Architectural Competitions are a glorious waste of time


Competitions are a glorious waste of time… Do a lot of them

I try to enter a few Architectural competitions each year. Apparently, my ego must be pretty resilient. I never win (never even get close) and yet, I just keep entering again and again. Oh, Architectural Competitions, Why can’t I resist your charms?

Well, maybe because:

  • They allow for freedom of thought. They are a great way to flesh out ideas you aren’t able to explore in your day job. Unless you happen to have an amazing day job, in which case, I don’t really want to hear about that right now.
  • Competitions often focus on urgent social and cultural issues. Like disaster recovery, homeless housing, urban renewal, city planning, or environmental consciousness. Working on them is a great way to stay socially active and thoughtful. It’s a way to express what you stand for and “design like you give a damn”.
  • Deadlines are your friend. Face it, you’re never going to finish that painting you started in 1997, are you? A competition will give you a deadline and an exact list of the required documents to submit. It will give you a structured way to channel your creative energy. And, ideally, you’ll assemble a team to help you, and keep you on track. Because, you (my friend) are lazy.
  • They give you that warm, pleasant feeling of accomplishment. Maybe even a sense of pride. And, your mom will be proud of you. Well, not my Mom. She’ll make me feel guilty for not spending that time making some money to feed her grandkids. She’s got a good point actually.
  • Competitions will make you a better designer. You’ll get better at your graphics. You’ll step up your game when it comes to presentation materials. You can even use it as an excuse to try out that new rendering software, or build a chipboard model like you used to do in school.
  • You could win… Well, not me, but maybe YOU could win.

So, go dig around and find a competition to enter. You’ll feel better. Here’s a few good places to look for them:

So, just to satisfy a morbid sense of curiosity; Here are some of my competition entries over the last few years. 

And the losers are:

GIVE AND TAKE – “Mowing to Growing – A design competition for creating productive green space in cities”

CHAIN OF ECO-HOMES – sustainable house competition – Greensburg, KS.

PARKITECTURE – design competition “designing the garage of the future”

DXR – Brownhouse – “Design Expo Raleigh – 2008”

SAVING SPACES –  “Urban infill housing in downtown Wilmington, NC.”

COURTYARD HOUSING – Seattle, WA. “Affordable, High-density courtyard housing in various urban infill sites around Downtown Seattle”

SAN ISIDRO – Housing Competition 2007 “modular housing high-rise”