top of page

Architecture Competitions: Can you Win without high-end Renderings?


We’ve analyzed 350 winning architecture competition projects to find out if they included 3d visualizations in their boards and what kind of renders they use. Do you want to know the results?

architektur wettbewerb 3d visualisierung

Public architecture competitions have always been one of the main ways to get commissions for an architecture firm. Gone are the days when city councils launched countless public architectural competitions to build schools, colleges, gyms, sports and cultural centres, urban and landscaping projects, etc. 


After the housing bubble back in 2008, the number of public competitions got lower and the number of architectural firms submitting projects to competitions is constantly growing. Thus, competing for first place is becoming increasingly complicated. 


In Render4tomorrow we love to measure data and draw conclusions that we can apply directly for the success of our clients' projects These are the results of our study.

Renderings, Illustrations (conceptual images) and none 3d content.


We’ve checked the visual content of 350 architectural competition winning entries. The main sources for downloading the boards have been Espazium, Archdaily, Dezeen and Divisare.  


We have divided the visual content into three groups: 3d renderings (including both non-realistic and photorealistic renderings), illustrations (or concept images) and no 3d visual content. The results of our study speak for themselves.

renderings for architectural competition

Of the 350 projects analyzed, 271 (77%) added realistic or photorealistic renderings to their boards, 62 (18%) used illustrations or conceptual images, and 15 (4%) did not include any 3D content at all. 


In previous entries, we’ve talked about how important quality visual content is for the success of your project, capable of making it stand out from your competitors. Here are some tips to maximize your chances of success.


5 tips to follow to get the most out of your project


Some time ago, we got an email from an architectural firm asking us to produce 9 images for an architectural competition (a medium-scale school).


When they received our quote, they told us that the price exceeded their budget so they would do the images with anyone else. In other words, they preferred producing a bunch of (probably average) images instead of a few high-quality ones. Guess what works best?


Getting back to our study and considering only those entries that included 3d high-quality visualizations, the average number of images used in the winning panels is 2.97. This is far from the 9 images we were asked for, isn't it?


All you need to do is to decide first which two to three images represent your project better. 

To give you an example, if we want to visualize a school, we would make a total of three images: one exterior image in which we show how the building relates to its surroundings, and two interior images: one for the entrance hall (probably the most representative space within the building), and a detailed image of one of the classrooms to see how the design of the façade affects the quality of the interior space.

architekturwettbewerb visualisierung

Choose your points of view wisely


Always ask yourself these questions: What kind of renderings does your project really needs? How many of them?


There' s no single answer to these questions. Depending on the type of project you're working on, it may be appropriate to use one type of 3D image or another. 


It’s very important to choose the most appropriate points of view properly to depict each project. 


Thus, the type of image will be different to represent an urban project than to represent an architectural project. 


In the first case, the area to be represented is much larger, so it may be convenient to use aerial images. 


In the second case, a human eye level image would work much better. This image will help you to emotionally connect with the person who sees the image since it is a familiar point of view for the human eye.

wettbewerb 3d visualisierungen

In this sense, you better don’t try to represent all the spaces in your project. It makes much more sense to consciously choose the most representative spaces and visualize them with an optimal level of detail, leaving room for the imagination. 

The 30-Second Rule in Architectural Competition


Do you remember the international design competition for the new Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki? Did you know that more than 1.700 proposals were submitted? It's hard to imagine the jury in front of all those layouts hanging on the walls. How many of them did pass the first 30-second test? Unfortunately, just a few did.   


And here goes our first tip: Always ask yourself if the jury will be able to get the main idea of your project in just 30 seconds. If not, spend some time on this before zooming in since details will only matter once you have passed the first screening. 


Design your competition layouts for various distances 


Great visual content in your architectural competition boards is crucial so let’s put ourselves in the position of a jury in the worst-case (but usually common) scenario, in which your boards will hang on a wall together with a few dozens more, one next to the other. 

We’ll call our first layout “Hey, Look at the wonderful project we’ve been working on.” Its unique purpose will be to make judges stop walking and get closer to your board so it must contain a big and remarkable image along with an illustrative drawing that shows a glimpse of what your project idea is about. 


Before submitting your project, take five steps back and look at your first board. Is it sufficiently compelling and worth stopping to look at? Please feel free to drop us a line if you need some help in this regard. 

3d visualisierungen architekturwettbewerb

The importance of references


Never ever start designing your projects from scratch. Sometimes, this road can be an endless, time-consuming and frustrating process. Instead, always remember what Pablo Picasso said: "Good artists copy, great artists steal." There are many projects out there to start working from so, gather a few and start envisioning what you'd like your project to look like.    


Don't forget to invite other architects to criticize your project and ask them to be as honest and sincere as possible. You better be criticised by your colleagues rather than by the jury.  

Set realistic goals and go for them


Think about what information you really need to explain your project, take a pen and a piece of paper and sort it by importance. Put the most relevant information in the first board, give it a larger size and prioritize your efforts accordingly. 


Having the layout of your panels ready from the very beginning will make you have a clear goal and things are always more bearable when you can see the end. 

3d visualisierung wettbewerb

Conclusion: Is it possible to win an architectural competition without high-end renderings?


Yes, it’s possible, but quite unlikely. Of the 350 projects analysed, 77% of these used high-quality 3D visualisations that helped the jury see the feasibility of the project.


Entering an architectural competition implies having certain resources available. Some of them are the entrance fee, human resources, working hours, costs of printing and shipping the boards, and creation of physical models, among others.


Let's be honest, nobody knows with absolute certainty how to win an architectural competition, but one thing is for sure: you can make it always be a win if you are able to forget about winning or losing and, instead, you put all your effort in creating something remarkable, visually powerful, and worth being introduced to potential clients through your portfolio. 


Take this opportunity as something that might attract the attention of future clients so it will never have been a waste of time. Do you know what the best part is? Sometimes you can even win.


Are you planning to enter a competition? Drop us a line at and tell us about your project. 


Render4tomorrow is a creative studio providing atmospheric architectural imagery that goes one step further. Every project has a story. We’re here to help you tell it. 


Interested in working with us? Get in touch!

bottom of page