Trienal de Arquitectura de Lisboa

Lisbon Triennale Millennium bcp Universities Award Competition

5th Lisbon Triennal
3 Oct – 2 Dec 2019
Additional info
Laurent Esmilaire and Tristan Chadney


Deadline for requests for clarification: November 30th 20182018-06-04


Deadline for requests for clarification: November 30th 20182018-06-04

1. About

The Lisbon Triennale Millennium bcp Universities Award Competition, part of the 5th edition of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale programme, invites architecture students to engage in deep thought, in an exercise of collective research on constructive rationality. This competition for ideas is open to master degree students, from worldwide architecture schools. A selection of proposals will be part of the exhibition “Natural Beauty”, curated by Tristan Chadney and Laurent Esmilaire, alongside a genealogy of works, from the 16th century to the present, that relate to constructive rationality. The award consists of one (1) first prize and, up to, two (2) honourable mentions.

2. Theme

2.1 Constructive Rationality
Architectural form is reasoned by the logics of construction. At the same time, it reflects reality by condensing time and space. Construction engages directly the spatiality and expression of the architectural object. It also illustrates an answer to a necessity in the contemporary condition in which it takes place.

The aim of the competition is to explore, through the proposals of student projects, how the rational nature of construction can embody a form of natural beauty. An intelligible beauty where constructive rationality links each part to each other, as a system to create an organic architecture. This allows architecture to be understandable and shareable by all, while staying relevant as a discipline established on a historical and theoretical basis. Constructive rationality, therefore, is the hypothesis of research for a contemporary beauty.

2.2 Cultural Approach
Constructive rationality must be considered from a cultural point of view and not only technical. As part of the competition, constructive rationality is explored through different approaches. Structure, ornament, materiality and cladding. These must not be considered independently one from another but as different possibilities to design and to read through the projects. 

The expression of a constructive rationality exists when the project gives to the materials that constitute it a way to express themselves as meaningful entities. The constructive approach of the project must also be considered through a sense of economy of means. The project must be able to demonstrate the capacity of the structure to function as the load-bearing system of the building, to generate its spatiality, and to be the medium of its architectural expressivity all at once.

The cupola of the chapel of Anet (1548-1552) by Philibert de l’Orme shows a way in which structure is used as an ornament to produce a forced perspective that makes the interior seem higher than it really is. The effect is also projected on the floor in order to create that particular spatiality. 

The Park Güell by Antoni Gaudí (1900-1914) is also an example of an architecture that can embrace a rational constructive logic and at the same time a specific use of materials, which give formal and ornamental characteristics to the structure.

2.3 Architectural Representation

The understanding of an architectural project is inseparable from the way it is drawn. This relation creates a connection with the thoughts of the architect. A specific approach in the type of drawing can inflect the conception of the project itself. This way, the use of one specific drawing, thought in connection with constructive rationality, informs the way it is conceived and understood.

Auguste Choisy, at the end of the nineteenth century, uses the worm’s-eye axonometric view in order to reveal the tectonic and the structure of the plan, but also of the ceiling. Theo van Doesburg, about thirty years later, uses the axonometric view to illustrate the non-gravitational character of his projects. A worm’s-eye axonometric view represents at once a plan, a section, a façade and the volume the project encloses.

The condensed information of the drawing, that is an economy of means in itself, creates a picture that is technically sophisticated, and graphically abstract in its reading. It appeals to a possible source of imaginary, opposed to a rigid, over determinate description of the project.

Karl Blossfeldt​ ​'s "Equisetum Hyemale" (Horsetail Winter), 1928, a ​detail photograph of a sectioned plant,​ ​synthesize​​s​ ​the concept of constructive rationality. The structural system of the plant with the minimum matter needed to make it stand up, gives it its inherent organization and form.

We can consider constructive rationality in architecture under the same light, in which the structure demonstrates its capacity to function – as we have said before – as the load-bearing system of the building, to generate its spatiality, and be the medium of its architectural expressivity all at the same time.

Furthermore, this photograph can be read on one hand as a section of a fluted column, referring to a fundamental architectural element, and on the other hand as an axonometric view, revealing the inner structure of the plant. In both its details and abstraction, the image appeals to a possible source of imaginary.

3. Site

Lisbon is made of a succession of urban structures, each having their own architectural characteristics, representative of the time of their construction. This way, we can clearly identify the Alfama, the medieval part of the city, the Baixa, built after the earthquake of 1755, typical of the Pombal time, the neighbourhood of Chiado restored by Álvaro Siza after the fire of 1988, or the Park of Nations, built for the World Exhibition of 1998. Next to these identifiable urban entities, many vacant spaces exist between the centre of Lisbon and its suburbs. A feeling of being at the same time out of the city as well as being close to main activity sites emerges from these areas.

This situation of neglected city fragments in favour of the suburb development is reflected in the demographic evolution of Lisbon. The city has known a strong reduction of its population between the 1980s until the beginning of the 2000s, losing as much as 300.000 residents. At the same time, the outskirts of Lisbon, the north and south suburbs, had a strong demographic increase, going from 375.000 to 1.400.000 residents in the north suburb, and from about 290.000 to more than 700.000 for the south suburb. The redistribution phenomenon of the population, from the centre towards the suburbs, has given birth to an expansion of the Lisbon region with the constitution of a polycentric and fragmented urban fabric.

Today, the city of Lisbon shows the will to invert this tendency, and to revitalize itself through an urban regeneration project, which translates into the rethinking of its centre, the connections with the waterfront, and the organization of urban discontinuities. Projects such as the redevelopment of the Ribeira das Naus alongside the Tagus, or the surroundings of the botanical garden in the centre and of the Sant’Ana hill have already been accomplished. Other ongoing studies are aiming to redefine large urban enclaves, such as in the Alcântara valley, or Chelas valley.

The competition site is located in the centre of the neighbourhood of Marvila overlooking the riverfront and old Marvila. The area is imbued with a strong architectural imaginary. The north east of the site is defined by the ruins of a palace built in the first half of the 18th century, typical of this time when Marvila was a leisure area for the wealthier classes. This plot of land was meant to host Oscar Niemeyer’s Fundação Luso-Brasileira project, but its construction was brought to a halt. Only the still remaining concrete floor slab was done, left today as a memory of a possible urban evolution contemporary to the Park of Nations in the late 90s. The industrial past is still present today alongside the more recent housing projects, such as the towers bordering the north of the plot.

Furthermore, the site is part of the Regeneration and Optimization of Cultural heritage in creative and Knowledge cities program, known as ROCK. The hypothesis of this European project is based on the premise that local heritage can be a strong and efficient driving force for the redefinition of unclaimed urban voids and a support for innovative urban renewal solutions. The renewal of the Marvila district must also be considered from its cultural and social dimensions.

In the middle of unclaimed zones, the site is typical of a larger urban condition of this metropolis. It also forms a development potential of the city against an urban sprawl, being situated in the actual limits of the city. Besides, the city envisages for this area an ambitious urban plan reconfiguration, whose impact will reach further than the close neighbourhood, with the construction of a third bridge crossing the Tagus river. This bridge will confirm the European status of the capital, connecting it to Madrid by a future high-speed train line.

Therefore, the site is at the crossing of a north/south axis, connecting the city to the international realm, and of an east/west axis, connecting the city centre to its suburbs. This configuration is a new metropolitan opening of the city of Lisbon and requires a reading of the site that goes further than its close limits.

4. Program

The urban project of Lisbon tends towards precise interventions, through projects of an architectural scale, that have as objective to galvanize the surrounding urban situation. The aim of the competition is to conceive a Community and Interpretive Centre. The project should also consider the metropolitan dimension, specific to the future condition of the site. In this sense, the project must have the ability to create a strong urban intensity through its architectural language.

The centre, of approximately three thousand square meters (3000m²), must explore the assembly of spatial necessities of different scales and functions. The scale of the community is transposed into one clear span space allowing the organization of concerts, theatre and dance shows, film screenings, and gatherings for at least five hundred (500) people. The collective scale is represented through working spaces like classrooms and workshops, associated to the exhibition and conviviality areas, such as a restaurant and a coffee shop. The project must also take into account a domestic dimension, and dedicate a special attention to the human scale. All the logistics of such a program must also be clearly thought.

The outside spaces of the site must seek an interaction with the built project, in order to become areas that embody an intensity of functions in the same way as the inside use of the cultural centre. Such as the description of constructive rationality as an organic system, where all the parts are interdependent one from another, the assembly of the different entities of the program should be thought in the same way. The functions of the building, existing on different scales one with each other, suggest a dense construction. The project will interrogate how each function can support the other function.

Reference documentation available soon in the download area

5. Exhibition

The exhibition expresses a point of view on the condition of constructive rationality. On one hand it takes the form of a classification of the different student proposals, in a way to analyse and compare the projects. This is made possible by the fact that only the worm's-eye axonometric view all in the same scale will be exhibited. This process allows the exhibition to be inscribed in continuity with the history of architectural treatises, which in the way of “Le Grand Durand”, proposes a reading by classification. The regime of anonymity will be lifted for the selected projects.

On the other hand, the exhibition includes works by architects that represent a genealogy of constructive rationality since the 16th century to today. This allows the levelling of all the buildings from different periods and addressing a contemporary point of view – a dynamic reading on the past looked through the field of reason. Furthermore, it highlights the possibility to create singular and unexpected solutions. 

The student projects exhibited will be selected by the exhibition curators and can differ from prized projects selected by the jury.

The exhibition will be held at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale headquarters, which will be inaugurated October 2019. The possibility of a subsequent itinerancy of the exhibition is reasserted, if so the authors will be timely informed by email.

6. Elegibility

This international competition is open to all master students of architecture schools. Students can participate individually or in a group. Each member of a group must be enrolled in a master of an architecture school. Students with personal or professional connections with jury members can’t participate. 

7. Entry fee

There is no entry fee.

8. Language

The totality of the proposal should be written in English.

9. Dates

Deadline for requests for clarification: November 30th 2018
Answers to requests for clarification: December 2018
Submission Deadline: April 30th 2019
Jury assessment: May/June 2019
Competition Results announcement: July 2019

10. Proposal (technical details)

The proposal should consist of one (1) A1 panel (portrait orientation), which will be exhibited in the "Natural Beauty" exhibition in case of selection. And one (1) A3 binded book (landscape orientation) allowing jury assessment (this A3 binded book will not be part of the exhibition).

All proposals should be black and white wireframe drawings. Every texture used in the line drawings must reflect real wishes on the atmosphere and materiality of the project. The way the vegetation is drawn also expresses the different kind of plants used in the project.

A Graphic Charter will provide the standards for representation of the projects (available soon in the download area of this call).

Type of paper:
A1: 180g matte rolled-up paper
A3: 110g matte paper printed only on one side (only odd pages)

10.1 A1 panel (portrait orientation):

  • Worm's-eye axonometric view: this document is an extract of the most significative part of the project drawn at 1:50 scale that represents the plan, the section and the facade of the project. The drawing must show at the same time the structural system, the materiality, the ceilings and the volume enclosed by the project. It expresses the relation between the construction and the spatial atmosphere it creates. The axonometric is drawn according to the graphic charter, in the 30/60° viewpoint with no shadows, no context, and no writings.
  • ID number generated by the online form should be placed on the back (see point 11.1).

10.2 A3 binded book (landscape orientation):

  • Text: describes the narrative of the project, its story and potential. Through this narrative, each participant must express how the proposal engages constructive rationality in the project and how it embraces the context.
  • Site plan: shows the general organization of the plot with the constructions and the ground treatment (access, planted parts, mineral parts, etc.). It will take into account the way the limits of the plot are treated and the relation between the project and the public spaces and its surroundings, as well as the way we access the site. It must include the neighbouring context.
  • Ground-floor plan: must express the relation between the project and the public spaces and its surroundings, and the way we access to the building. The drawing must show the spatial organization of the plan and the relation between the interior and exterior spaces.
  • One section: allows a general understanding of the project and shows the way constructive and structural decisions are engaged in the hierarchy of the different space scales and their ability to define the enclosed volume of the project as well as the materiality of the project and the way it is built. This document underlines the relations between the project and the ground, and the limits of the plot with the exterior spaces.
  • One façade: represents the main façade of the project and expresses the way in which the structural decisions and the materiality engage the architectural expression of the project. It shows the way we access the plot and the building, the connection to the exterior spaces, and the treatment of the limits.
  • Worm's-eye axonometric view, in reduced scale.
  • ID number generated by the online form should be placed in the back cover (see point 11.1)

11. Guidelines for submission of proposals

11.1 Digital Proposal
Entries must be submitted digitally through
the following online form.

It will be accepted if submitted until 5 pm (Lisbon Time, GMT) of the submission deadline day (April 30th 2019).

All documents submitted in the form should not exceed in total, 6MB. Only the submission of documents in PDF format is accepted.

Each submitted proposal will generate a unique ID number, to be used throughout the competition, in order to make this competition anonymous. The ID number should be placed on the back of the A1 panel and on the back cover of the A3 binded book (as stated in 10.1 and 10.2). The Digital Form is the only place where authors are duly identified. Only the competition organizer - the Lisbon Architecture Triennale - will be able to access the author(s) identification and contact information.

11.1.1 Required Data

ID Data:
  • Applicant's Name
  • E-mail
  • Phone Number
  • Address
  • Add other team members' full names if applicable

Architecture School Data

  • Country
  • University Name
  • Architecture School Name
  • Master's Program Name
  • Architecture Studio Professor

11.1.2 Proof of enrolment in master's degree
This should be an official school document in PDF format, orientation portrait (max 2Mb). In case of a group application, each member of the team must supply proof.

11.2 Physical/paper Proposal
The physical version is to be sent by registered post and with acknowledgment of receipt, or personally, to the Lisbon Architecture Triennale headquarters (Campo de Santa Clara, 142, 1100-474 Lisbon) between 10am and 5pm of April 30th 2019.

The wrapping of the proposal materials must be visibly identified with the ID number generated by the digital form.

Projects received by registered post will be considered valid if are sent by 5 pm (Lisbon Time, GMT) of April 30th 2019, as evidenced by the official stamp/document of the post service.

In case of damage or loss, the Lisbon Architecture Triennale declines any responsibility or indemnity. The projects submitted will be held by the Lisbon Architecture Triennale and may be divulged in a manner to be established, without implying the temporary or definitive transfer of the respective holders copyright.

Except for possible itinerancy of the exhibition, the elements of the projects chosen to be included in the exhibition must be picked up between 13 and 22 December 2019, at the same address and schedule of delivery (Campo de Santa Clara, 142, 1100-474 Lisbon, between 10am and 5pm). After this period the materials will be dismantled and recycled.

The projects not chosen will be informed by email to be collected in a period to be indicated. After this period the materials will be dismantled and recycled.

In case of being selected, all the information provided in the form, as well as attached documents, can serve as basis to promote and communicate the projects.

12. Selection Process

12.1 Evaluation
Proposals will be assessed according to the relevance of the answer to the question of constructive rationality. How in each project the structure can, at the same time, be the load-bearing system of the building, generate its spatiality and be the medium of its architectural expressivity. How each part of the proposal is relevant to the project, from program to construction - this must be expressed through the spatial consistency of the project, its intelligibility and the way it embraces the multidimensional nature of the context. The evaluation of the jury will be made in total anonymity.

12.2 Jury
The jury, which will be announced soon, will be composed of seven members: the two curators Tristan Chadney and Laurent Esmilaire; one representative of the Lisbon City Council; one invited architect representing the Millennium bcp Foundation; and three invited architects working internationally.

13. Prizes

First Prize: €1,500 (one thousand five hundred euros) Honourable mentions: Up to a maximum of 2 (two), awarded €500 each (five hundred euros).

14. Communication and Promotion

By submitting a project to the competition, the authors fully accept the contents of these Guidelines, accepting all the disclosure of work elements, in part or in full, without any compensation being due to them.

15. Right of use and publication of entries

By submitting an entry, an applicant agrees that their work will be used in promotional materials related to the Lisbon Triennale, unless otherwise stated, without prejudice to their respective copyright and creative ownership. The Lisbon Triennale will credit authors of any materials (text or image) used.

16. Copyrights and Property Rights

It is the applicant's sole responsibility to ensure that the work submitted does not infringe upon the intellectual property rights of any third party, including, but not limited to, copyright, trademark and design rights.

17. Enquiries

All enquiries should be sent to

18. Final Statement

The Lisbon Architecture Triennale reserves the right to amend these guidelines, hereby committing to communicating those alterations through the same means used in the promotion of the original guidelines. The information contained in this document is subject to change.


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