A Toolkit for Residential Design and Build Competitions

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Design competitions can be a powerful way to generate new ideas and approaches for modern 21st century living.  They have the potential to generate exciting and original concepts from national and international leaders in construction and design that can help shape our cities of tomorrow.  They can also generate a significant amount of publicity and focus attention on new directions proposed for a town or city.

A successful design and build competition can deliver a number of worthy proposals and though there may only be a single winner for the site chosen, there is always the potential for good concepts to be delivered elsewhere - either nearby or, with appropriate site-specific sensitivities, in another city or even country.



In 2012 Christchurch City Council, MBIE and Beacon Pathway worked together to initiate the Breathe design and build competition which challenged entrants from around the world to develop a concept for medium density living that would provide a variety of housing options and lifestyle choices based on sustainability, innovation and a strong sense of community.

The idea was to use the competition to create an exemplar housing development that would be the catalyst for modern urban living in the heart of the City, and attract a new and diverse residential community back into Christchurch.

From a pool of 58 entries drawn from 15 countries, the judges identified four finalists who had three months to take their initial concepts through to a more developed design.  This resulted in a single winning design for the identified site, with the option that the runners up had viable schemes that could potentially be delivered in other parts of the City.

The successful Breathe competition provided a useful model for others to consider in relation to urban revitalisation.  This toolkit is a response to increased interest from others in running similar competitions both here in New Zealand and around the world.

Breathe winning design



This toolkit has been developed to assist you in setting up a design and build competition.  It is a starting point for marshalling your resources and allowing you to pre-plan what and how your competition can deliver. 

The guide is primarily a series of prompts and tips for success.  Each competition will present a unique set of circumstances and opportunities to be explored.  Fortunately, the format of any design and build competition is easily adaptable and can evolve from the starting points identified in this toolkit.


  • 03-Sep-2014 (Conference paper PRES/45)

    Breathing New Life Into The Central City (PDF 8MB)

    Verney Ryan

    Presentation to the Building a Better New Zealand Conference 2014.  Covers the Breathe design and build competition in Christchurch.

This Beacon toolkit was made possible with support from the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment and Christchurch City Council.


Written by Verney Ryan and Vicki Cowan, Beacon Pathway



The Breathe winning design by Anselmi Attiani Architettura & Paesaggio



We invite you to submit feedback to improve this toolkit in the future:

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