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The Handbook of Architectural Design Competitions

The AIA’s Handbook of Architectural Design Competitions identifies the elements of well-run competitions. It offers best practices to achieve success and top-quality architecture.

Excerpt from the Preface:

Design excellence is often the result of a well-planned and clearly executed design competition. Since founding the organization more than 150 years ago, members of the American Institute of Architects have taken a keen interest in architectural competitions.

This updated handbook has been developed by architects and others for those interested in learning more about competitions and their proper procedures. The first section discusses the competition process and the appropriateness of particular competition processes for particular projects. The next section discusses the key stakeholders in the process of competitions. The third section discusses the different types of competitions. The final three sections discuss the actual competition process and recommended activities within that process.

The well-run design competition requires:

    • A conscientious sponsor

    • A competent professional adviser

    • A thorough and carefully written program

    • Complete graphic and other illustrative materials

    • Fair and precise rules governing the competition

    • Clear submission requirements

    • A realistic schedule

    • A qualified jury

    • Appropriate prizes and/or stipends

    • Arrangements for publicizing the winning design

The Institute’s distribution of these guidelines is advisory and informational. However, these new guidelines are created with a dual purpose. The experienced or novice sponsor may view the variations of competition practices described in this document as a checklist from which to choose. The guidelines also serve the novice, and perhaps the more experienced architect or designer, to better acquaint themselves with differing processes within the competition world.


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