Why enter an architectural ideas competition? While cash prizes often form the initial draw, the long-lasting value of design competitions are compelling — they can form a creative vehicle for you to develop your own architectural vision, expand your portfolio, and connect with likeminded creatives, among many positives.
Architizer’s One X Challenge Series — Comprised of the One Rendering Challenge, One Photo Challenge and One Drawing Challenge respectively — are among the most popular ideas competitions in architecture. Each competition tasks entrants with a simple yet challenging brief: Tell a powerful story about architecture with a single image. That’s right — just one!
For each competition, participants are invited to enter their best architectural drawings, renderings and photos. Entrants are encouraged to submit images that go beyond a ‘pretty picture’, communicating the atmosphere and story behind the structure, place or space they choose to depict. At their best, the Winners of the One X Challenges reveal complex truths about our world, and the role architecture plays in shaping society itself.
Each competition has a stellar lineup of jurors who are global leaders in their creative fields, and prize money for the Top Winners across all competitions totals $15,000. Further to this, an amazing 100 Finalists from each competition get published in some of Architizer’s most viewed features of the year, forming a vibrant exhibition of architecture and creative ideas.
Without further ado, learn more about three of the most popular competitions in architecture, and pre-register for some or all of them by clicking the links below.
Competition Type: Architectural Visualization / Rendering
Combined Cash Prizes: $5,000
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The One Rendering Challenge is a perfect entry into the world of architectural visualization competitions, allowing professionals to showcase their finest work and giving those just starting out a chance to shine, too. Using any modeling or rendering software, entrants are tasked with producing a single image that tells a story about a complex piece of architecture and those who inhabit it. The rendering can depict a real or imagined structure, meaning the only limitation placed on entrants is their own imagination. The resulting images — a few of which can be seen above, from past seasons — form a stunning gallery of architectural visualization, each unique in narrative and bursting with atmosphere.
Past winners include Jeremias Dabbah, Sofia Di Tomaso and Camila Crudo, students at the University of Buenos Aires, and Francisco Tirado, architect and visual artist at Cobe Architects, each of whom secured $2,500 in prize money. The jury for the competition has featured some of the biggest names in architectural visualization, including the A+Award-winning Keely Colcleugh of Kilograph, Mengyi Fan of SHoP Architects, Matthew Bannister of DBOX and Jeff Mottle of CGArchitect.
To be a part of the architecture’s premier architectural visualization competition, pre-register for the next edition of the One Rendering Challenge:
Competition Type: Architectural Photography
Combined Cash Prizes: $5,000
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The One Photo Challenge first launched in 2019 and has grown into one of the industry’s foremost architectural photography competitions, with hundreds of entries from professionals and talented amateurs alike. With the birth of the smartphone, millions of people around the world gained access to incredibly advanced cameras, opening up the world of architectural photography to the global public — but the One Photo Challenge asks for entrants to go beyond a beautiful image and think about the story behind their snap.
Recent winners of the competition have included Finnish interior architect and photography Venla Rautajoki and Anna University student Kavin Kumar La Sa, each of whom won $2,500 for their evocative images — a brilliant example of abstract photography and vibrant celebration of urban artistry. Jurors for the One Photo Challenge have included the iconic partnership of Nick Hufton and Allan Crow, as well as esteemed, A+Award-winning architectural photographers Ema Peter and Aldo Amoretti.
To have your photographs viewed by these luminaries and shoot for $2,500 and global publication, pre-register for the next edition of architecture’s most inspiring architectural photography competition:
Competition Type: Architectural Drawing / Illustration
Combined Cash Prizes: $6,000
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The competition that started it all! Architizer’s One Drawing Challenge was the platform’s first ideas competition dedicated to architectural representation, and is now open for pre-registration for its exciting fourth year. The immense popularity of this One X competition reflects our community’s profound love of drawing in all its many forms — from plans, sections and elevations to parallel projects, sketches and even abstracts.
Recent winners include Sabina Blasiotti of The Bartlett, University College London, and Endri Marku, a Lecturer at Polis University in Albania, who scooped the top prize of $2,500 and exclusive interviews about their work on Architizer. Last year, there were also 7 Special Mention Awards given for each drawing type, showcasing the best examples of drawing from students and design professionals around the globe. Past jurors for the One Drawing Challenge include renowned architects like James Wines, Suchi Reddy, Chris Precht, Marc Tsurumaki, Wandile Mthiyane and Bob Borson, to name just a few.
