Architectural competition

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In the field of architecture , urban development and landscape architecture , competitions (including architecture competitions or general planning competitions ) are held when the optimal design is to be found for a specific planning task or general idea generation . Since despite some precise specifications, e.g. B. by a ( space program ) and urban planning specifications, there are still many different possibilities to structure, construct and design a building or to develop urban planning, one tries to find the best solution by planning alternatives. Architecture competitions are therefore one of the best quality and project-oriented means of determining the best solution in terms of urban development, function, economy and social compatibility for a specific project - and thus for all sustainability criteria.


These competitions are usually organized by the client , the sponsor. This can be a public institution as well as a company or a private person. With the tender documents, the procedural conditions of the competition are announced, the task to be processed is defined and objectives for processing are described in the form of quantitative values ​​(e.g. the space requirement via the spatial plan ) or qualitative ideas.

Procedure and principles

The competition is organized by competition managers (e.g. a competent authority or a company commissioned to do so) who, like the competition participants, are usually architects. The competition managers (competition supervisors according to RPW) must have the same qualifications as the competition participants. You take on the coordinating role of the architect in this phase and are responsible, among other things, for the compilation of all the content of the award as well as the preliminary examination of the drafts submitted by the participating architects . In addition, they control and document the entire process - advice on the selection of judges, preparation and documentation of all events, cost management, preparation of the exhibition, etc. For this special profile, a niche has developed within the planners since the 1990s that offer these services specializes in offering.

The jury will assess the submitted designs and select the award winners. It is made up of judges and deputy judges who have to exercise their office personally and independently based solely on professional aspects. Specialist and material judges have equal voting rights. At the beginning of the first meeting, the jury elects a chairman and a deputy from among the specialist judges. The specialist judges have the same qualifications as the competition participants, the material judges represent the interests of the competition and, if necessary, the municipality or other stakeholders.

The basic idea behind most competitions is the award of a planning order (implementation competition). For this purpose, the contract promise is laid down in the claim. On the basis of this promise, the “competition sum” distributed in the form of prizes and recognitions in the competition may be lower than the performance actually provided by all participants. The competition amount in Germany corresponds roughly to the fee for the preliminary planning (service phase 2 according to HOAI ). The design documents submitted in the context of the competition become the property of the sponsor, but further use of the designs is only possible within the framework of a further commissioning. As a rule, copyrights remain with the author of the work even after it has been implemented.

The principles of the architectural competition are

  • the equal treatment of all participants
  • the clear task
  • a reasonable price-performance ratio
  • the assessment of the work by a competent jury
  • the anonymity of the competition entries
  • an obligation to commission one of the award winners
  • securing the copyright of the participants

Sustainability in architecture competitions

Sustainability in the comprehensive understanding is the core idea of ​​every high-quality planning. Criteria in this sense are the innovation and transferability of the planning, its socio-ethical sustainability, the consideration of the careful use of resources and the environment, the economic efficiency and the aesthetic-cultural sustainability in the respective context.

In everyday life, the term sustainability is used in particular for ecological sustainability. If an organizer pursues the goal of building a building that is particularly sustainable in this sense, he can set this goal in the competition. For example, there are currently references to sustainable building in many claims, but without deriving specific requirements from it. For some time now, there has been a search for ways of firmly anchoring sustainability in competition procedures.

An early attempt at a factual assessment is the systematics published in 2004 for assessing the sustainability of architectural projects for the environment - SNARC of the Swiss engineering and architects' association SIA. Using 10 criteria, the ecological quality of buildings can be compared in the concept phase. The guidelines for sustainability-oriented architecture competitions - LeNA , published in 2011, are the first to derive 20 sustainability criteria relevant to pre-design from existing sustainability assessment systems. It is based on the procedural steps of building construction competitions and presents the possibilities of application in a sustainable competition procedure. The guide is based on the experience of a competition held in 2009 in the HafenCity Hamburg and was commissioned by the City of Hamburg. Through a research project by the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS), previous experience was transferred to the national assessment system for sustainable building for federal buildings - BNB . To this end, a system was developed for how sustainability aspects should be taken into account in federal competition procedures.

