Sixth International Student Design Competition 2003 -A Writer's Retreat

World architecture... what's happening generally....

Sixth International Student Design Competition 2003 -A Writer's Retreat

Postby Paul Clerkin » Wed Apr 09, 2003 10:46 am

"There are writers who find comfort and inspiration to pursue their activity in noisy cafes, smoky wine-bars, crowded trains, busy airport lounges, in public urban spaces ... and there are writers who prefer the isolation of a private room, the ascetic conditions of a monastic cell, or the seclusion of a small cabin cut off from the rest of the world."(1)

The CAA Student Design Competition 2003 invites you to design a sustainable retreat that addresses the needs of a reclusive writer.

Competitors are asked to design an autonomous, minimal dwelling for a famous writer who wishes to escape the distractions of everyday life. Entrants should choose a site from within their own region. There are no restrictions - the site can be real or imaginary, located in an urban or rural context - but the choice of site and the architectural response to it will be among the criteria for judging the competition.

The writer wants a retreat within which he or she can work every day of the year. Of considerable importance will be the ambience of the space created. It should be designed in such a way that it will encourage creative writing and reflect the character and needs of the user. Competitors are free to choose any well-known author from the past or present, as their assumed client. Preferably, the writer should be associated in some way with the region in which the retreat is to be placed. The word 'writer' may be interpreted widely (e.g. novelist, songwriter, playwright, composer, scientific writer, newspaper columnist, etc). The defining characteristics are the act of writing and the need for a good place in which to write.

At first sight this project might seem rather esoteric but the judges will be looking for imaginative and innovative responses to some universal human needs. The building has to provide for basic comfort, safety and shelter, in all seasons; to accommodate the necessary functions of living and working (sleeping, eating, washing, writing, etc) and to sustain these activities in an uplifting manner. The occupant wishes to work in an environment that is tactile, supportive, and therapeutic. One strong requirement from your client is to provide 'a room with a view'. Writers are notorious for allowing distractions to prevent them writing. How can this retreat encourage writing, rather than discourage it?

This competition is about detail. Proposals should indicate the structure of the building, its construction, materials, spatial quality, lighting, fittings and furniture. The writer wishes to live in this structure for reasonably long periods of time. It should be comfortable. It will have running water and electricity (which can be mains supplied or self-collected/generated, according to site situation and design ethos). The total internal area should not exceed 40 sq metres. The structure can be in a tree, underground, on stilts, within an existing building, on a roof, on water..………let your imagination fly!

The locational dimension should be given emphasis. The design should reflect in some way the culture, climate and context in which the building is placed. Entrants should also consider ways in which the architectural character of the proposal might be emblematic of the author's writing and/or the author.

Above all, the design should demonstrate clear principles of sustainability through the choice of materials, management of energy and waste, climate modification, reusability, and so on. Where appropriate, designs may show ways in which the building can be used as an energy collector/generator/store and a water collector.

Whatever the design approach, entrants should be aware that your client wants a building that requires minimal maintenance and one that is not over-complicated to operate.

The competition is open to all students, who at the time of their submission, are studying in a Commonwealth country. Individual and group entries are acceptable. Entries from multi-disciplinary groups are welcome.

First Prize: £1200
Second Prize: £500
Third Prize: £200

A bonus of £200 will be awarded to the best prize-winning, multi-disciplinary group entry (ie a submission from a team comprising two or more people from different disciplines that is placed first, second or third). All students are eligible for first, second and third prizes. An additional £200 has been reserved for the best submission from a student (or team of students) in the first or second year of academic study at the time of the entry being made, where the entry has not been awarded one of the principal prizes. Any prize awarded for a group submission will be shared equally by members of the group.

Drawings should be on a maximum of two A1 (841mm x 594mm) sheets, sent rolled or they may be mounted on two A1 lightweight boards. A brief, written explanation saying something about the writer, and the context and thinking behind the scheme, should be included on the sheet(s). Photographs (of the site, 3D model, etc) may be mounted or scanned onto the drawings.

No specific drawings or scales are prescribed, but the presentation must convey the ideas underlying the design of the building, its overall forms and spaces, its character and atmosphere. As the building is relatively small, contestants are encouraged to show some of the detail of the building in the context of its fabrication. The following aspects should be explained:

the site and its context (built and natural)
construction (indicative), materials, textures and colours
the strategy for environmental sustainability
the surrounding landscape/external spaces
life and activities in and around the building including the writer's workspace and the qualities of enclosed spaces showing furniture, fittings and finishes.
Drawings should be suitable for photographic reproduction for the purpose of publication. It is intended that the winning entries will be published in The Architectural Review.

Any questions concerning the brief and arrangements for the competition may, until 01 April 2003, be addressed to the CAA Secretariat, email: Questions and answers will be published on the CAA Website at:

Each entry must be accompanied by a registration form, endorsed by the entrant's head of school/department. Additional copies of the registration form and this brief are available from CAA Website or Secretariat (addresses above).

The name of the entrant or school should appear only on the registration form and not on the drawing sheets. Registration forms should accompany the entries, in a sealed envelope clearly marked 'CAA Design Competition 2003'. For identification, entrants should devise a name and/or symbol and that name and/or symbol should appear both on the drawing sheets and on the registration form.

Drawings with registration forms, must arrive in Bloemfontein by 08 August 2003, at the following postal address (or street address for international courier service):

Postal address
CAA Design Competition 2003
Free State Institute of Architects (FSIA)
P O Box 12396,
Brandhof 9324, South Africa Street address
CAA Design Competition 2003
Free State Institute of Architects (FSIA)
Fichardt House, 40 Elizabeth Street,
Bloemfontein 9301, South Africa

The Jury will meet during August and the winners announced by 08 September 2003.

The competition will be judged by an international jury including CAA President Phillip Kungu, of Kenya and Peter Davey, Editor of The Architectural Review. The results will be announced on the occasion of the next CAA General Assembly and Conference that is scheduled to take place in Bloemfontein, South Africa in August 2003. The organisers propose displaying the winning entries at the Conference. The jury's decision will be final.

The copyright of a submission will remain with the competitors, but the CAA reserves the right to keep entries for exhibition, and to publish them. Entries will not be returned. Schools/authors are advised to keep copies of drawings submitted for the competition.

The topic of this competition was inspired in part by a design project written by Styliane Philippou and run at The Plymouth School of Architecture, UK, during the academic year 2000-01. The quotation (1) is taken from the introduction to the project handout ('Writer's Cabin on Stilts', University of Plymouth September 2000) and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.

Full Details
User avatar
Paul Clerkin
Old Master
Posts: 5431
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 1999 1:00 am
Location: Monaghan

Return to World Architecture