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How to create a successful entry to any international architecture prize

Wrriten by: Jimena Orvañanos | July 10, 2017

You can read this article in: Español | English

All design competitions share the same objectives: recognition, promotion and positioning, both for projects and for architecture studios. There are a great variety of prizes aimed at different sector, meaning that the preparation of entries must be much more specific and detailed.

It is important to note that prizes involve a number of filters before being evaluated by the jury, meaning that preparing a good entry makes it more likely that the project will be recognized as a finalist, even if it isn’t the outright winner of the category.

Different prizes fulfill different purposes. Whether it is for excellence in architectural design such as the World Architecture Festival, innovative formal solutions or progressive and experimental proposals such as the P/A Awards, interior design such as the Best Interiors of Latin America and the Caribbean, or real estate development such as the ICSC, the process of preparing an entry is essentially the same:

  1. Learn about the different design prizes.

It is very easy to find information about calls for entry to design prizes: whether in announcements on architecture websites, personal invitations to the firm, or articles in magazines and other publications in each sector.

  1. Choose and schedule

Once you have decided which prizes are of interest to your firm, look carefully at the call for entries to schedule the submission deadlines, the costs and above all to get organized and prepare your material in good time.

  1. Study winners from previous years

Almost all magazines will publish the special editions of prizes with articles on the winners in each category, explaining the reasons they were chosen by the jury. It is very worthwhile studying these texts to understand how the story of the project should be told for a particular prizes, focusing on the category or sector it is aimed at.

Studying winning projects (normally published on the website for each prize) provides us with tools for the selection of projects according to the profile and the category. On the basis of this study, you will have a much better chance of winning.

I also recommend researching the members of the jury as they are often from a variety of backgrounds. Although many are architects this is not always the case, and they will all have different profiles.

  1. Project selection

Always make sure that the conditions of the project fall within the requirements for the prize, such as typology, completion dates for the work, size in square meters, client confidentiality, etc. Otherwise, the entry will be disqualified from the outset.

It is important to identify the competitive element of the project (its added value) in relation to the winning projects analyzed in point 3, and seek to emphasis this aspect, without forgetting to explain the overall project.

For example, Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos presented these projects which were recognized as finalists at the World Architecture Festival 2016. Emphasis was laid on the conceptual design of the Spa at the Hotel Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen; emphasis on the roof gardens of the Torre Residencial BSF; and finally emphasis on the façade of Massimo Dutti Masaryk in relation to its artisan, local manufacture combined with global design.

  1. Material analysis: quality over quantity

Analyze the material available for each project such as renders, professional photographs, presentation plans, sketches, videos and diagrams that explain both the conceptual idea for the project as well as its competitive element.

It is common to want to include all kinds of images. This is fine as long as material is selected that really explains what we want to communicate and in the right order.

  1. Production of missing material

If the existing material is inadequate in terms of quality/clarity/quantity, then the necessary material must be produced (this is why it is important to schedule the final delivery date). Visual quality and coherence add a great deal to the presentation of a project, since in the end all juries are intimately related to different disciplines of the world of design.

Finally… Good luck! Not all entries have to be winners, nor is there an exact formula. So try, learn, and try again.

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