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Architectural Design Competitions

Architectural design competitions can be a great way to solicit a wide range of ideas and approaches for many large-scale, landmark, or infrastructure projects. Competitions equitably open up your procurement process to all types of architecture practices, large and small. Well-managed competitions encourage transparency and fairness while also allowing for public engagement.

In an architectural competition, design solutions are judged on their comparative excellence, imagination, and ingenuity. The winner is awarded the commission for the project, whether a city hall, museum, transit facility or other significant facility. The competition’s sponsor must ensure the process is fair and equitable to all stakeholders. This should include following Qualifications-Based Selection.

Via its governing Council, the OAA endorses the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s (RAIC’s) competition documents and guidelines for Ontario-based competitions. Whether you are interested in hosting a competition or you are a member of the profession considering entering or judging one, click here to learn more. The RAIC website also explains how to set fair and equitable guidelines for roles, responsibilities, processes, and procedures. As RAIC is a national organization focused on broadly inclusive content, some of its terminology differs from what is found in Ontario’s Architects Act.

The RAIC cites two categories of architectural competitions:


This competition includes a professional advisor, abides by a jury’s decision, is endorsed by the appropriate regulatory body (i.e. OAA Council in Ontario) or the RAIC, and leads to a commission for the winning practice.


This competition is endorsed neither by the RAIC nor by the appropriate provincial or territorial association of architects. It may or may not have a professional advisor or use a jury for decision-making. It may or may not lead to a commission for the winning architect.

Additionally, the RAIC recognizes three competition methods, but the terminology and definitions differ from what is set out in Ontario legislation governing the practice of architecture in the province. For example, the RAIC Guidelines’ definition of an "invited" competition corresponds to a "limited" competition under Ontario’s Architects Act and Regulation 27 .

Ontario-Specific Requirements for Competitions

In accordance with Regulation 27 under the Architects Act, an open competition for a project in Ontario must be approved by OAA Council in order for Ontario architects to participate. OAA Council will utilize the RAIC's Competition guidelines to inform their approval of an Open competition. The following definitions and rules flow from Regulation 27:

  • “limited competition” means an architectural competition, other than an open competition, in which an invitation to compete is extended to two or more holders of Certificate of Practice;

  • “open competition” means an architectural competition in which an invitation to compete is extended to all members of the Association.

    As regulated professionals, OAA members in Ontario are required to follow specific rules related to competitions. Section 42 of Regulation 27 lists conduct that would be considered professional misconduct, including:

    49. Taking part in an open competition for a building project in Ontario for which the conditions of competition have not been approved by the Council.
    50. Taking part in a limited competition for a building project in Ontario in which all holders are not equally remunerated.
    51. Undertaking to provide architectural services for a building project where the member or holder has acted as a professional advisor or member of a jury for an open or limited competition for the building project.

    Architects and practices from outside of Ontario must understand the conditions under which they may offer or provide professional services in Ontario. Not only must one be licensed in Ontario, but a Certificate of Practice must also be secured. For those interested in entering an Ontario-based architectural competition, a notification must be submitted to the OAA Office of the Registrar, outlining their intention to participate and commitment to apply for an OAA Certificate of Practice and Licence(s) as appropriate should the commission be secured.

    As a sponsor, if you are considering a design competition, you may be required to obtain written approval from the provincial association where the project will be located. Architects and Licensed Technologists OAA are permitted to compete only when they are assured the competition will be held in accordance with established rules.

    The RAIC guidelines provide recognized procedures that ensure equal treatment for competitors, provisions for different types of competitions, as well as advice about process, schedule, and likely costs. The OAA is prepared to provide sponsors of competitions with advice and comments, but the first point of reference should be to review the RAIC website information, specifically, the sponsor responsibilities.


For more information on ways to  share news about a competition you are hosting, contact

If you are looking to have your competition endorsed by OAA Council, contact for additional instructions.

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