Tips & Tactics: A Guide to Architecture Competitions

The Midnight Charette is an explicit podcast about design, architecture, and the everyday. Hosted by architectural designers David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features a variety of creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful takes and personal discussions. A wide array of subjects are covered with honesty and humor: some episodes provide useful tips for designers, while others are project reviews, interviews, or explorations of everyday life and design. The Midnight Charette is also available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

This week David and Marina share the experiences with design and architecture competitions: Why one should enter competitions, who they benefit, how to choose the right competition, different competition types, what to expect in the process, tips for winning, when they are not a good idea, and more. Enjoy!


Reasons for students to do design and architecture competitions (00:00) 

Why design competitions are different from studio projects (07:50)

Weighing the different kinds of competitions, ranging from purely conceptual to the highly realistic. (12:40)

Using competitions to learn the necessary professional skills of bending program rules (14:30) and RFPs (01:11:32).

The value of the self-confidence and validation gained from winning a design competition. (15:57) (35:55)

Where to find competitions. (17:07)

Doing a competition to win or for the experience? And selecting the right competition. (17:55)

Breaking the rules of a competition. (21:00)

A tip for actually registering to do the competition. (24:39)

The importance of doing a competition on one’s OWN. (27:20) (54:40)

David shares a design competition story. (40:22)

The most important things to do to win a competition. (41:50) (01:00:36)

How to find the right team members. (50:20)

Leveraging the competition for other opportunities. (59:30)

Marina shares some competition stories. Team size and build and making progress.(01:02:50)

Doing professional competition. (01:08:55)

Entering non-anonymous competitions. (01:12:58)

The presentation videos of Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, and Patrik Schumacher in a tower competition. (01:15:20)

Why side projects outside of the office are important for employees. (01:21:19)

Why a competition-winning project has more value than a project that did not win or did not enter. (01:25:12)

When employees should not participate in office competitions. (01:26:35)

When competitions are no longer beneficial in the career of a designer. (01:29:41

Thinking beyond competitions. (01:34:30)

Why competitions limit ideas. (01:40:20)

  • When you become an established enough as a designer, you hopefully have a new way of looking at things that no one else. So it becomes difficult to try and find validation within a system that doesn’t understand what you’re trying to do—because their scale is different from their scale. You’re job as an innovator is to say, “You know what? You’re way of measuring is incorrect. There’s this other way of measuring that’s more profound. That’s what I’m measuring myself against. You don’t get that. And at some point, me entering your competition is not worth my time.” In the end the real competition is not set by someone else. The real competition is whether or not you can have an impact on the world. That’s the real fucking competition.” (01:40:42)

About this author
Cite: The Second Studio Podcast. "Tips & Tactics: A Guide to Architecture Competitions" 17 May 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

More interviews from ourYouTube Channel

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.