The effort of these systems is, however, not insignificant and therefore not undisputed, especially since essential parameters of the sustainability of a planning are not defined by the draft in the competition, but are either already decided in advance (choice of the property etc.) or only after the competition ( Choice of materials etc.).

Legal basis

International competitions are carried out on the basis of the UNESCO Recommendation concerning International Competitions in Architecture and Town Planning from 1956, which was last updated in 1978. The Union Internationale des Architectes (uia) was entrusted with the application of the rules by UNESCO. To this end, it has drawn up the “UIA Guide for International Competitions in Architecture and Town Planning”. Only competitions supervised by the uia may bear the title “International Competition” and must meet the relevant requirements.

At the European level, the Architects Council of Europe (European umbrella organization of professional associations for architects) draws up agreed recommendations for the implementation of architectural competitions.

The legal framework conditions are defined differently at national level.


In Germany, the guidelines for planning competitions (RPW 2008) by the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS) were published and came into force in 2009, which thus set the principles and guidelines for competitions in the areas of spatial planning, urban planning and construction ( GRW 1995). After an initial application phase, these were slightly modified as part of an evaluation and introduced as a “guideline for planning competitions” (RPW 2013). This is binding for federal and state measures. In individual federal states (Lower Saxony and Bremen), however, the “Rules for the Announcement of Competitions” (RAW 2004) still apply for the time being. In addition, all public clients within the meaning of Section 99 GWB must apply the RPW 2013, as Section 78 II 1 VgV stipulates this. Otherwise, there are no legal obligations to use RPW or RAW. However, participating architects are legally obliged to only take part in competitions in which fair performance competition is ensured. This is the rule if one of the above-mentioned competition regulations was used. In addition, the application of competition rules ensures that the procedure is carried out in a legally secure manner and according to fair rules. It is therefore the aim of the Chamber of Architects to enforce the application of the RPW for all procedures.


Architecture competitions in Austria follow the rules for awarding competitions in the public sector of the Federal Procurement Act, whereby the professional representative of architects can use a guideline, namely the architecture competition standard ( WSA for short ).


In Switzerland, architectural competitions are organized according to leaflet 142 (Regulations for Architecture and Engineering Competitions ) of the SIA Commission.

Forms of competition

Eligibility, Open and Restricted Competitions

By defining the eligibility to participate, the sponsor determines the group of persons admitted to the procedure - usually e.g. B. Architects with the appropriate professional qualifications. In open competitions, all persons who meet the requirements of the eligibility to participate and for whom there are no obstacles to participation, e. B. because they are employees of the sponsor or part of the jury. In the restricted (RPW, WOA), limited (RAW) or restricted (GRW) competitions, a competition takes place before the actual competition. Before the application documents are sent out, after publication, a selection process takes place to determine a clearly defined group of participants. The design of the selection process allows certain leeway within the limits of public procurement law, from the direct naming of participants to the definition of access and selection criteria based on office data and references to the lottery procedure.

Single-phase and two-phase competitions

A special feature is the two-phase competition, in which sketchy concepts are submitted in a reduced scope in a first (open) phase, on the basis of which participants are then selected for further competition processing in the second, restricted phase.

Realization and ideas competitions

Competitions are usually advertised as “implementation competition” or, in Switzerland, “project competition”, which means that an optimal solution is sought for a specific project. The essential element of the “contract” between the sponsor and the participant is the so-called “contract promise”, which means that the sponsor promises to commission one of the award winners with the further planning of the project if and as soon as the project is implemented. As a rule, it is promised to commission at least the service phases 2–5 according to the fee schedule for architects and engineers (HOAI).

In exceptional cases, competitions can also be advertised as ideas competitions if implementation is not intended. These competitions can also be used to search for higher-level planning approaches (usually urban planning) in order to e.g. B. Establish guidelines on the basis of which further planning is carried out. Due to the lack of a promise of an order, the prize money must be significantly higher than in implementation competitions. Particular attention must be paid to copyrights here.

