Logo Participation Factory

Architectural Competitions and Participation: Why And When Does Participation Come Into Play

In the last article of this series, we explained what an architectural competition is about. Now we will look at the relationship between participation and architectural competitions – in what cases and why it makes sense to use participatory methods and when it comes into play throughout the process.

Participation and participatory planning in the context of designing and planning cities, villages and regions refer to the direct, structured, and transparent involvement of users of space in the process of creating a plan or project. Whether it is revitalizing a square or courtyards, redesigning streets, working on adaptive reuse of buildings, or creating a regional landscape plan, the local community is expected to be involved in the process. This is the only way to ensure that the final design reflects the needs of the people who habitually use this area.

The launch of an architectural competition is an ideal opportunity to involve residents in the architectural and urban planning of a city or municipality. People will always be keen to have a say in what affects them. Otherwise, if they are left out of the process, there is always going to be a risk of conflict. Participation is therefore an indispensable link between the municipality and the citizens. It enables input on draft planning documents and concept plans to be obtained directly from those who will be affected by the changes – while maintaining the professional responsibility of the architect and the delegated responsibility of the public administration. A participatory approach is particularly crucial in this area as it facilitates a merge of various perspectives and diverse interests that need to be addressed.

Targeted participation allows – with a good knowledge of the planning process – to continuously select and open relevant topics and prepare the questions and the framework for the discussion so that it is substantive and effective. Participation is not just about asking for people’s opinions in general, but about regularly informing and asking very specifically about what architects need to know for their design work (Klápště, 2013). It is therefore good to start with participation as early as possible and to take it into account when preparing a brief for the competition.

It is in this preparatory phase of the competition that we should seek early public involvement, as it can bring additional suggestions and ideas making the formulation of the brief better. At the same time, this will increase public support for the project and consequently chances for its success. In the later stages of the competition, as expertise and responsibility increase, it becomes more difficult to involve citizens, but it is all the more important to keep the public regularly informed about the progress of the competition.

After the competition is over and the results are announced, there is an exhibition of the competition proposals, where the public is introduced to each of them. The winning design can then be presented to the public separately (either in person or e.g. via an online stream) and a public discussion can be held directly with the architects. At this stage, the emphasis is on communication and clarity to maximize acceptance of the winning design and the understanding of the jury’s motives for selecting it.

However, there are many methods for public engagement. In the next article in this series, we will go into more detail and present specific participatory methods that can be used in the context of preparing an architectural competition brief. We will describe their advantages and outline the possible process of their implementation. Stay tuned!



  • Deník veřejné správy—7 důvodů pro architektonické soutěže. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2023, from https://www.dvs.cz/clanek.asp?id=6725444
  • Klápště, P. (2013). Participace. Česká komora architektů. https://www.cka.cz/komora/tema-CKA/participace
  • Občané, architekti a veřejná správa: Určení rolí v participativních procesech – Ministerstvo vnitra České republiky. (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2023, from https://www.mvcr.cz/clanek/obcane-architekti-a-verejna-sprava-urceni-roli-v-participativnich-procesech.aspx