My relationship with Eyebeam Atelier began when I was asked to enter a discussion about the relative merits and pitfalls of selecting an architect through the process of a competition.
I was brought into the discussion because I had extensive experience with competitions - Linda Lindroth and I have entered more than a dozen - and we had experience with working in museum settings and in the space between art and architecture.
Eyebeam ultimately hired us to write the program for the competition and help generate the list of possible participants. By the time we were ready to make invitations to the first round, the list had grown to some sixty architects from around the world. The first round of our process entailed a request for qualifications and a statement of interest in Eyebeam's goals of supporting the emergence of new media art. This invitation was sent out to thirty architectural firms.
Eyebeam formed a design review committee of board members, consultants and the competition directors. We each received a collection of the submissions for review.
We had decided that the competition would have three stages including this first RFQ round. The second round was an invited design competition with thirteen firms competing. At the end of the second round, competitors submitted three, three foot by four foot boards and video clips of the principals talking about their schemes. This material was hung as an exhibition in the existing building on 21st Street that we had renovated as Eyebeam's temporary home. During this period, I moderated an on-line forum on the subject of architecture and new media art. The forum ran during the summer and fall of 2001.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, the design committee reviewed the work and met for face to face discussions. Ideas and observations were exchanged through e-mail.
From the thirteen schemes, three were chosen to participate in the final round. Thomas Lesser of Lesser Architecture of Manhattan, MVRDV of the Netherlands, and Liz Diller and Ricardo Scofidio of Diller + Scofidio of Manhattan were selected.
The three teams were given an updated program and jury comments and asked to develop their schemes over a three month period. Final submissions would be in the form of new boards and a model. All of the work of this phase was again hung for exhibition in Eyebeam's space. Computers with internet access were provided so that visitors to the exhibition could log on to the on-going forum and register their observations about the schemes on display.
On December 1, 2001, I moderated a symposium that was a joint venture of the Parsons School of Design and Eyebeam. The symposium took place in the Tishman Auditorium at the New School. The multi-facetted project found yet another way in which to engage the public in Eyebeam's own internal project of defining the nature of its architecture and its mission.