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Boguslaw Barnaś: " Competitions as a way of development".

05 of March '23

"My first years in the profession were filled mainly with working on competitions. I was aware that the chances of a two- or three-person office winning a competition for a huge master plan or bridge structure were very small, but I competed nonetheless. In retrospect, I believe that these were the competitions that developed me the most, although I was de facto contributing to them," he says. - says architect Boguslaw Barnas, owner of BXB Studio, author of the award-winning Homestead House, and juror of the Saint-Gobain Glass Design Award architectural competition organized by the Saint-Gobain Glass Poland brand.

We are talking in connection with the premiere edition of the Saint-Gobain Glass Design Award competition, in which realizations and conceptual designs can be submitted until the end of March this year. How do you, a serial winner, find yourself in the role of juror?

Boguslaw Barnaś: I'm not finding myself yet (laughs). Because I haven't judged anything so far. On the other hand, it is a great pleasure for me to perform this function, to decide together with excellent colleagues on the selection of the best projects. I feel honored to have been trusted, especially since I see the role of a juror as a very responsible one. The burden of this task is realized the moment you think about how much work you yourself put into the design process. And as jurors, in a short period of time we have to compare, evaluate and reject projects on which their authors have often spent dozens or even hundreds of hours.

Dom Eko

Eco House

© BXB studio

The Saint-Gobain Glass Design Award competition, as the name suggests, deals with the topic of glass in architecture. From the participant's point of view, is this a limitation?

Boguslaw Barnaś: I think quite the opposite. Glass is a material present in every architectural object. And the organizer offers participants as many as four categories. The first two: fascinating solidity and harmony with the surroundings apply to public buildings. Another is open interiors, where we can submit a design for private or public interiors, and finally functional space, with no restrictions on the type of architecture. Each designer can match the category and submit his most valuable work. The great advantage of the competition is its virtually unlimited scope. Both a student who has made a concept for his room with a very creative use of glass and a large studio that has created a huge shopping mall can take part in the competition organized by Saint-Gobain Glass Poland on equal footing. A young architect, with his first design for a single-family house, can compete with a huge design firm. He is able to win with an idea, not a budget or scale. Because from my point of view as a juror, it is the quality of the designed space that will play a key role in the evaluation. I pay attention to the value of the project, and since everyone is different, so there are no universal distinctions of what I define as "quality of architecture."

Projekt Domu z Jabłonią

Apple Tree House Project

© BXB studio

The debut of the competition is a unique opportunity for the youngest students of the profession to also make their debut on the forum....

Boguslaw Barnaś: I encourage them to do so. Especially because, as I mentioned, the Saint-Gobain Glass Design Award provides a very wide range of opportunities to make one's activity public, to promote one's work, which is crucial in the design profession. Any architectural competition provides a platform to exhibit one's work and have it reviewed by a professional jury. The added value in this case is related to the fact that Saint-Gobain Glass is a well-known and respected brand, so a competition branded by it somehow automatically gains prestige. A young architect who wants to present a project on his own has limited reach - his own media. On the other hand, by sending a project to a competition organized by a reputable company with extensive media contacts, he increases the scope of promotion. This is the greatest asset in the context of young and very young creators, whom we have not yet had the opportunity to hear about. However, I believe that an interesting initiative such as the Saint-Gobain Glass Design Award will attract a large group of professionals, not only of the younger generation. I think that the competition will play an educational role. There will certainly be a social debate, a conversation about innovative solutions. The very justification of the verdict is already an element of education in a broader social context.

 Polska Zagroda

Polish Homestead

© BXB studio

Actually, every month you receive an important award for BXB Studio's realizations. Did you participate in competitions as a young architect just as often?

Boguslaw Barnaś: Currently, I focus on design work, to which competitions are a nice addition. My goal is first and foremost to create valuable architecture. It is well known that awards come quickly, and a house project usually takes a year to develop, sometimes even longer. It's a demanding process. For me, proportions are important - winning a competition is a fraction of a designer's daily work. However, the first years of my activity as an architect were indeed mainly architectural competitions. Very often international, difficult to win. I remember the competition for the Museum of Afghanistan organized by UNESCO, where as many as 1,200 projects from all over the world were submitted. Or the competition for a master plan for Seoul, where there were about 700 designs, or the competition for the Sports Center in Daegu, Korea, which attracted 500 entrants. With such a modest background of a fledgling office, of course, we did not win a major international competition, although we were very often in the lead, participated in exhibitions of the best works, which gave great satisfaction and built confidence in our abilities. I remember the competition for the longest footbridge in Poland. It was our first bridge competition. We had no experience in this matter, but we had imagination and enthusiasm. Our work was sixth on the list! We surpassed sizable companies specializing in bridge design. I was aware that the chances of a two- or three-person office winning a competition for a huge master plan or bridge structure were very small, but I competed anyway. In retrospect, I believe that it was these competitions that developed me the most, although I was de facto adding to them. Competitions gave wings and shaped character. They taught the ability to lose, to learn from better, more experienced ones. They also taught to enjoy small successes.

Małopolska Chata Podcieniowa

Malopolska Undercroft Cottage

Photo: Slawomir Slusarczyk, Luke Skyvideo © BXB studio

So in the end, the commitment of time and resources to the competition paid off!

Boguslaw Barnaś: The valuable thing about competitions is that when we enter, we submit our realizations or projects, we don't necessarily have to win to gain. We get to know other projects. We look closely at the awarded ones. We begin to speak up in the discussion. We unintentionally educate ourselves and confront the environment. As a participant, I would see participation in the Saint-Gobain Glass Design Award as an all-around developmental challenge. It is simply not worth wasting such an opportunity to expand one's knowledge and awareness. The key is motivation. We certainly have plenty of interesting projects, but often young designers lack enthusiasm. Entering a competition requires a decision, mobilization and doing some things. However, I suggest taking advantage of the opportunity. Especially since you can enter as many as three works in the Saint-Gobain Glass Design Award! A statistical student, any student - I say this as a former educator - is able to choose and send his three best designs to this competition.

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