Architectural competitions, for centuries, have been an integral part of innovation in the field. It forces individuals to push boundaries of their creativity, urging them to think beyond the possible! It also helps source the best and most unique designs for projects, fueling community engagement, and holistic development. Though competitions with their tight timelines and relatively less monetary benefits are demanding, they are essential for the profession which pushes the field forward. With this in mind, following are a few pointers that we all should consider as we debate whether it is worth our while to invest time and money into it.
Let it flow!
Competitions provide architects and students with an avenue to let loose their creative side, to be free from reality. When architecture is our means of earning a living, it is easy to focus on monetary gains. However, if we were in it purely for the money, many of us would have chosen a different path. If we are genuinely passionate about architecture, then competitions are a way of exploring that passion. Without the limitation and constraints that clients or supervisors impose, competitions should be welcomed as a breath of fresh air, where we can design truly for ourselves. Consider them as testing beds for concepts and explorations. So many untested theories, ideas and details get lost in the haze of daily mundane routines and everyday practice. Competitions are opportunities to bring them out to the fore. They encourage us to think of out-of-the-box creative ideas, make mistakes, and learn and develop from them, with little risk.
Experience is an important factor in every field. At the end of the day, the more projects you work on, the more experience you gain as a practicing architect. Practice is all we can do to evolve into the best possible designer. Competitions have the advantage of every entry being judged, with a few receiving the judges’ comments, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the design. This could be taken as opportunities to identify faults and areas for improvement, encouraging growth as a designer, adding fuel to the creative fire. The added benefit of competitions is their relatively shorter timelines and deadlines. This means that it would take less time to complete a competition project than to finish the execution of a project in real life. To grow your portfolio in a limited time, competitions can prove useful.
Novice architects and students need to be focused on building their portfolio. Architectural competitions are a great way to earn experience without actual experience. Without having to work within a firm, it provides an opportunity to represent ourselves as a designer. Even seasoned architects, they have a chance to build their portfolio, working on designs and ideas that they’ve previously not had the opportunity or skills to complete. Even if we don’t win every competition, it is taking part that counts. It shows that we have confidence in our ability and are willing to put yourself out there against others.
Competitions offer opportunities for fresh architects that are usually not available through other straightforward methods. They offer an equal level ground for students, young and experienced architects to come up with design solutions to a particular brief. Architects who would otherwise not have been considered in the usual way for an important commission, have an opportunity to prove their ability and talent. For the sponsors, this would mean having a variety of solutions to their problem/s and having the luxury to choose the most appropriate one. Young minds bring fresh perspectives while senior architects provide experienced solutions; the result can even see a collaboration between two teams!
Several significant architects have launched their careers from being selected as the winning scheme. The Victoria Memorial wouldn’t have the powerful and graceful design if not for the competition urging Maya Lin to come up with the winning entry. Pompidou Centre was born out of a competition that a young team of architects used as a way to test urban gestures, using only a portion of the allotted site, leaving the rest for public use. Dating quite further back, if not for an Italian man initially losing a competition, only to be determined to further his architectural understanding, we would have been without the great achievement of Brunelleschi’s dome.
Apart from individual submissions, working in teams for competitions allows forming connections and improving collaborative skills. The design field requires us to work with others in one form or the other in the real world, with consultants, project managers, etc. to help in the overall process. Learning to work with others helps us bounce off ideas to sieve out crude concepts and develop them into working memorable designs. Building connections and networking are vital aids that can be used to our advantage in the world of architecture.
There are many advantages of entering architecture competitions, from simply exercising creativity, growing the portfolio, to gaining recognition. A chance to work on our skills, test out ideas, and to have fun!