A Brief History Of Architecture Competitions

Architecture competitions have long been used to generate a pool of designs for specific projects, as well as more hypothetical ideas. They are a way to quickly collate different perspectives and concepts that just could not be conceived by a single firm or architect. Add to that the sense of public input and community collaboration that they can create, and it’s clear to see why architecture competitions have been used to create some of the world’s greatest architectural structures.

The world’s first architecture competition

Architecture competitions date back as far as ancient Greece, when the Persian King Xerxes invaded Athens and decimated much of their architecture. When he was finally driven from Athens, and the community sufficiently recovered, the Council of Athens launched the world’s first architecture competition.

Ancient Greece first used open architecture competitions when rebuilding after the invasion by the Persians. Image source

They called for submissions for a structure that would commemorate their good fortune, soliciting ideas for a victory monument that was eventually constructed from parts salvaged from the broken entablature of the Temple to Athena and set into a niche within the reconstructed Erechtheion upon the grounds of the Acropolis.

This participatory method of commissioning architectural work was used regularly during the classical world, however it seemed to end rather abruptly with the demise of Greek hegemony.

Architecture competitions have a Renaissance

The onset of the Renaissance in the 14th century resulted in a resurgence of architecture competitions, inviting artists, architects, and patrons to embrace this method. In fact, the public nature of architecture competitions helped to improve the popularity and status of winning architects, especially when they received positive attention from powerful figures in the worlds of politics, economics, or religion.

Renaissance architecture relied heavily on architecture competitions, involving the public to improve the popularity of the project. Image source

The act of organising architecture competitions highlighted the importance and value of architects - and by extension architecture - in a very public way. In the years, decades, and centuries following the Renaissance, architecture competitions became commonplace, and a frequently-employed forum for commissioning design ideas.

Architecture competitions revitalise French architecture after WWII

Following the end of World War II, Europe - France in particular - saw architecture competitions as an ideal method of supporting innovation in architecture and reinvigorating previously occupied territories. Architecture was identified as a matter of public interest and laws were put in place to regulate and encourage more architecture competitions.

The Centre Pompidou

Paris’ Centre Pompidou is the result of an architecture competition. Image source

The Centre Pompidou is a central part of Paris’ architectural heritage as well as being a result of an architecture competition held at the behest of a president anxious for an architectural legacy, which restored a shabby quarter and rehabilitated Paris’ reputation as a convivial home to the avant-garde.

The city’s Parc de la Villette was also the result of an architecture competition which Bernard Tschumi won in 1982-83; drawing inspiration from the deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida in preparation of the design proposal.

Asia: a late adopter of the architecture competition

Historically, architecture competitions were less common in Asia, with only a few significant structures a potential result of competitions. For example, it is possible that a number of stone building models dating to the 8th century found in Mamallapuram, India, originated from architecture competitions.

Japan was the first country to really embrace the method, organising several well-publicized architecture competitions in the 1980s in attempt to project an image of a fully-recovered nation post WWII.

The Tokyo National Theater competition was won by local architects over popular international entries. Image source

However, some of the results were less than objective, favouring Japanese architects over potentially more impressive designs from international designers. For example, the Tokyo National Theater architecture competition which was won by a local architect over several foreign submissions, including those from Hans Hollein, Bernard Tschumi and Peter Eisenman.

USA memorial architecture competitions

The United States commonly employs architecture competitions when conceptualising and designing memorial monuments, most notably those imbued with sentimental or symbolic power such as Maya Lin’s winning entry for the 1981 Vietnam Veterans Memorial competition in Washington, D.C.

MODERN DAY INTERNATIONAL ARCHITECTURE COMPETITIONS

BeeBreeders architecture competition

Architecture competitions are now widely accepted as one of the most efficient ways of generating a pool of qualified concepts for new projects and developments. Whether or not the goal is to construct one of the winning ideas, create publicity around a project, or simply to spark a public discussion or debate on a topic, architecture competitions are a powerful tool for driving architecture and design forward.

Take part in an architecture competition

If you’re a budding architect, designer, established professional, or just an enthusiast, check out our latest architecture design competitions.  Challenge yourself, grow your portfolio, and have a chance to win cash prizes as well as professional contracts and media exposure.

Open architecture competitions

  • Closest Deadline first
  • Project competitions first
    Selected winning projects have the potential to be constructed
  • Ideas competitions first
    Experimental competitions with the focus on pushing the boundaries of creativity
ideas COMPETITION
The Last Nuclear Bomb Memorial

Design a memorial that speaks to the cause of ending all nuclear weapons programs

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 15
Jan 27
Apr 21
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ideas COMPETITION
Toronto Affordable Housing Challenge

Design affordable housing solutions for Toronto

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 16
Jan 28
Apr 22
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project COMPETITION
Omuli Museum of the Horse

Reimagine a historical primary school into a museum for horses

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 14
Jan 26
Apr 23
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ideas COMPETITION
SKYHIVE 2021 Skyscraper Challenge

Fourth annual competition to redefine the modern-day skyscraper

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 17
Jan 29
Apr 23
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project COMPETITION
Sleeping Pods on a Cliff

Design a series of sleeping pods for a Portugal yoga retreat

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 18
Feb 01
Apr 27
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project COMPETITION
Tiny Kiwi Meditation Cabin

Design a meditation space in New Zealand

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 21
Feb 02
Apr 28
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project COMPETITION
Spirala Community Home

Create a community home for the Spirala Ecological Village

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Dec 22
Feb 03
Apr 29
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ideas COMPETITION
Berlin Techno Booth

Bring back techno music to the streets of Berlin by designing individual dance booths

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Mar 23
Apr 20
Jul 06
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ideas COMPETITION
Modular Home Design Challenge 2021

Design a modular dream home

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Mar 24
Apr 21
Jul 07
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essay COMPETITION
Essay: Modular Architecture

How modular design has impacted architecture?

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Mar 25
Apr 22
Jul 08
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ideas COMPETITION
Hospice - Home for Terminally Ill

Design a safe and supportive space for those struggling with a terminal illness

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Mar 30
Apr 27
Jul 13
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project COMPETITION
Romantic Cabin For Two

Design a romantic and secluded cabin for two in New Zealand

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Mar 31
Apr 28
Jul 14
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project COMPETITION
Monte d'Oiro Wine Hotel

Design a new hotel set within a beautiful Portuguese Monte d'Oiro vineyard

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Apr 01
Apr 29
Jul 15
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essay COMPETITION
Essay: Architecture of Illusions

Do you have something to say about illusions in architecture?

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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Apr 02
Apr 30
Jul 16
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ideas COMPETITION
MICROHOME 2021 - Small living, huge impact!

Design a new concept of small-scale architecture

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN MAGAZINE
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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May 11
Sep 07
Nov 02
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project COMPETITION
Legendary Bird Home 2021

Design a bird home to fund wildlife charities

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PRODUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

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May 11
Sep 07
Nov 02
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ARCHITECTURE COMPETITIONS

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