Architects Hate Design Competitions Too

A fascinating story in the NY Times about the “no spec” or “no RFP” version of things for the architecture world, “Ready, Set, Design: Work as a Contest.” It tracks down a group of various well-known, world-renowned architects who have said they will no longer participate in architectural competitions, saying that they’re far too expensive and time consuming. Or, alternately, like with Thom Mayne and Peter Eisenman, they’re complaining here, but they say they don’t so much love them, but they have to participate or they lose out on major projects. And granted, it’s not so similar to spec work with a single designer working from home, in that a firm will usually get some sort of funding for their participation, but even then, they claim that it doesn’t cover even a third of what they wind up spending in trying to put together a concept. Here’s a little:

“You really clear the decks for them, and very often you do fall in love with that thing that you made,” [Michael Maltzan] said. “And then you lose, and it sits there, staring you in the face, and it’s hard to come in to work the next day.” Architects also point out that they are typically paid either a nominal fee for entering a competition or nothing at all, reinforcing the sense of loss.

They estimate that they generally receive $25,000 to $70,000 for their efforts, which tend to cost them two to three times that amount and sometimes far more.

“It probably pays for a third if you’re lucky,” said Andrew Whalley, the director in charge of Grimshaw Architects‘ New York office “It can easily cost $100,000, mostly in man hours. The big cost is time.”