Entering an architecture competition is rewarding and satisfying, no matter how well you place amongst the final entries. That being said, everyone likes to win. So here are a few tips to remember if you want to win an architecture competition.

1. Set your goal / Why do you want to enter an architecture competition? 

Before you even begin researching architecture competitions, it’s important to set your goals for why you want to take part in one. They are a commitment, and will require a great deal of energy, effort, and time.

There are many great reasons why you should enter architecture competitions, from building your portfolio, to enhancing your critical thinking, to wanting to get some media attention for yourself or your practice. All great reasons, and you’re not just limited to one, but it’s important to keep your overall goals in mind. Bear in mind that if your only goal is to win the prize money, you’re more likely to be disappointed than if you had a genuine interest in the topic or in creating an innovative solution to the problem.

And while it doesn’t hurt to aim high, it will make the competition more rewarding if you have the right attitude from the start.

Red Square Tollerance architecture ideas competition winners Kiana Jalali, Alessandro Vitale, Matteo Pagani, Marco Merigo

Red Square Tollerance architetcure ideas competition winners - Kiana Jalali, Alessandro Vitale, Matteo Pagani, Marco Merigo // The competition challenged participants to design a temporary pavilion for the education of social, political and religious tolerance, to be erected in Russia’s Red Square, Moscow.

2. Choose the right architecture design competition for you (and your team)

For that matter, it’s also important to choose the right team for your competition. Architecture competitions are a great opportunity to supplement your professional or educational experience, but they can also be a welcome departure from your day-to-day work. Knowing your strengths and the strengths of your team will help you make a more informed choice about which architecture competition to enter.

Since competitions are typically either ideas competitions or project competitions - meaning they are either entirely conceptual or have the potential to result in an actual commission - this will be an vital deciding factor. Don’t let the fact that you’re not fully qualified stop you from entering a project competition. Should your design be selected as the winner, the next step is to work with the client and potentially a local architect to finalise the project plans.

Choosing the right competition is crucial in order to increase your chances of success, as is the selection of the right team. Ask yourself what kind of cooperation you’re looking for, are you looking for a leader, an organiser, a junior, a collaborator, or a person with a set of skills that you can learn from? With teams typically limited to four members, it’s imperative that each person be able to contribute in an equally-valued way.

Buildner architecture competition

BUILDNER is the leading architecture competition organiser who carries out fully inclusive organisation work for architecture project and architecture ideas competitions.

3. Don’t just meet the competition requirements, exceed them!

There will usually be recommended requirements for an architecture competition, a minimum function that your project design will need to fulfil. But don’t stop there. These are often guidelines, a starting point to get your creativity flowing.

Different competitions will place a different emphasis on the practicalities of your design. And while it can be fun and exciting to dream up the most elaborate creations, each competition will include a functional requirement that it is important to include. Logic and reason need not always be at the core of your project design, but don’t get so caught up in the aesthetics of your entry that you ignore its intended function.

Similarly, when entering an ideas competition, getting bogged down by the details will really hamper your creativity. If this were a real commission you would have to consider things like underground digging, height restrictions, cost, planning permission, access to power, and so on. But unless the competition brief has specifically asked for a solution to one of those problems, don’t take up space on your submission board covering it.

And on that topic…

4. Presentation is key

Each architecture competition could get hundreds of entries, and in order to stand out to the jury your presentation will need to be something special. In this regard, it can be helpful to work backwards, having a rough idea of what your submission boards will look like before you even start work on your project. Do some layout sketches, put in placeholder images and text frames in a blank page file as you work on your project. It can help you with the thinking process throughout, and helps as a sort of progress indicator as you work towards the submission deadline.

Use clear and attractive images that explain your concept and design, rather than including images simply for the sake of aesthetics. Think about how the jury will be evaluating the entries. With so many projects to assess within a short space of time, the jury will need to see the full vision of the project quickly and easily. With limited space to fill, make sure every image and item of text you include positively portrays your idea and grabs the jury’s eye.

Eruopean Velo Stops architecture competition honorable mention -

Eruopean Velo Stops architecture competition honorable mention - "Velopod" (authors: Nick Butterfield, Tom Butterfield, Will Butterfield, Angela Butterfield)

5. Get an outside opinion

You will have spent hours, days, and weeks working on your project submission and so you will know every detail and thought process behind it. The jury will not. Asking a friend or colleague to look at your submission boards will help you make sure that they are being perceived how you want them to be.

Outside feedback on your presentation may provide new perspectives that will increase your chances of being selected by the jury panel, so be sure to ask for input sooner rather than later.

Ready to win your own architecture competition?

Now that you know what it takes to win an architecture competition it’s time to give it a go. Take part in any of our open architecture competitions and put your creativity to the test!

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