Is it worth participating in competitions for architecture firms?


A “Competition practice” webinar was held as part of MosBuild “Architecture” course

The growing number of architectural competitions in Russia is a subject of frequent discussions about their specifics. What are the benefits of participating in such competitions and what underwater stones architectures can face?

On November 18, Grigorios Gavalidis GAFA Architects Director with his colleague Tatyana Morozkina and audience of MosBuild Academy course “Architecture: how to deal with nowadays challenges” discussed the competition practices. The event was moderated by Alexander Zmeul, curator of the business program for architects at the MosBuild.

Grigorios Gavalidis with his colleague Tatyana Morozkina shared their cases related to participation in architecture competitions and suburban project Holy well garden in Kovekino, re-development idea represented in the Russian Biennale for Young Architects in Kazan, experience of collaboration with foreign architecture firms within Valley of wellness competition in Presnya, their first competitions and many other projects.

Grigorios Gavalidis believes that a competition project reflects a cross-section of all the skills, thoughts and experiences of an architect to date. Architecture awards help forming a team and test the team reliability, flexibility, team-work and creative approach.

GAFA Architects thinks that a competition is:

  • Speculative and free process. An architect is not bound to implement all the ideas that they present in a competition.
  • Development of new work layouts and experiment (for firms). Architecture firms can experiment in a competition. They should not be concerned on what a client will say about the project.
  • Role exchange and testing new things (for a team). A competition gives an opportunity to distract from routine and re-distribute tasks between team members.
  • Basement for real projects. Competition projects are often implemented on commercial basis.

Grigorios Gavalidis, GAFA Architects Director
“Competition objective is to leap ahead, leave experience frames, envision and propose something unique to the world. Competitions help you understand yourself in different trends and find your strength”.

Grigorios Gavalidis, GAFA Architects Director



The webinar speakers answered the question what can competition give to architects?

Participation in architecture competitions:

  • Networking opportunity;
  • Is a catalyst for career growth
  • Is a method for filling porfolio with various projects
  • Allows showing all range of thoughts and approach to architecture.


Grigorios Gavalidis also shared his recipe for winning architecture  awards that is based on 7 years of GAFA Architects experience.

GAFA Architects’s Recipe of success in competition:

  • Tougher internal deadlines. For example, a GAFA Architects team has two weeks instead of a month to implement a project internally.
  • Do not be obsessed with the first ideas as they can come to many. The first thought after reading a competition Terms of Reference (ToR) cannot always be true and a deeper thought is required.
  • ToR is a support but not a law Propose more then written. Most of winners go outside the ToR box.
  • Think that the competition is a creative burst. Competition is fresh air for an architect.

Should one await a financial profit from an architecture competition?

Grigorios Gavalidis noted, all competitions are not cost-effective if to squeeze out and invest too much then needed. It is not possible to earn money in competitions but a competition for a newcomer is chance to present themselves.

“Before, we could go to a competition because it was be very critical to speak out. I would not do that today. Today, a team is formed in a firm that can dedicate itself fo the competition, says Grigorios Gavalidis. 20 people of 60 in the firm are involved in competition projects.

In addition such things as who is competition organizer, conditions, whether it is free of charge do matter for GAFA Architects.

MosBuild 2022 will be held on 29 March – 1 April 2022 at Crocus Expo IEC.

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