Does my practice need to win an architecture award?

For many businesses, the end of the year is marked by important dates. There’s the annual holiday party (usually), a period of reflection on the past months, and maybe even a brainstorming session to prepare for the year ahead. 

But for many architecture practices, the end of the year is also marked by something else entirely: awards. 

If you’ve been following the architecture industry as of late, you would have noticed the nonstop chatter around awards. Nominees, finalists and winners have become the talk of the town as several awards of different scales were handed out in recent weeks. Some architects celebrated, while others thought about ways they could improve their submissions next year.  

That all begs the question: how important is winning an award to a practice?  

Bronwyn Shelsher is the studio manager at ArtMade Architects, a Sydney-based architecture studio founded in 2002. The practice won “Best Architect Firm” in the 2020 Client Choice Awards, a title it proudly displays on its website and email signatures.  

Winning an award is an “opportunity to give yourself more credibility,” Brownyn said. While the award hasn’t radically changed the business one way or another, it does “add to the overall marketing collateral,” Brownyn continued.  

Because this specific award that ArtMade won was a client award – meaning it was judged by clients as opposed to peers – it also allowed the practice to receive client testimonials it wouldn’t otherwise get and then share them on its website. Having that testimonial adds a much-needed “human element” to the project description on the website, she said. 

In addition to boosting your credibility with clients, awards can also help practices recruit new talent, added Archibiz CEO Bec Kempster. Candidates are likely to be drawn by the idea of working for a practice that has won awards.  

You think your project could win. Now what? 

In architecture, there’s often the fallacy that good architecture means good business.  In reality, there are many factors that can influence a business and simply having well-designed houses or buildings won’t suffice. 

When it comes to awards, there’s a similar fallacy – an idea that good architecture will translate into awards. That’s simply not the case. 

To win an award, architects must be able to tell the project story, argues Nikita Morell.  

Nikita is a copywriting and marketing strategist for architects. She’s also the co-author of the newly released “Architects Award Submission Handbook,” a step-by-step guide that outlines how to write a winning award submission. 

“Architects don’t spend a lot of time crafting the message when submitting awards, so a lot of it is based on images,” Nikita said. “What they need to recognize is that they need to be telling a story and that can really help increase the chances of winning awards.” 

To tell that story, Nikita suggests architects take time on their submissions, pulling quotes from clients and project managers. She also cautions that architects don’t recycle past submission entries, and truly focus on the question that is being asked.  

Another way to tell that story, when accepted, is through video, says Archibiz co-founder Ray Brown. Many architects shy away from using video, choosing instead to spend the entirety of their budget on photographs. However, video can be one of the most powerful tools in an architect’s arsenal when used properly. There’s no better way to link the building, the client and the story than video.  

Undoubtedly, award submissions require time, money and effort. Different awards have different requirements, as well, complicating the process even further.  

Lastly, it’s also important to ask yourself “why” you are entering, Nikita adds. Is it to build your reputation or add more credibility to your practice? Architects should research the awards to make sure it is not a waste of time and fits the project and practice. 


Special thanks to Brownyn Shelsher and Nikita Morrell for their insights. To learn more about ArtMade, check out their website here. You can also purchase Nikita’s Handbook, written in conjunction with Juliette Mitchell, which is only available for a limited time, here. 

If you’re looking for more tips, strategies and advice on how you can lead a profitable and impactful architecture practice, check out our Programs and Courses. Alternatively, you can contact us directly by filling out this form, and we’ll find a time to chat about your needs and how Archibiz can help.