Architecture competitions are hard work, so it’s important to choose a topic that interests you. When you’re on your 10th cup of coffee and still working at 4 am, 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.

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DON’T think it’ll be easy

There’s a lot of work and research needed in creating an award-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 gain by participating

Before you register for a competition, think about what you want to achieve by participating. Does your portfolio need a little more diversity? Then choose a competition that will let you create designs that your academic curriculum doesn’t accommodate. Are you looking to learn new skills? Select 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 mentioned, architecture competitions will take time, energy and effort, so make sure that you have enough time in your schedule to dedicate to work on it. All the deadlines and submission requirements will be displayed in every architecture competition, so check 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 are entering a competition. All the dates for deadlines and announcements are on the competition’s web page, so note them straight into your diary the moment you sign up. This includes keeping the record of the dates of when winners and runners up will be announced. If you’re not declared 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 important architecture news websites to see your name/code and project features.

DO your research, not just in your field

There will be plenty of research to be done before you even start brainstorming ideas. Look for 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. Also, don’t forget to study the user group of the design brief.

DON’T Be Afraid to Be Bold

No one ever wins an architecture competition by playing it safe. For each of the competitions, the participants should explore the limits of their creativity. While there will be some suggested minimum criteria, jury panels respond to those participants that are bold with their design ideas.

DO research previous winners

Every one of the previous winners and runners up of the competitions is interviewed and they speak about their experience with the competition, alongside jury panel comments on why they deserve to win. Make sure to check out their work and look at what they focused on in order to claim the prizes.

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 very often there will be panel members who represent a client, an area or city board, a charity or a business. Their decision is equally valid as any other architects’ and designers on the panel, and using too much jargon could limit your chances of them understanding and appreciating all your amazing work.

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DO enter more competitions, whether you win them or not

If you win a competition that’s great, but there’s nothing to prevent you from entering another one. Likewise, if you didn’t win this time, there are always new briefs and challenges to explore and new skills to learn. Learn from your experience and enter again.

Don’t get discouraged by all our warnings of how much work a competition needs. Yes, it’s hard work but it’s also incredibly worth it. Even if you don’t win this time, don’t be discouraged from entering again.

DO show your passion for the project

Hopefully, you are entering a competition because you are passionate about the project, but at the very least you should be zealous about your design having spent weeks working on it. Prove the jury that you’re so passionate, make it clear in your reasoning and the visuals that you present.

DON’T leave the presentation board layout for the last minute

Don’t leave thinking about your presentation board for the last minute. It can be easy to get carried away working on sketches, plans, and renders, but if you take out a little time to plan how you’re going to layout your drawings and sheets, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what needs to be incorporated and what needs to be worked on.

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 the competition. So, remember to take breaks and get away from the screen. Go for a walk, get a cup of coffee, go outside, or even just switch to working with an old school pencil and paper.

Give yourself a break and you’ll be sure to produce better quality designs.

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DO ask for help

Even if you’re working on a project as a team, it’s necessary to ask for 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 to keep you on track and produce your best work.

DON’T take all the advice you hear

Asking for advice, inputs, and opinions is a great way to make sure that you’re on track and that you’re producing the best presentation boards possible. But just because somebody 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 choice on what and how to submit. If you disagree with any other opinion, listen, consider, and then disregard it.

Do Make Your Presentation Drawings Visually Impressive

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 shortlist the potential winners. Lead your presentation with your strongest, most attractive image that best encapsulates your project idea.

DON’T let visuals consume the content

Your visuals will predominantly grab the jury’s attention, but you’ll need to support them with enough valuable information that explains your research, concept and decisions you made while creating your final designs.


DO regularly check the architecture competitions homepage

Even if you’re not necessarily planning to participate in a competition right now, be sure you regularly browse through the open architecture competition’s homepage. There could be a competition that’s absolutely right for you waiting for you to take part in, or you could just check out some of the amazing entries and past winners for future participation.


Prachi Surana is a budding Architect, studying in the Final Year B. Arch at BNCA, Pune. She is a dreamer, believer, hard worker and believes in the power of the Good. Prachi spends her time reading, painting, travelling, writing and working on the Design Team for NASA, India.

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