Today I put an end to one my biggest entrepreneurial adventures to date, ARCHmedium. It was September 2009 when I came up with the idea for a platform that would organize architecture competitions for students only, two months later we launched our first competition, and today, four and half years later, I’m moving on, hopping to find other projects that will keep challenging my every day. I’ve sold all my shares in the company to my co-founder, who I’m sure will keep competitions running smoothly and adding value to student’s educational experience all over the world.
During these four years we’ve organized 14 different competitions that have taken us to all corners of the world, from Barcelona to Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Tokyo or Dubai. Over 25K students from 80 different countries have made these competitions an amazing experience both for themselves, their opponents and us. ARCHmedium competitions have been published in magazines such as MARK, On Diseño, Arquitectura Viva or Wettbewerbe Aktuell to name a few, and we’ve had the chance to organize exhibitions and talks in amazing places such as the Architecture School of Barcelona, the Architecture School of Buenos Aires, London Central Saint Martins or the London and Barcelona Roca Galleries. We’ve also met a lot of great people from all over the world; our jury members who have showed us the insights of their studios and their cities, and students themselves who have traveled really long distances to meet us. To all of them, thank you!
ARCHmedium was born to allow architecture students to really express themselves in terms of design, without the pressure of grades or reviews, which often influence the outcome of many projects. It also aimed to give them the opportunity to face exciting/magazine-cover like projects which are rarely presented at a studio class.
I believe we accomplished these two goals from the very beginning, managing to attract a huge amount of students willing to put an insane amount of their already non-existing free time into our challenges.
The result has been nothing short from breath taking. Hundreds of designs started flowing in, each with a unique approach to the brief, some of them probably with more quality, potential, imagination and innovation behind them than many of the projects that actually get built every day.
There is a lot buzz going on lately about the direction architecture is taking these days and whether it’s the right one or not. Well, let me tell you this, if we take care of this generation of architects I’ve had the pleasure to work with enough for them to feel worth it and stick to their principles, give them the opportunity to keep doing what they’ve already learned how to do, architecture will be just fine.
When we launched ARCHmedium in late 2009 I like to believe we were first platform of our kind. Sure we didn’t invent competitions, professional architectural competitions have existed for ever, and there were also a few student competitions out there organized by big brands to promote their products amongst potential future architects, but I like to believe we were the first to treat architecture students as grown-ups and challenge them with briefs that were not that far away from what a professional brief would look like (some of them probably even more complex!), and man were they ready for them!
Many student competition platforms have come up after us, some of them have been great competitors, forcing us to keep pushing ourselves a little more each time. Others were plain and simple copycats (one of them even forgot to change Q&A email address and their users were sending their questions to us!), and others tried to give the concept one more spin that in my opinion has degraded the idea of what a student’s competition should be.
I’m sad to see that today many students just walk away from competitions without even looking at them just because they see them as companies trying to take advantage from their time and skills. I don’t blame them, like I said there have been a few platforms that have taken this approach lately, asking students to come up with great concepts for the chance to win $500 and then sell that concept to a client without even giving any merit to the student in some cases, it’s a shame.
I am sure though that, after a period of adaption, students will learn how to tell the difference between those competitions that are worth their time and those that aren’t, those that will add value to their educationd and those that wont, and platforms like ARCHmedium will regain their reputation as a place for architectural innovation and discovery. After all architecture competitions have been around for centuries and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Time will tell, and I’ll be paying close attention to this evolution, only I wont be a part of it anymore, but just as a mere spectator.