The Architecture Foundation is to launch a competition that is set to generate interest from almost every practice in the world.
Starting this week, the two-stage competition for a new foundation headquarters building is open to both budding newcomers and the experienced big boys.
The brief is to design an exemplary new centre in Southwark, south London, which will house exhibition space, events areas, a bar and the foundation's offices.
It is hoped the £2.25 million building would become a 'place of energy, creative ideas and activity, where the public can engage with the best contemporary architecture'.
Rowan Moore, foundation director, said:'This is a significant event for architecture in Britain. The last new-build architecture centre was the RIBA in the 1930s, and new cultural buildings in central London don't come round every day. The most recent was the British Library.' The design must be both a 'billboard and chapel' for the foundation - a visible representation of the organisation and a working tool.
The idea of the competition was first discussed nearly two years ago, and the foundation is keen to encourage entries from architects with a wide range of experience and backgrounds.
'It is one of the most exciting competitions around, ' Moore added. 'Anyone can win it if they've got the talent and the will, from a first-year student to Oscar Niemeyer.
We are really open-minded.
'This building offers the opportunity of being an exemplar of good architecture. But the competition has been set up so you don't have to have done 25 cultural buildings to attract our attention.' The seven-person jury will include Tate director Nick Serota, Will Alsop, and representatives from Land Securities, which is funding and developing the site.
Architects have until 26 October to submit their first expressions of interest. A shortlist of six will be drawn up by 5 November and the winner will be announced in the new year.
The new building is due to open in September 2006. More details can be found on the foundation's website at www. architecture foundation. org. uk