An explorative study of municipal developer competitions in Helsinki
This paper discusses the central features of so-called ‘site allocation competitions’, as organized by the City of Helsinki Real Estate Department (Kiinteistövirasto in Finnish). Site allocation competitions are developer competitions where the municipality sells or leases plots of land to developers or contractors, but where the ‘bidding’ is based on competing on the basis of architectural and urban quality factors. The focus in this paper is on the Finnish context, but as its legal framework is constituted by European competition law. In these competitions the proprietor expects the contractor or developer to create a design team and in turn the proprietor receives multiple proposals for a site without really paying for them. It seems important to examine this rather new type of architectural competition, as it is often an integral part of important large projects in terms of both financial investments and architectural design. It also constitutes a new tool in the practices of urban planning. The present study is explorative, based mainly on a close study and analysis of written material, such as reports, as well as three interviews with experienced organizers. The aim of the paper is to clarify the concept of developer competition, and discuss its possible benefits and problems. The core issue in the study is how architectural quality is produced within the legal framework, as well as to discuss the relation of the developer competition to the aims of urban planning and professional agents.
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