Tips and Tricks for Submitting to the Canadian Architect Awards and Photo Awards

For over five decades, our annual national awards program has recognized projects in the design stage. This year’s competition also includes the new Canadian Architect Photo Awards of Excellence. This year’s deadline for submissions is Thursday, September 12, 2019 at 11:59PM (PST).


Are you ready to submit? Here are some tips to preparing your submission, courtesy of editor Elsa Lam:

  • Do I qualify?

There’s two parts to our criteria for qualification. First is for the person submitting: the Awards of Excellence are open to all architects registered in Canada, as well as to Canadian architectural graduates (hello, recent graduates!). You don’t have to be licensed to enter, but you do have to have graduated from a Canadian architecture school. Foreign architects are permitted to submit, provided they have partnered with a Canadian-registered architect on their project.

Second part is for the project: projects must be in the design stage, scheduled for construction or under construction but not substantially complete by September 12, 2019. We take this pretty liberally – as long as the final piece of finishing trim isn’t in place by September 12, your project qualifies.

All projects must be commissioned by a client with the intention to build the submitted proposal.

  • Pick your projects.

All building types and concisely presented urban design schemes are eligible. We’ve awarded projects of all sizes, recognizing that projects of different scales carry their own sets of challenges. Your project may even be located outside of Canada, provided that it was designed by a Canadian architect or Canadian architectural graduate.

Awards are given for architectural design excellence. Jurors will consider the scheme’s response to the client’s program, site, geographic and/or urban context. They will evaluate its physical organization, form, composition, building systems, concept, process, structure, materials, environmental features and/or demonstration of social awareness.

If you submitted a project in the past but it didn’t win, you are permitted to resubmit it. Every jury looks at entries with different eyes.

Can’t decide between multiple projects? You can submit more than one entry.

  • Take a look at some past award winners.

What does an award-winning project look like? The best way to see is by taking a look at our past award winners. For the 2017 and 2018 awards, you can download the PDFs of the original submissions to get ideas for your submission.

  • Get the video advantage.

For the past few years, we’ve included an option to submit a short video—up to two minutes in length—with your submission. Fewer than 10% of submissions have included a video. So, if you have the resources to put together a video—which could be as simple as a fly-through of a model—it can help your submission to stand out.

  • Not too little, not too much.

Having the right amount of information is key to award-winning entries. What that means will vary from project to project, but generally, it follows the rule of the three little bears: “just right” is not too little, and not too much.

Our peer jurors are experienced architects, so including key architectural plans and sections is key. Just diagrams? Probably too little. Working drawings? Probably too much. Renderings or model photographs can be helpful—if you have professional renderings available, send them along. But even a basic 3D view may assist in effectively communicating the project.

Your text should explain your project’s main ideas clearly. If it’s a heavily research-based project, it might need a longer text. In most cases, a lot can be said with a shorter text and strong images. Some of our past awarded entries have been as simple as a set of a six renderings with a few key drawings and a 500-word text.

Think about how you might present the project in a design crit, and use this as a measure for crafting your entry.

  • Spotlight your work in our new photo award.

This year’s competition also includes the new Canadian Architect Photo Award of Excellence. How can a single photo convey the big picture of a project? The image that carries the concept of a project will vary for different projects: it may be an overall image of the building, or a telling detail, or a photo that shows the building in use.

We’re challenging professional and amateur architectural photographers to showcase their “big picture” image of a Canadian building in the Photo Award of Excellence competition.

You don’t have to be a professional architectural photographer to enter. Consider entering a favourite image of one of your recent works—whether commissioned by a pro photographer (you must check with them first) or a serendipitous moment captured on your smart phone.

Awards are given for the photograph’s ability to convey a clear concept about the architectural design – the “big picture” of the building. Jurors will consider the composition, creativity of approach, and overall aesthetics of the photo.

  • Submit ahead of time, or at the 11th

We know you. You’re going to submit the hour before the deadline on Thursday, September 12th, at 11:59 pm (PST). But consider being kind to yourself and to your employees, and submit in advance.

If you have a bit of a slower period in August, it’s the perfect time to prepare and submit your entry.

Click here to meet our 2019 Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence and Photo Award of Excellence jury.