Pre-register for the competition to have your work seen by these influential creative thinkers, and have your architectural drawings celebrated on the world stage:
How to Win Architectural Ideas Competitions: 3 Key Considerations
For the One X Challenges, entrants are challenged to create or capturing one image that powerfully communicates a piece of architecture — real or imagined — and hints at the experience of those that would inhabit it. This architecture can be located anywhere in the world, whether in a dense urban setting, a small town or isolated in nature. It can be from any perspective, and depict architecture at any scale, from a panoramic cityscape or a cluster of buildings to an individual building or even a single detail. As long as it portrays part or all of a building or group of buildings, it is eligible. Your image should be accompanied by a short description of the architecture and the unique story behind it, no more than 150 words.
As you consider the possibilities, the next question is likely to be — how do I win? The answers lies in the criteria by which the Finalist drawings will be judged by our expert panel of architects and influencers.
Unlike a piece of pure art, the most important quality of an architectural image is its ability to communicate the unique qualities of the building or buildings it possesses. A good architectural drawing, rendering or photograph can tell the story of a building and those that might inhabit it in a single snapshot. The image can communicate many different things and focus on one or more of the following aspects: Spatial layout, technical details, materials, connections between architectural elements, relationship to context, the transition between spaces, and more.
A beautiful architectural image is undeniably appealing, but in order to win, the aesthetics of your image should be about more than just beauty. They should convey the essence of the architecture that is depicted, and the atmosphere of a space. A strong image of a ‘designed’ building will include specific architectural characteristics that speak to the creative philosophy of its architect. In contrast, aesthetics may also concern the portrayal of untidy, chaotic or even “ugly” architecture to paint a powerful picture of certain environments.
When communication and aesthetics are perfectly combined, they can produce an impactful image that is widely celebrated and eagerly shared among Architizer’s huge, design-oriented community. Virality is not an exact science, but Instagram experts understand the bold qualities that make an image memorable and shareable. The ingredients of an impactful architectural image include but are not limited to: Bold geometry, unusual angles, rich color combinations, sharp contrasts, rhythmic patterns and strong legibility.
5 Reasons to Enter Architectural Ideas Competitions
Architizer competition juror and Archihacks Founder Bennett Oh has won more than 20 architecture competitions so far in his young career to date, netting over $24,000 in prize money in the process. Here are Oh’s top five reasons to enter design competitions:
1. They offer you the freedom to design your dreams.
Competitions often stand on a hypothetical premise. Organizers are hoping to gather the widest breadth of ideas for the given site. In other words, they are not looking for the most ordinary proposal. As long as you are fulfilling the baseline functional requirements, the rest is up to you! Design your heart out, and who knows, perhaps your entry will be the chosen one.
2. They provide the opportunity to experiment and improve.
Oftentimes at work or school, there is little next to no leeway to experiment with unconventional ideas and representation methods. The risk of investing time and effort, only to get unwanted results is sometimes too high for formal projects. Competitions might be the perfect test rat for your radical concepts and visualization techniques. Many architectural innovations occurred during competitions due to the special nature of this format.
3. They offer opportunities for international recognition and validation.
Competitions tend to draw attention from the public media. Depending on the prestige of the competition, the winning architect can become an instant world star. For most competitions, the bottom line covers exposure to potential future clients, and establishing your presence in the industry. As Phineas T. Barnum once said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” and competitions can certainly place you on either side of history.
4. They provide extra motivation to produce excellent work.
Knowing that there are others competing for the same prize is a great motivation to work hard, and produce excellent work. As a result, you may achieve quality of work you may not have achieved had you worked on your own.
5. They’re fun!
Last but not least, enter architecture competitions for the joy of sports. There is something motivating about competition for the first place with talents around the world. When the competition is over, you can marvel at other entrants’ creativity.
Now you’re familiar with the competitions, don’t miss out — pre-register for one or all of the One X Challenges, and we’ll reach out with all the information you need to participate when each competition begins!
Top image: “Suspended Reality” by Eric Reid, 2020 One Rendering Challenge Finalist