RSS Feed

The Un-Competition Project: Invent it, Design it, Build it.

07/09/2011 by architectural competitions

The Un-Competition Project: Invent it, Design it, Build it
Co-Sponsored by the Chicago Architectural Club

Un-Competition Website:
Download the official Un-Competition Poster, and post in your school or office.

Competitions serve an important purpose in the design community- they give designers a framework for exploring their own ideas and a way to refine their skills. But, most competitions are wasteful. Rarely does anything useful or truly meaningful come out of them. There is generally a good reason for this- it takes a lot of hard, gutsy work to bring something to reality.

That’s where we come in. We want to inspire you to bring your ideas to reality. You need a framework to explore your own ideas. You need to get something built. Your community needs the design ideas you have spent so much time and money developing, and you want to make a name for yourself.

So Black Spectacles has created The Un-Competition Project. Invent a project, design it, and post your design on our Facebook page, with a 60 second video. We want to hear how you came up with your project, what your design is, and how you are going to get it built. So, no, there is no competition brief, and no, we’re not going to get your project built. You make the project up yourself- big or small- you sell it and you figure out how to get it built. Then document it in a video, and we’ll show it to the world.

Then, after all of the results are in, Black Spectacles has teamed up with the Chicago Architectural Club who will host an event that expands the dialogue about design entrepreneurship that the Un-Competition Project initiates. The winners will be presented, and the event will explore alternate methods of getting work, getting it built, and establishing yourself in the profession. If you don’t happen to be in Chicago at the time of the event, you can watch live as we stream the event on our website:

Submission Details

Your 60 second video should include the following:
1. How you came up with your project, and why you think it needs to be realized.
2. Explanation of your design idea, (include 3D and orthographic drawings/models).
3. Explanation of how you intend to get (or already have gotten) the project realized.

Registration & Submission

The registration fee is $50. Early registration is $35 and closes on October 3. There are two steps to enter:
1. Submit your registration fee here:
2. Submit your 60 second video via our Facebook page:


September 6 – Un-Competition Opens
October 3- Early Registration Closes (midnight CST)
January 9- Registration/Submissions due (midnight CST)
January 11- Public Voting Closes (midnight CST)
January 13- Winners Announced
January 19- Chicago Architectural Club Event


A distinguished jury will award up to $1,500 (at its discretion) to first, second, third place and People’s Choice winners. The People’s Choice Award will be determined by the proposal with the most votes on Facebook. The winning projects will also be the subject of a featured interview on our website, as well as featured participants in an event led by the Chicago Architectural Club.


To be announced at a later date.


Submit your questions to the discussion on our Facebook page.

Rules & Eligibility

*This is an International Un-Competition. Designers from any country may participate.
*You must be 18 years or older to submit.
*The Un-Competition language is English. All audio and text in the video shall be in English.
*Black Spectacles reserves the right to modify the Un-Competition rules and requirements.
*The registration fee is not refundable.
*Contacting members of the jury is prohibited.
*You may submit a project as a team.
*You may submit multiple projects, but you must pay a registration fee for each project submitted.
*You may submit a project that has either already been built, or that you are working to get built.
*The project must have been conceived (invented) by the designer. Projects for which clients solicited designs will be disqualified.
*In submitting an entry, entrants warrant that the material is their original work, that it does not infringe upon copyright law, and that they have permission to publish the material.

Resources & Sources of Inspiration

*Having a hard time coming up with an idea for a design project? Create a “bug list.” Keep a list of things that “bug” you as you go out into the world every day. You have a critical, well-trained mind, and you encounter many things everyday that could turn into your next design project. Write them down in your bug list, and you can mine that list for your Un-Competition project.

*Having a hard time figuring out how you are going to execute your idea? Check out Scott Belsky’s book: Making Ideas Happen.

*Having a hard time figuring out how to get your idea built? Maybe you should give your local AIA Chapter a call. They have many resources that will get you on your way to getting this thing built!

Some people that have done this themselves

“Up Up and Away” Architect Magazine, Mark Lamster
“Ingels, to his credit, is not one to sit around and wait for the phone to ring. Yes Is More finds him, time and again, generating audacious ideas and finding a place for them. In one episode from 2005, for example, Ingels approaches a newly elected Copenhagen mayor—who had promised an influx of affordable housing—with a plan to ring the perimeter of an old airfield with an enormous, undulating megastructure. In one fell swoop, it would satisfy nearly half the mayor’s housing goal while dramatically upgrading the sports fields occupying the site.”

The 99 percent has a great video library of people telling stories about how they challenged the status quo and executed an idea that they had.

Have a great resource you want to share? Add it in the comments of our blog: or tweet it via our hashtag: #uncomp via @blackspectacles

1 Comment

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.