Entering architectural competitions

What is it?

Charles Holland in his blog, Fantastic Journal, recently submitted this entry imploring architects to stop entering competitions. He points out that architectural competitions are wasteful of time and resources; give away for free the architect’s most valuable possession, his or her ideas; are stressful to enter; and are very unlikely to ever be built. He concludes by suggesting that taking one’s staff down to the pub for a drink would be cheaper and more fun.

What do we think?

There are certainly architectural studios around the world that make a living off entering competitions, but in Australia, this is rare. Bread and butter projects for architects interested in good design are houses, or renovations to houses. They are shop fitouts, bars, cafes and other small interventions. Whilst these projects are exciting and their construction is extremely fulfilling, they are often very limited in scope and budget.

Competitions permit an architect to test out new ideas, experiment, let loose a little. Entering a competition is like a car manufacturer showing a bizarre prototype model at the Geneva motor show – the car is never intended to go into production, rather it tests out ideas for future models that will be built.

Whilst we agree with all of Holland’s very good arguments, they are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose in entering a competition.

The purpose is not to win but to enter.

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