The competition, launched by the RIBA, is calling for expressions of interest for a purpose-built £12 million building that will act as a second home for the Old Museum Arts Centre (OMAC).
The current OMAC was founded in 1990, and offers contemporary theatre and dance plus other visual arts, but has now outgrown its Grade I-listed home in the centre of Belfast.
The shortlisted teams will be required to secure specialist support in the shape of qualified visual art consultants, theatre consultants and acousticians.
Entries will be judged by a jury panel, and each finalist will receive £5,000 for their efforts.
The deadline for expressions of interest is 13 April 2007, and a shortlist of six finalists will be invited to progress to stage two.