The Competition

Documentary film about an architecture competition

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“A new documentary by Spanish architect Angel Borrego Cubero makes for compulsive viewing” (The Guardian, Oliver Wainwright)

“Ángel Borrego Cubero’s wonderfully gossipy film The Competition (…) offers a revealing glimpse of life at a big – name practice.”(ICON, Owen Pritchard)

“The film is a history lesson. And a chance to think about who and what decides how the buildings will be and what and for what buildings are needed”. (El País, Anatxu Zabalbeascoa)


A documentary movie constructed as an almost uncomfortable but intensely fascinating account of how some of the best architects in the world, design giants like Jean Nouvel or Frank Gehry, toil, struggle and strategize to beat the competition. While nearly as old as the profession itself, architectural competitions became a social, political and cultural phenomenon of the post-Guggenheim Bilbao museums and real estate bubbles of the recent past. Taking place at the dramatic moment in which the bubble became a crisis, this is the first competition to be documented in excruciatingly raw detail.

Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Dominique Perrault, Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster are selected to participate in the design of the future National Museum of Art of Andorra, a first in the Pyrenees small country. Norman Foster drops out of the competition after a change in the rules that allow the documentary to happen. Three months of design work go into the making of the different proposals, while, behind doors, a power struggle between the different architects and the client has a profound impact on the level of transparency granted by each office to the resident documentary crew, and which has a definite influence in the material shown in the film.

The presentations to the jury happen in one intense day close to election time in Andorra, becoming a hot event in the tiny country, with media all around the international stars that may help shape its future. Of the four remaining architects three show up to make personal presentations, every one of which becomes a fascinating study in personality, strategy, character, showmanship… and a dramatic moment in which any detail becomes both important and irrelevant, the line between failure and success perfectly imperceptible. But does the jury have the last word?

The Competition is the first film documenting the tense developments that characterize architectural contests. On October 10th 2013, The Competition opened the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam (AFFR), with an audience of more than 500 people. The participation at the AFFR was as the same time the World Première of this documentary and since then it’s being shown all over the world. The final edit was first shown in September 2014 at Filmoteca Cine Doré, in Madrid. An Official Selection film for programs such as the Vancouver Intl. Film Festival – VIFF’15, the Intl. Film Festival of Contemporary Art from Naples – Artecinema’15, the Intl. Festival of Film on Art from Montréal – FIFA’15; the Intl. Documentary Film Festival – DocumentaMadrid’14, the Intl. Festival of Film on Art from Florence – Lo Schermo dell`Arte’14, The Competition has been also awarded an Architecture Dissemination Award at the XIII Spanish Biennale of Architecture and the First Prize at the COAM Awards ’14, an annually given award by the Architects Association from Madrid to the best achievements of architecture in Madrid.


Completion date: 2013 (World Première); 2014 (Final Edit)

Cast of participant architects: Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, Dominique Perrault, Norman Foster

Production team. A production by Office for Strategic Spaces (OSS). Director and Producer: Angel Borrego Cubero. Editor: Simon Lund. Assistants to edition: Gaël Urzáiz, Cristina Hortigüela. Music: popular song: “When Johnny comes marching home”. Musical arrangements and production: César Bartolomé. Solo voice: Saira Mir; Flute and piccolo: Nayra Adrian; Clarinet: Javier Llopis Boquer. Funding and collaborations: Fundación Arte y Derecho, Govern d’Andorra, Lord Culture, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Dominique Perrault Architecture, Zaha Hadid Architects, Gehry Partners. Cameras: Gaël Urzáiz, Loreto García, Sara Verd, Simon Lund, Angel Borrego Cubero. 

Press and marketing: Simona Rota

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