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
  • Ideas competitions first
project COMPETITION
Legendary Bird Home 2020

Design a bird home to fund wildlife charities

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PRODUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Dec 13
Feb 11
May 14
Register now
ideas COMPETITION
SKYHIVE 2020 Skyscraper Challenge

Redefine the modern-day skyscraper

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Dec 17
Feb 14
May 17
Register now
ideas COMPETITION
San Francisco Affordable Housing Challenge

Design solutions for San Francisco affordable housing problem

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

registration deadlines

Dec 20
Feb 18
May 21
Register now
project COMPETITION
Vale De Moses Meditation Cabins

Design meditation cabins in Portugal

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 10
Feb 21
May 24
Register now
project COMPETITION
Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center

Design an iconic visitor center for Abu Dhabi’s unique wetlands natural reserve

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 14
Feb 25
May 28
Register now
project COMPETITION
Mega Dunes Eco Lodges - Abu Dhabi

Design comfortable, sustainable visitor huts for the Abu Dhabi protected nature reserve

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 17
Feb 28
Jun 01
Register now
project COMPETITION
Monte d'Oiro Wine Tasting Room

Design an iconic space for guests to enjoy the wines and the views of this Portuguese vineyard

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 21
Mar 03
Jun 05
Register now
project COMPETITION
Kurgi Observation Tower

Design an eco-farm observation tower in UNESCO biosphere reserve

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 24
Mar 06
Jun 08
Register now
ideas COMPETITION
RE-Stock London Housing

Submit affordable housing solutions for the one of the world’s most iconic and expensive cities

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

registration deadlines

Jan 28
Mar 10
Jun 12
Register now

ARCHITECTURE COMPETITIONS

Newsletter