Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Competition Methods

The RAIC recognizes three types of competition methods:


Open Competitions

An open competition is an international competition and will fall under the rules and regulations of the International Union of Architects (UIA). An open competition can be entered by any registered architect as recognized by the UIA.


Purpose of an Open Competition

A sponsor of an open competition:

  • Seeks the broadest possible range of ideas for his/her project.
  • May want international exposure for his/her project.

A competition in Canada that is “open” to all Canadian architects is actually a limited competition because the sponsor has set a geographical boundary for architect eligibility.


Characteristics of an Open Competition

An open competition follows UIA rules and may occur in one or two stages:

  • One-stage: Any architect may submit a design.
  • Two-stage: Sponsor wishes to narrow the number of invited architects from the original number.
    • Stage 1: Limited design submission such as a concept design. Sponsor chooses those architects who can compete in Stage 2.
    • Stage 2: The competition, which includes more developed designs, such as schematic design.

Limited Competitions

Limited competitions in Canada restrict the number of licensed architects who can compete and must be endorsed.


Purpose of a Limited Competition

The purpose of a limited competition is to restrict entry to a specific group of architects. The reasons are varied:

  • To make use of national, regional, or local talent/expertise.
  • To fulfill a requirement for awareness of and sensitivity to national, local, regional, or cultural issues, styles, and concerns.
  • When an open competition is inappropriate for cost or other reasons.


Characteristics of a Limited Competition

1) The sponsor decides how the choice of architects will be limited by geographic area or location.

2) The sponsor decides whether the competition will occur in one or two stages:

  • One-stage: Sponsor allows any registered architect who falls within the limits of competition to enter the competition.
  • Two-stage: Sponsor wishes to narrow the number of registered architects who fall within the limits of the competition.
    • Stage 1: Limited design submission such as a concept design. Sponsor chooses those architects who can compete in Stage 2.
    • Stage 2: The competition, which includes more developed designs, such as schematic design.

NOTE: Some provincial associations (OAA for example) have different definitions for "Open and Limited Competitions". The Sponsor and Professional Advisor should check with the assocation.


Invited Competitions

An invited competition is one in which architect eligibility is on an invitation-only basis. Sponsors invite a small number of architects—normally three to five —to address their design needs. Invited competitions are non-endorsed. They can be combined with a Quality-Based Selection (QBS) process to determine the invited architects.


Purpose of an Invited Competition

Sponsors wish to choose architects whose work or field of expertise is of interest to them. Invited competitions may also enable the competitors to develop their designs to a greater degree of detail.


Characteristics of an Invited Competition

1) The sponsor pays competing architects a fair and equal fee to cover the cost of their work, that is, the sponsor is able to “commission” several design concepts. The sponsor then chooses the most appropriate design based on the recommendation of a qualified jury, or clearly defined criteria contained in the competition documents.

2) The sponsor decides on the method to be used to select the invited architects.

3) The sponsor decides on a one-stage or two-stage process:

  • One-stage: Sponsor allows any architect who is invited to enter the competition.
  • Two-stage: Sponsor wishes to narrow the number of invited architects from the original number.
    • Stage 1: Limited design submission such as a concept design. Sponsor chooses those architects who can compete in Stage 2.
    • Stage 2: The competition, which includes more developed designs, such as schematic design.

Note to sponsors

Every competition requires many decisions regarding scheduling, budgeting, documentation, criteria, and so on. In an endorsed competition, the sponsor makes these decisions with the assistance of a professional advisor. The RAIC strongly recommends that sponsors of non-endorsed competitions use the services of a professional advisor or an architect to assist in the management of the competition process.