Why do you participate in architectural competitions? We don’t all participate in competitions for the same reasons. In your case, do you do it because you have seen others do it? Do you do it to earn money or recognition? Is it because it allows you to express yourself or to show what you are capable of? Is it because it is in line with your beliefs or personal struggles to improve society? Let’s be rational and realistic, architecture is not the best way to make money or a name. If becoming rich or famous was your dream when you were choosing architecture, you certainly oversold its lucrative and iconic aspects. If money is what you’re looking for, you’d better turn to business. If fame is more your priority, maybe music, movies or any other entertainment profession is better for you. Or you can always become an influencer, it’s trendy. This doesn’t mean that architecture is not a good profession – quite the contrary. The message is rather that you need to know why you do things. If you don’t know why you’re in a competition or if you’re in it just for the price, you risk missing the most important thing. And in this case, if you do not succeed, you might think that you have made unnecessary sacrifices, which is certainly not true. Let’s have a little talk here about a better attitude as well as the benefits of competition beyond the price.

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Ren Building, Shanghai by BIG ©e-architect.com

Giving everything its share of importance

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Faculdade de arquitetura ©tuiuti.edu.br

For many people, participating in a competition may be motivated by only one thing: winning! There is therefore an obvious tendency to neglect the process, which is just as important, if not more so. An architecture or design competition is like an adventure that can be customized to your personal preferences. It is up to us to define our personal goal for the quest. But no matter what the goal is, whether it is achieved completely, halfway or not at all, at least the various intermediate levels will have contributed added value to you. The work you do is what shapes you, not the result. Moreover, the result does not depend on you, or at least little, unlike the process over which you have total control. The more importance you place on winning while neglecting the rest, the more likely you are to have a drop in motivation if you fail. So it’s in your best interest to stop seeing winning as the ultimate goal and the rest as insignificant little goals. So review your priorities.

Reward yourself first

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Raffaele, Calzoni – Ali Khan ©APCK! Studio

Some people often say “the most important thing is not to win, but to participate,” to which others respond ” nice loser sentence”. You have enough to be proud of when you’ve won, but when you haven’t won, don’t you have any reason to be proud? Or do you have any reason to be unhappy? Like most work, both academic and professional, competitions require us to produce a certain piece of work within a certain time frame. Anyone well informed will tell you that in architecture, deadlines are sacred! Once you have engaged in a competition on a theme you are passionate about, done all the necessary research, analyzed the context, designed a proposal you are proud of and submitted your project on time, you have reason to be proud. It’s already a small victory, as a mentor often told me. Indeed, respecting deadlines is an obligation, but it is not a sure thing. Participation alone already allows you to train yourself to a certain rigour and self-discipline. These qualities are essential for success in training and in the practice of the profession. Above all, throughout the process, make sure you have fun while working. This will be your way of rewarding yourself first.

Exercising creativity beyond the daily activities

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Explore BIG’s world of form and color ©dac.dk

There is a wide range of competitions in architecture, design and other related fields. There is an immense variety in the themes and issues addressed. So, no matter what your trends, tastes or whatever struggles you are engaged in, you will find opportunities to express yourself. You may as well choose to step out of the familiar and move into the unknown.

Very often, at school or in the practice of the profession, we don’t have much freedom and therefore we manage with a lot of constraints that put us in a box, limiting our creativity. Architectural competitions are often an opportunity to get out of this routine and exercise our creativity. Indeed, in most cases, the field of possibilities is quite wide because of restrictions limited to a minimum or even non-existent in other cases.

Acquire new knowledge and practice skills

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Combining passion with purpose ©remoteyear.com

In such a vast and, above all, rapidly evolving field, our general culture must follow and the same goes for our skills. This culture must be enriched daily and strategically. Whether we are students or professionals, it is therefore very important to go towards opportunities that allow us to learn. An architectural competition is first and foremost an opportunity for discovery and learning. In many cases, it is an opportunity to work with new people, in new environments or on new themes. There are so many of them and the themes are quite diverse and often touch on current topics with huge stakes. Besides, the formation of multidisciplinary teams is very often encouraged and is probably the best way to get new looks at what we do and what we don’t do. But even if you work alone, it doesn’t stop you from learning and gaining experience. The research work done after reading the brief is a very important part of building our knowledge. It opens us up to new concepts, fields, places, communities, types of projects and more. Also, we have time to play with the different information received during the work process, creating new neuronal connections. We also have the opportunity to practice new tools or even old ones to stay the course and progress.

Develop and improve your resume and portfolio

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Amazon portfolio, yo is more by etienne duval ©dezeen.com

In the search for opportunities, your resume and portfolio are the most important things. After all, you won’t get in anywhere at all if people don’t know who you are and what you’re capable of. That’s where these documents come into play because they’re the ones that will mainly show you off to your best advantage.

The good news is that anything you experience or learn as a new skill will help improve your resume and your portfolio. And for that, it’s better to put quality ahead of quantity. Each competition you participate in can therefore bring a lot to your portfolio, the first of which is the project you have proposed. We could also consider new tools that you have learned, a role that you have assumed and much more. And we must not forget that even the simple fact of having participated in the competition already shows a certain willingness to go beyond what is common and that you are not afraid of competition, which is an asset in the profession.

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Big time, Bjarke Ingels documentary ©hypebeast.com

Finally, it is true that the manifestations of your success or achievement are visible and known to the large public. But what forges you and makes the foundation of this success that can be seen when the time comes is hidden in the shadows. This is the hidden side of success. That’s why winning is good, but ” learn is more “. 








Franklin Yemeli is a young architecture student and blogger passionate about architecture and its relationship with nature and humans. He is convinced that these entities can help each other in a symbiotic relationship. He considers architectural discussions as introspections that allows one to be a little more architect every day.