Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Competition Categories

In the past, a competition was defined as a formal process that required a professional advisor and a jury. Today, it is recognized that there are a wide variety of traditional as well as non-traditional competitive processes that do not fit this definition.

Therefore, the RAIC now recognizes an architectural competition as a method of obtaining a design solution to a sponsor’s requirements that relies on a process which is fair and equitable to all the stakeholders.

Two categories of competitions fall under this definition:

  1. Endorsed architectural competition: This competition includes a professional advisor, abides by a jury’s decision, is endorsed by the appropriate provincial or territorial association of architects or the RAIC, and leads to a commission for the winning architect.
  2. Non-endorsed design competition: This competition is neither endorsed by the RAIC nor by the appropriate provincial or territorial association of architects. It may or may not have a professional advisor or use a jury for decision-making. It may or may not lead to a commission for the winning architect.

Related selection processes are where architects are chosen by other criteria and do not include the submission of a design. Quality-Based Selection (QBS) is always recommended.

Competition Method: Depending on the category, a competition can be run as open, limited, or invited.

 

Competition Categories Chart

Find a competition type or competition method in the left column and its accompanying check mark in one of the major categories. In the case where a competition falls into more than one category, the difference depends on the competition rules. A competition may be combined with a related selection process such as QBS.

 

 

Endorsed*

Non-endorsed

Competition Types

1.

Building
(Site Specific)

x

invited only

 

Building
(Prototype Design)

x

invited only

2.

Ideas

 

x

3.

Student

 

x

4.

Product Design

 

x

5.

Design-Build
(Architect as Part of a Larger Team)

 

x

 

Public-Private Partnering (P3)
(Architect as Part of a Larger Team)

 

x

 

Competition Methods

 

Open

x

 

 

Invited

x

x

 

Limited

x

 

* Endorsed means any competition that has been approved by the Council of the provincial or territorial association of architects and/or the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

Competitions for non-building projects and related selection processes do not require endorsement.

On the other hand, open and limited competitions for buildings require endorsement as most provincial associations of architects prevent their members from participating in such competitions that have not been approved by their Councils.


Endorsed Architectural Competitions

Definition of an endorsed competition: An endorsed competition includes a professional advisor, abides by a jury’s decision, is endorsed by the appropriate provincial or territorial association of architects, and leads to a commission for the winning architect.

All endorsed architectural competitions are for the design of a building. The project can range in size from a small building to a master plan. As well, it can result in the selection of a winning design and commission to the architect of the winning design, or the competition may be a means to award a commission without necessarily selecting the winning design.

Endorsed competitions include the following elements:

  • Sponsor engages a professional advisor.
  • Sponsor engages a qualified jury.
  • Sponsor abides by the jury’s decision and engages the winner.
  • Competition may be open or limited and conducted in one or two stages.
  • Sponsor awards the commission.
  • Entries to the competition must be anonymous.
  • Rules of the competition include clear terms for disqualification.
  • Competition must be endorsed by the appropriate provincial/territorial association of architects or the RAIC.

Non-Endorsed Architectural Competitions

Definition of a non-endorsed competition: This competition is not endorsed by the appropriate provincial or territorial association of architects or by the RAIC. It may or may not have a professional advisor or use a jury for decision-making. It may or may not lead to a commission for the winning architect.

Non-endorsed design competitions include the following elements:

  • Sponsor may or may not engage a professional advisor, jury, and/or technical committee.
  • Sponsor may retain final decision. If so, sponsor sets clear criteria for the decision at the outset and commits to these criteria throughout the competition process.
  • Competitors receive fair and equal payment according to the level of work required of them.
  • Competition is invited and may be combined with a related selection process.

Types of Non-Endorsed Design Competitions

1) Building

1.1 Site Specific

A sponsor, such as a government or corporation, may use an invited competition process to select a building design and/or an architect. Many of the principles and processes of an endorsed architectural competition apply to this situation. The RAIC recommends that the sponsor engage:

  • A professional advisor to manage the process in a fair and equitable manner.
  • A technical committee to advise on design submissions to ensure that their technical and aesthetic aspects align with competition objectives.

1.2 Prototype Design

Sponsors are usually corporations interested in the prefabrication of various kinds of structures or products. Designers may be reluctant to enter unless the prize-winners are appropriately rewarded and their prototypes adequately protected by copyright or by patent.

2) Idea (also referred to as “Research/Creation” competitions)

This type of competition is designed to explore significant design, technical, or planning issues, produce new information, and stimulate interest in untried architectural possibilities.The subject for the idea or research must be carefully chosen as designers may not be interested in entering acompetition that promotesa narrow interest, fails to benefit the public or the profession, or whose benefits are limited because they cannot be practically applied.

3) Student

Open only to students enrolled in university or college, this type ofcompetition is usually sponsored by:

  • Institutions of higher learning.
  • Organizations promoting research in architecture.
  • Companies who are advancing the use of their products or systems;
  • National and provincial/territorial organizations who wish to support the architectural profession and encourage design excellence.

In general, the resulting designs are not constructed but are used as a way to explore ideas about architecture and to advance research within the field.

4) Product Design

Sponsors are usually manufacturers interested in the promotion of particular types or brands of building materials. As with idea competitions, designers may be reluctant to enter these competitions unless the subjects are of significant public interest or concern as opposed to the sponsor’s narrowly defined product.

5) Design-Build Selection Process / Public Private Partnership (P3)

The sponsor selects and contracts with one entity, who may be either a constructor, designer, developer, or financier. The entity assumes responsibility for the design and construction of the project. The contract can include various forms of financing and can include operations and maintenance.

Currently, the RAIC assists the Canadian Design-Build Institute (CDBI) to create common guidelines for the design portion of a design-build selection process. For more information on this type of competition, visit the CDBI website.


Related Selection Processes

In related selection processes, architects, or teams which include architects, are chosen by other criteria than those usually set by a competition although some elements of a competition may be included.

The RAIC supports a process founded on the principles of Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS).

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