On October 19, 2020, the Consulate General of France in Quebec City, following the recommendations of the evaluation mission of the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and lʼInnovation, designated Tiphaine Abenia as the French winner of the 2020 cotutelle thesis prize. The French and Quebec cotutelle thesis prizes, in the amount of $1,500, were awarded at the Gala organized by Acfas (Association francophone pour le savoir) held virtually on December 9.

Under the direction of Daniel Estevez (ENSA Toulouse) and Jean-Pierre Chupin (UdeM) for the individualized doctorate in architecture, Tiphaine Abenia’s dissertation “Potential architecture of the Large Abandoned Structure (L.A.S.): categorization and projection” was defended in June 2019. An architect and engineer, Ms. Abenia now teaches at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

Exhibition presented from September 24, 2020 to January 20, 2021 at the Centre de design de l’UQAM in Montreal (dir. Louise Pelletier) thanks to a collaboration between LABÉCOLE, LEAP, CRC-ACME and Centre de design. all details here 

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.

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


This book presents a collection of data and real-life cases in support of the idea that young offices of architects and planners are able to match or exceed the capabilities of their most experienced competitors when it comes to creating high-quality built environments for the public. The argument is made in response to, and as an attempt to critique, a post year-2000 trend that has seen young firms excluded from project competitions on the supposed basis of their inexperience. Can architecture survive, though, when it brings into question its very renewal by excluding young architects from the synergistic activity and democratic participation so emblematic of design competitions? The book’s repository of architectural achievements is presented briefly, with emphasis placed on the surprising precociousness of the associated firms. It includes examples from a number of international competitions, grouped by region.

Over time, it becomes clear that the work of young architects has contributed greatly to several major objects of contemporary historical memory. After analyzing a period spanning nearly five decades, the book concludes that an emphasis on Requests for Qualifications (RfQ) is not the sole reason many architectural firms face rejection. It hypothesizes that our society’s fondness for a priori control procedures should also be called into question, at least if we desire our places of culture and civic representation to sustain the generations that live and benefit from them.

Chupin, Jean-Pierre, G. Stanley Collyer, Young Architects in Competitions (When Competitions and a New Generation of Ideas Elevate Architectural Quality), Montreal, Potential Architecture Books, 2020. 160 pages. ISBN 9781988962047 (PDF)

Jean-Pierre Chupin, PhD in Environmental Design, holds the Canada Research Chair in Architecture, Competitions and Mediations of Excellence at Université de Montréal (Canada) and is the editor of the Canadian Competitions Catalogue (www.ccc.umontreal.ca)

G. Stanley Collyer, PhD in History from Freie Universität Berlin, is the founding editor of COMPETITIONS (www.competitions.org) one of the longest lasting resource internationally and the author of Competing Globally in Architecture Competitions (Wiley Academy, 2004)