Organising an Architectural Design Competition


There are two basic types of competitions:

  • The ideas competition, which demonstrates numerous conceptual approaches and proposals, without the intention of directly realising the task or project.
  • The project competition, which demonstrates numerous solutions for the intended realization of a project.

Ideas competitions seek to elucidate certain approaches to architectural and/or planning problems. The winning project is not generally destined for realization and its author is therefore not commissioned as the architect. If the client intends to make use of the winning or any other scheme, he/she shall undertake some form of formal collaboration with its author. In certain cases, a contract with the winner as architect-consultant may be envisaged.


The objective of a project competition is to find the best solution for the project to be realized, with the author of the winning submission commissioned as architect for its realisation.



Competitions can be conducted as single-stage competitions, two-stage competitions or, in rare circumstances, multiple stage competitions.

Ideas competitions are usually single-stage competitions. In some instances, ideas competitions may be the first stage of a two-stage competition in which the second stage is a project competition. Project competitions may be organized as one or two-stage competitions. This must be clearly stated in the brief. When possible, project competitions should be organized as one-stage competitions.

Two-stage competitions require a substantial, additional commitment for both the client and the participants and therefore their use is advised only for particularly complex architectural tasks. In two-stage competitions, the first stage should have reasonably light submission requirements, consisting of a general approach, usually an overall conceptual plan accompanied by schematic drawings and sketches sufficient to demonstrate the intentions of the competitor.



Competitions can be organized in the following three forms: as open, restricted, or invited.


Open procedures permit all eligible professionals to submit entries.

Restricted procedures permit a pre-selection of participants after an open call.

Procedures by invitation allow contracting authorities to determine which participants will be invited to take part in the competition. Invited competitions are only possible below the EU threshold.