SUP Alumni: CoContest and the complexity of the Italian architecture market

Alumni, Community

Cocontest is a crowdsourcing platform that empowers anyone who wishes to refurbish an existing space or building a new one. This work by putting their project out to registered architects and designers who submit design proposals in response to the given brief. The client selects the winning design.


Wrote by Filippo Schiano di Pepe


May 2015, Italy.- Italy seem like the perfect market for a company that gives work to young creative designers and architects. With 2.4 registered architects for every 1,000 people, Italy has the highest number of architectural professionals in Europe, but suffers from an unemployment level of 16.1% and rising. The average salary for an architect in Italy is just 865 euros/month – hardly a living wage.



Part of the reason for this low average salary is that young architects (after finishing university) often have no choice but to take an unpaid position working for an established firm. As an aside, the established firms have failed to find a way to deliver their services in a cost effective manner to the market for smaller projects, preferring, presumably, to work where margins are fatter and less open to competition.



Sadly, there are some who do not see it like that. Last week, eight Italian MP´s (all of them architects – I hesitate to say ‘fat cats’) asked the government to shut down Cocontest because of what they see as unfair competition to their established (and considerably more lucrative) way of doing business.



Hotels unions, taxi drivers and car dealers have made similar complaints about Airbnb, Uber and Tesla. Indeed any firm which seeks to increase efficiency seems to be targeted in this way.



The representatives of Cocontest regard this reaction as normal when a disruptive business enters a well established market. As a young architect, Filippo Schiano di Pepe (one of the cofounders of Cocontest)  worked unpaid for one of those firms that now are fighting to retain the ability to take advantage of highly skilled young designers.
Cocontest services give the opportunity to bypass the lobbies and have a free of charge international exposure through the platform and also the possibility to earn money.



Cocontest levels the playing field by:



  • Creating a global marketplace
  • Running each bid as a competitive tender
  • Not requiring a registration fee from the architect
  • