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How would we ever pick a winner?

The journey of a juror

November 24, 2015

Following the public presentation of the final proposals for the Back to the River design competition I felt an extraordinary sense of excitement for London and the potential opportunity unfolding. This euphoria was married to a sense of dread. How would we ever pick a winner?

I haven’t sat on a juried competition of this magnitude. I was bringing my experience as a political leader in London with a strong interest in the environment and land use planning. I took consolation in the extraordinary talent, education and practical experience of my fellow jurors. Sitting on a jury is old school for them. They have competed, are seasoned jurors; many winning numerous competitions and awards for their design excellence. They made the journey of picking a winner one of the most engaging, positive and compelling trips I’ve been on.

Each of the finalists had engaged and collaborated with a team of professionals from architects, landscape architects to planners, engineers and ecologists. The collaboration showed. The designs were thought-provoking, motivating and appealing on a variety of fronts. It was going to be up to the jurors to work through the elements of each proposal.

And what a work out it was! We adopted a process that kept us focused on the task. It was important to jurors that the inaugural projects not simply build iconic structures. The projects must understand the relationships between natural processes and human activity. They must build community, connect neighbourhoods, improve environmental systems, spur economic activity and be financially viable. From a birds eye view down to the human scale and ecosystem scale the elements were examined and a winner organically rose to the top.

We were exhausted and exhilarated. As each juror gave concluding comments they were quick to recognize elements of design excellence from all proposals. They were also quick to praise the entire competition process as one of the best they’ve been involved in.

Congratulations to Civitas+Stantec winners of the Back to the River International Design Competition.

Thanks and gratitude is extended to Martha Powell, President and Chief Executive Officer of the London Community Foundation and LCF staff;  Fred Galloway, LCF Board member and Chair of the Back to the River Steering Committee, which includes partners - the City of London and the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, and Urban Strategies of Toronto. Your dedication to ensuring an open, impartial process and structure was instrumental in the success of this competition.

Joni Baechler
Joni Baechler is the former Mayor and Councillor for the City of London with a strong interest in planning, urban design and the environment. She was appointed as a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence for Western University, Local Government Program. She also serves as a board member on the London Community Foundation Board.