reverse visit) (Lucie Palombi, doctoral student, Université de Montréal) School architecture, the poor relation of prizes (Alexandra Paré, doctoral student, Université de Montréal) Learning from excellence in residential architecture (Georges Adamczyk, Professor, Université de Montréal) Quebec in the Canadian sustainable development awards concert (Sherif Goubran, PhD student, Concordia University) The allegory of heritage through the filter of awards of excellence (Aurélien Catros, doctoral student, Université de Montréal) What is the purpose of architectural awards?  (Jean-Pierre Chupin, Professor, Université de Montréal) “Eco-education”: Are “green awards” forcing the visibility of green devices? (Carmela Cucuzzella, Professor, Concordia University)

More than 2,800 award-winning projects – designed by more than 1,000 architectural, urban planning and landscape architecture firms in Canada – first recorded in an Atlas of Research on Exemplarity in Architecture (AREA) At the initiative of the Canada Research Chair in Architecture, Competitions and the Mediation of Excellence (CRC-ACME), the Atlas of Research on Exemparity in Architecture (AREA) is taking shape with the publication of the first historical directory of award-winning projects and achievements. A prototype of a decentralized and collective digital platform, the AREA  Canada is intended to gather data on the quality of built environments. In conjunction with the establishment of a research network, it is intended to offer the information necessary for the dissemination, understanding, training and constitution of quality mediation policies and actions aimed at excellence at all levels. The data, information, analyses, comparisons and visualizations that will gradually be delivered on the open access platform will be based on all the award-winning achievements in Canada. Thanks to the coordination of the awarding institutions and professional teams, the general public can already take the measure of the repertoire of best practices in all areas of the built environment.

Lucie Palombi, individualized doctoral student under the supervision of Jean-Pierre Chupin, receives a doctoral research scholarship from the Fonds de Recherche Société et Culture du Québec, worth $77,000 over 4 years (from 2020 to 2024) for the research project entitled “La mise en compétition de l’écriture en architecture. Herméneutique du texte gagnant et de l’ouvrage primé”, attached to the Research Chair in Architecture, Competitions and Mediations of Excellence.

Mandana Bafghinia, doctoral student in architecture under the direction of Jean-Pierre Chupin, receives the Cardinal and Hardy scholarship, valued at $8,000, for the research project “Habiter les toits, dialogue in the shadow of high-rise buildings”, attached to the Research Chair in Architecture, Competitions and Mediations of Excellence

This is Not a Nest: Transcultural Metaphors and the Paradoxical Politics of International Competitions

Jean-Pierre Chupin, Université de MontréalPublished in:

Footprint, Delft Architectural Theory Journal, issue #26, Vol 14, n1, Spring 2020. Pages: 63-82


Although the architecture competition has been analysed through a number of rhetorical lenses, the recurring production of transcultural metaphors, particularly in international competitions, remains to be addressed as a genuine disciplinary phenomenon. The hypothesis of competitions as contact zones is particularly appropriate for the study of international events, in which competitors forge broad analogical figures to bridge cultural differences. Recent studies in the cognitive understanding of analogical matrices have considerably reinforced the theories on metaphors. Our analytical grid characterises analogical matrices to identify levels of symbolic operations through the differentiation of formal, structural and conceptual analogies. We first dig into a sample of competition project nicknames (Crystal, Bird’s Nest, DNA, Cloud, Lace, Stealth, etc.) to confirm that these tropes have a paradoxical status at the intersection of architects’ intents and public expectations. We then summarise an in-depth hermeneutical discourse analysis of forty North American international competitions. This indicates a fourfold series of expectations to which competitors hope to provide answers in an international ‘conflict of interpretations’. Adhering to the theory of speech acts, we suggest that performative metaphors in competitions appear less as indicators of designers’ intentions than as products of the broader context surrounding competitions themselves. We conclude with a proposed grid indexing four types of contact zones in which metaphorical relationships are actively created and not just repeated.


International Competitions, Analogies, Metaphors, Analogical Matrices, Discourse Analysis, Speech Acts