Because ideas competitions were often misunderstood as an option to hold competitions without a promise of an order, even if there was an intention to realize them, the RAW abandoned the differentiation between realization and ideas competitions. The contract promise is to be seen here as a principle of every competition. The RPW, however, continues to formulate the option of a competition without a promise of an order, but as an exception. Since the 2013 amendment, the term “ideas competition” has been used again.

Cooperative competitions

An essential principle of regulated competition is anonymity. This means that even if the names of the participants in a restricted competition are known, the entries will be submitted and assessed anonymously in order to ensure concentration on the content regardless of the people. In exceptional cases, competitions can be organized cooperatively. In these cases, one or more presentation colloquia are held in order to discuss possible solutions with the participants before they are further processed. An anonymity cannot then be maintained. Cooperative procedures are only possible with a small number of participants and are ideal if the task or certain framework conditions can only be specified in the course of the procedure.

Student competitions

Competitions in which only students from certain disciplines are allowed to participate. The boundaries between student competitions and term papers offered by universities in cooperation with external “sponsors” are often blurred. Student competitions are not subject to any regulations and can only be compared with architectural competitions to a limited extent.


It is widespread to award public works through a competition. These are, for example, government buildings, museums, sports stadiums, universities or buildings that are particularly distinctive in terms of urban planning, but also kindergartens, churches and other functional buildings or urban planning tasks. But private companies and international corporations also hold competitions, the task of which is usually office or sales buildings, but also production and research buildings.

  • Public sponsor:
    • Competition for the renovation of the Reichstag building in Berlin, 1993
    • Competition for the Federal Chancellery, 1995.
    • Competition for the Westend campus of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt, 2003.
    • Competition for the Humboldt Forum in Berlin , 2008
  • Organizing company:
    • Competition for the adidas World of Sports, 1998–1999 (Architect: agps)
    • Competition for the central building of the BMW plant in Leipzig, 2002 (Architect: Zaha Hadid )
    • Competition for the ThyssenKrupp Quartier Essen, 2006 (Architects: Chaix et Morel with JSWD Architects )
  • International competitions
    • Alexandria Library, Egypt ( bibliotheca Alexandrina )
    • Sydney Opera House, Australia
    • Center Georges Pompidou, France
    • Place Lalla Yeddouna, Morocco
  • Historical competitions:

See also


Web links

Commons : Architectural competitions  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Architecture competitions
  • AW Architecture + Competitions - International trade journal with a focus on building typology (current buildings, projects and architectural competitions).
  • BauNetz - online network u. a. the construction world with extensive information and documentation of competitions
  • competitionline - platform for architecture and engineering competitions, online database for tenders, competition results and completed projects
  • competitions up-to-date - monthly trade journal on the subject of architecture competitions, with a focus on Germany and internationally important competitions, some in German / English
  • architecture competition in Austria - architecture competition website and database of the Federal Chamber of Arch + Ing Austria
  • Why an international competition. ( Memento from January 12, 2006 in the web archive )
Student competitions
  • - database with current student competitions in the field of architecture

Individual evidence

  1. Topics of the sessions of the Round Table on Sustainable Building, 16th session in May 2011, accessed on March 5, 2012 ( Memento of the original of March 7, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. SNARC - system for assessing the sustainability of architectural projects for the environment (PDF; 271 kB)
  3. LeNA - Guide to Sustainability-Oriented Architecture Competitions
  4. Research project: Systematics for sustainability requirements in planning competitions (SNAP)
  5. ^ Architects council of Europe - Recommendations for Design Contests ( Memento from January 19, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  6. Competition standard architecture - WSA 2010
  7. Swiss Association of Engineers and Architects - Regulations for architecture and engineering competitions
  8. Place Lalla Yeddouna A Neighborhood in the Medina of Fez, Morocco - International open project competition in two phases