What’s The Point of Architecture Competitions?

Today’s Topics:

  • Why Do Them?
  • 2nd Year Competition
  • How do you win them?

Why Do Them?

There are a lot of architecture competitions that are open for a range of skill levels to participate in, and a range of scales.

Since I’ve been in college I have been part of the Futurehaus project that has won a competition, I have designed a building with the Seismic Design Team that won 1st place in architecture and 3rd place in board design. I have participated in the AIAVirginia competition, and now this week the 2nd year competition.

This shows the range of work I have done across disciplines and on different scales with different requirements and types of buildings.

The question is, why do I keep doing these? Why would anyone compete?

Looking at the amount of people that partake in these competitions, the odds that I actually make a winning design are extremely low.

So why spend so much time for only a small chance at success?

Good question, regardless of the outcome I am glad that I do architecture competitions. I mainly focus on the experience from doing these.

I am always working to learn something new whether it be from doing the work itself, or having conversations with others about their projects.

2nd Year Competition

Something I’ve been anticipating all school year has finally arrived. The 2nd year architecture competition starts today.

It will be a 7 day long project starting at 1 PM today, and through a long week of work will end the following Monday.

My architecture studio course has paused so that all my attention can turn towards this project.

There are around 125 people in my architecture class, meaning a less than 1% chance of coming to me #1.

A hard, but achievable feat.

Looking back to this past competition You can have a look at my board. A lot of my time was spent on researching for the project, rather than composing my ideas in an understandable manner.

Something I plan to improve upon learning from that competition is my board composition. It is the single most important part to an architecture competition.

How Do You Win Them?

I will start off by saying there is no exact science to winning architecture competitions.

There are so many factors out of your control. Your board could be amazing, but maybe the judge is looking for something else that is not in your board. Maybe someone portrays their board in a different manner and a judge likes that better.

The most important thing to do is be efficient with your time. Especially if the project is done with a small time frame. It is like running a mile, you have to pace yourself.

Another thing to do (if you are allowed) is to get feedback prior to turning it in. Ask others about the clarity of your work. Find out if they understand it. Then go back and make changes.

Something that I have heard through multiple competitions is to do something that no one else is doing.

It is much harder to stand out when your project is similar to the next person. You have to change your perception of what you are designing is supposed to look like to create a new idea.

Overall, there is no perfect way to win anything in life, it is just about doing all that you can to set yourself up for success.


Thanks for tuning into this week’s blog post, I hope you’ve enjoyed it! By this time next week, I will have completed the 2nd year competition, so wish me luck! As always, Dream Big!

Published by Alonzo Colon

Architecture Student at Virginia Tech

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