UPVALUE: Why should you participate in architectural competitions?

Participating in academic competitions for architecture students has its obvious perks – from proving ourselves against the best people in the business (and definitely against your future competitors on the market) to the possibility of snatching the main prize.

But this rivalry can also bring less expected developments to your skills and career and up your value in the industry.

Although this may seem self-explanatory, learning that there is no formula to win a competition and that you may have to acquire a whole set of skills that are not taught at school to leave your competitors behind, can be quite surprising. Team building, project management, self discipline are only a few of the qualities highly sought in the architecture market. Therefore, learning how such competitions are conducted can help you excel, not only in the competition world, but also in the real-life business of architecture.

Projects developed at school often fail to show your true potential. You rarely have any influence on the assignments and sometimes settle for solutions that are tailored to satisfy the expectations of your professors. Contrary to that, competitions can be a great opportunity to unleash your creative side – there are no limits to your ideas, you are free to pick a subject that will really allow you to shine and you may come up with a concept that will make your portfolio unique.

Now, this one is quite important. Not only are the results of academic competitions often published by the trade press, but all major studios take part in them all the time. So participating in architectural competitions can give you exposure that would be hard, if not impossible, to achieve on your own. The visibility becomes even greater if the winning design is implemented and the world gets to see your ideas realized.

When you ask your colleagues and professors for feedback, it is always tainted with how they feel about you and your previous work. The competition jury doesn’t know whose design they are looking at. That’s your chance to acquire a fully honest evaluation of your design.

Competitions attract participants from across the world. It can be extremely inspiring (and eye opening in some cases) to see how representatives of different cultures approach the same subject. It is therefore also worth looking at former competitions to analyse the award-winning concepts and see what ideas worked at that time.

One may argue that you learn teamwork at school as you often get paired with other students to realise an assignment. But this has nothing to do with consciously choosing co-workers to come up with the strongest combination of skills (otherwise known as team building). During competitions you get to pick the people you want to work with. You may also decide to work by yourself if you feel that others might block your potential.

You can be surprised at how participating in the competitions may allow you to take your work to the next level. Improved self confidence, creativity, time management, openness to collaboration with people from all over the world usually take time to develop. However, taking up this challenge can accelerate your growth and provide you with experiences that would take years to gather in your everyday life.