The DO’s and DON’Ts Of Entering Architecture Competitions
If this is your first time taking part in an architecture competition, or it’s been a while since you last entered one, here are a few do’s and don’ts to make sure your submitted project has the best chance of winning!
DO CHOOSE A COMPETITION THAT INTERESTS YOU
Architecture competitions are hard work, so it’s important to choose a topic that interests you. When you’re on your 12th cup of coffee and still working at 3am, you’re going to find it much easier to keep that motivation up if you’re working on a project that you’re passionate about.
DON’T think it’ll be easy
There’s a lot of work required in creating a prize-winning project, so it’s important to enter an architecture competition with a clear understanding that the next few weeks will be challenging (but rewarding).
DO think about what you’re trying to achieve by entering
Before you enter a competition, think about what it is you want to achieve by entering. Does your portfolio need a little more diversity? Then choose a competition that will let you create designs that your day-to-day life doesn’t accommodate. Are you looking to learn new skills? Choose a competition that will have you collaborating with others and add their experience to yours.
DO MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME
As we’ve said, architecture competitions will take time and effort, so make sure that you have enough time in your schedule to dedicate to working on it. All the deadlines will be clearly displayed in each architecture competition brief, so check to make sure that it won’t conflict with other important dates in your calendar.
DON’T forget the dates (deadlines and announcements)
Make sure you don’t miss any deadlines when you enter a competition. All the dates for deadlines and announcements are on the competition's main page, so put them straight into your diary the moment you sign up. This includes putting in dates of when winners and runners up will be announced. If you’re not selected as a winner you may not be contacted directly so keep an eye on your inbox on those dates.
And if you are selected then those are the dates to share your great news all over social media, and keep an eye out on major architecture news websites to see your name and project featured.
DO your research, not just in your field
There will be plenty of research to get done before you even start brainstorming ideas. Look to the techniques and topics of the competition, research their background, their uses in other projects, as well as other architects and designers and their inspirations.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE BOLD
Suggestion to convert Buckingham Palace into affordable housing for public // Project: Affordable Palace, authors: OPPOSITE OFFICE (Benedikt Hartl, Thomas Haseneder) // Competition: London Affordable Housing Challenge
No one ever won an architecture competition by playing it safe. For each of our competitions we encourage participants to explore the limits of their creativity. While there will be some suggested minimum criteria, jury panels really respond to those participants that are bold with their designs.
DO research previous winners
Every one of our previous winners and runners up are interviewed and speak about their experience with the competition, alongside jury panel comments on why they selected those projects to win. Be sure to check out their work and look to see what they focused on in order to claim first prize.
DON’T use overly technical jargon
Yes, most of the jury panel will be able to understand you if you use a lot of technical jargon, but that can limit who else can fully interpret your project. Very often there will be panel members who represent a potential client, a region or city board, a charity or a business. Their opinion is just as valid as the architects and designers on the panel, and using too much jargon could limit your chances of them understanding and appreciating all your amazing work.
DO enter more competitions, whether you win or not
If you win a competition that’s great, but there’s nothing to stop you from entering another one. Likewise if you didn’t win this time. There’s always new topics to explore and new skills to learn. Learn from your past experience and enter again!
DON’T get discouraged
Don’t get discouraged by all our warnings of how much work a competition is. Yes, it’s hard work but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Even if you don’t win this time, don’t be discouraged from entering again.
DO show your passion for the project
Hopefully you entered a competition because you were passionate about the project, but at the very least you should be passionate about your project having spent weeks working on it. Show the jury why you’re so passionate, make it clear in your reasoning and the visuals that you present.
DON’T leave the presentation board layout to the last minute
Please please please don’t leave thinking about your presentation board to the last minute. It can be easy to get carried away working on sketches, plans, and renders, but if you take a little time to plan how you’re going to layout your presentation boards, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what needs to be included and what needs to be worked on.
Check out some of our previous winners to get an idea of some great presentation board layouts.
DO take breaks from the screen
Too many hours staring at a screen could drive you nuts, especially if you’re working or studying in addition to working on your competition submission. So remember to take breaks and get away from the screen. Go for a walk, get a cup of coffee, get outside, or even just switch to working with an old fashioned pencil and paper.
Give yourself a break and a little perspective and you’ll be sure to produce better quality designs.
DO ask for help
Even if you’re working on a project as a team, it’s important to ask for outside help when you need it. Whether it’s asking for an ear to talk through ideas with or an eye to look over your presentation boards before you submit them, some outside perspective could help keep you on track and produce your very best work.
DON’T take all the advice you hear
Asking for advice, input, and opinions is a great way to make sure that you’re on track and that you’re producing the best design possible. But just because someone offers you their advice doesn’t mean you have to take it. The project design is yours (and your team’s) so at the end of the day it’s your decision on what to submit. If you disagree with an outside opinion, listen, consider, and then disregard it.
DO MAKE YOUR PRESENTATION BOARDS VISUALLY IMPRESSIVE
Nemrut Volcano Eyes architecture ideas competition 1st Prize winners' project - "Upservatory" (authors: Fernando Irizarry, Marcos Ortiz, Gabriel Rivera from UNIVERSITY OF PUERTO RICO, RIO PIEDRAS CAMPUS)
Your images will be the first thing the jury panel sees, and it’s those that will grab their attention when they’re looking to generate a shortlist of potential winners. Lead your presentation with your strongest, most striking image that best encapsulates your project idea.
DON’T let visuals consume the content
Your visuals are what will grab the jury’s attention, but you’ll need to support them with enough valuable information that explains your research and the decisions you made in creating your final designs.
DO regularly check the architecture competitions homepage
Even if you’re not necessarily planning to enter a competition right now, be sure to regularly browse through our open architecture competitions homepage. There could be a competition that’s just right for you just waiting for you to take part, or you could just check out some of our amazing entries and past winners.