What Makes A Great/Good Architecture Competition? Part 1: The Jury Panel

There are a lot of factors that go into making a great architecture competition, from an exciting topic, a challenging brief, and an opportunity to showcase your passions and talents. One factor that gets overlooked all-too often is the role of the jury panel in making an architecture competition engaging and fulfilling for its participants.

1. The size of the jury panel

You’ve heard the phrase, too many cooks spoil the broth? Well, too many jury members can ruin the chance of awarding some amazing project submissions with first prize. With over-sized jury panels the debate and indecision will not only make the judging process incredibly long but will make it highly ineffective.

What Makes A Great/Good Architecture Competition? Part 1: The Jury Panel

While it is impossible to please everyone all the time, architecture competition winners typically stand out and a jury panel will tend to shortlist many of the same project submissions. With 10, 12, 14, etc jury members this makes for a very long shortlist that is difficult to whittle down in order to choose winners.

Note: Buildner limits its jury panel to no more than five professionals

2. The background/experience of the jury panel

It’s not just the size of the jury, but also who makes it up. Each competition is different and will often require a varied set of backgrounds and opinions to select the winning entry. However, many large-scale architecture competitions have been known to include numerous members of the media and company marketing departments, leaving little room for architecture professionals and academics to make their voices heard.

A recent architecture competition to create a Holocaust memorial in London had a massive 14-member jury panel, many of whom were media figures, politicians, celebrities and intermediaries. With many of the jurors unable to fully understand the architectural concepts in the submitted projects, its typical to favour lower-risk, more consensual options.

3. A celebrity jury member isn’t always a good thing

What Makes A Great/Good Architecture Competition? Part 1: The Jury Panel

Having a celebrity guest judge has done wonders for TV talent shows, but architecture competitions that have a celebrity judge don’t necessarily produce better winning projects. Having a big name attached to a competition will get it some extra media attention and possibly more entries, but there is no guarantee that the ‘big name’ will maka a great jury panel member.

Very often they will receive a fee for attaching their name to the project, rather than taking part because of their passion for either the project or for architecture and design in general.

4. Providing feedback to the winners

With some open architecture competitions receiving hundreds of project submissions, it’s not always going to be possible to give feedback to every single entry. However, a jury panel will have plenty of views and opinions on their selected winning entries that can and should be shared along with the finalist selections.

If a jury panel simply selects their winners and announces them in a press release without any further information, the participants lose out on valuable information that could help them improve their work and encourage them to take part in more competitions in the future.

Open architecture competition organisers like Buildner, on the other hand, give feedback on all of the selected winning entries, describing their decision process in detail in relation to the brief and the quality of the project submissions.

What to look for in an architecture competition jury

What Makes A Great/Good Architecture Competition? Part 1: The Jury Panel

When deciding to take part in architecture competitions, be sure to look to past entries and winning project announcements. The organizers should include comments from the jury panel explaining why they were passionate about the projects they selected as winners. Don’t get distracted by big names or massive jury panels; an involved and enthusiastic jury is more important in making your architecture competition experience a great one.

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