Tävlingarnas tid: arkitekttävlingarnas betydelse i borgerlighetens Sverige
Doctoral thesis, 1996
The aim of this thesis is to survey the impact that competitions have had on the architectural profession, mainly in Sweden, between the middle of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. During this time architectural competitions shifted from individual experiments to a regular method for selection. The thesis concludes that architectural competitions have usually been related to what are known as bourgeois societies, from Athens during the representative democracy and Florence during the oligarchy to the bourgeois revolutions in America, France and Austria. Decisions on the appointment of architects for such projects were mostly handled by committees which were expected to act in an impartial, democratic way. To be objective became important. However, the earliest competitions seldom generated any results that could be developed. The reason was mostly the future proprietor's lack of concern about the program. Starting the building process with a schematic building program became one of the most important effects of the competitions and, thereby, one of the central prerequisites for functionalistic architecture. The competition situation gave rise to a critical architecture, created with the ambition to present something new. Whatever ambition an organizer had for an individual competition, the system in itself gave rise to and spread new ideas widely in Swedish architecture around the turn of the century. The two roots of the modern competition, the academy and the marketplace, resulted in two different kinds of architectural competition. The academic type aimed for maximum quality with a reasonable price, while the marketplace type aimed at a reasonable quality with the lowest possible price, a pattern still visible. However, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the academies also had a role in setting the standard regarding taste. Thus, public competitions in the academic tradition were to establish a "proper architecture" as defined by the most prominent representatives of the profession. In the mass society, the competitions no longer functioned as arbiters of taste.
history of modern architecture