An architectural design competition is a type of competition in which an organization or government body that plans to construct a new building invites architects to submit a design proposal. These architectural competitions are used to generate new ideas for building design, stimulate public debate, generate publicity for the project, and allow emerging designers to gain exposure. The main reason to conduct such competitions is to gain commissions for a public building

The main objectives to conduct these competitions are:

  1. To select a design and an architect;
  2. To select an architect
  3. To provide awards for design ideas and/or research. 
Why architectural competitions are conducted? - Sheet1
Architecture Competitions_©beebreeders

The History of Architectural Competitions:

Architectural competitions are not a recent development in the architectural industry but rather have been a part of it for more than 2,500 years. The Acropolis in Athens was a result of architectural competitions in 448 BC and as were several cathedrals in the middle ages. During the Renaissance, many of the projects were initiated by the church, and their designs were finalized through architectural competitions, such as the Spanish Steps in Rome, and Florence Cathedral Dome Design which was won by Filippo Brunelleschi. The Concept of open competitions started in the Late 18th century in several countries: The United States, Great Berlin, Ireland, France, and Sweden. 

Why architectural competitions are conducted? - Sheet2
Acropolis in Athens_ ©
Renessaince architceture_©beebreeders

In the 19th Century, England and Ireland alone had conducted 2,500 competitions in five decades, with London having 362 of these competitions itself. The Royal Institute of British Architects then drafted the set of first rules for these competitions in 1839 and a set of formal regulations in 1872. The German regulations were introduced in 1867, the same period the Netherlands, started organizing conceptual competitions to stimulate architects’ creativity. 

There are different types of architectural competitions which include:

  1. Open Competitions (international, national, or Regional) or limited, selected Non-open competitions depending on who is allowed to participate. 
  2. Project Competition or Idea Competition, depending on the intention of building the project or generating an idea.
  3. Single-stage or two-stage competition, depending on the scale and complexity of the competition. 
  4. Anonymous or Corporative Procedures, where anonymity helps support greater objectivity during the evaluation of design, and corporative procedures require participants to present their ideas through in-person presentations.
  5. Student Architecture Competitions are a great way to open up career opportunities for students and widen their scope of creativity.  

Conducting architectural competitions allows for a wide range of diverse solutions to a single problem from various architects and designers of different ages and experiences, which cannot be possible by preselecting one architect. They are most common in countries such as Finland, Ireland, The United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. These competitions result in gathering high-quality designs and even catch public interest in the role of architecture in national and community life. These competitions are a source of benefits to various stakeholders that become a part of this competition, it can either the participant, the organizer, or the sponsor. 

Benefits of Architectural Competitions:

For sponsors: It provides them with options, they can choose a design and its architect through these competitions or even kick start their project through the research and the ideas obtain through it. These competitors give the sponsors of the project the to design project-driven excellence due to various solutions collected and researched. 

For Architects: These competitions are great opportunities for new and young architects to step into the world of the corporate world where they can kick start their careers as architects. Several significant architects have launched their careers because their designs were selected as the winning schemes. 

For the Community: These competitions can create community interests and involvement where a successful conclusion can lead to community identity and pride. 

For Corporations/Institutions: These competitions bring positive attention and help promote and contribute to the corporate/institutional identity. 

Apart from the benefits of architectural competitions, there are several pros and cons of them:


  1. It opens up new opportunities for various participants, either solo architects, architectural firms, or even architectural students who want to showcase their talent before they step into the industry. 
  2. These Competitions are a way of training architects to solve different types of problems and provide the sponsors with various solutions to find the best which they think is suitable according to the project requirement. 


  1. These design competitions, are a way to generate multiple design solutions they are also cost-heavy, and sponsors organizing them usually have to keep in mind that this competition can cost them more than the budget they have initially set, for example, Sydney Opera House was supposed to be built in 7 million, but due to the design competition held for its design, the budget spiked up to 120 Million. 
  2. It’s not often, but this completion can sometimes be a source of wasted time and resources, where no actual solution can be interpreted and the design competition entirely goes to waste with added financial costs as well. 

But as an architect and designer, it is highly recommended that one should never pass up the opportunity of participating in these design competitions if they have a chance and resources to become a part of something big. 



Areeba Rizwan is currently pursuing her Bachelors in Architecture. She is a travel enthusiast with an interest in learning about architecture through different mediums.An avid reader who likes to scribble her thoughts and ideas on paper and believes that architectural writing is an important part of learning.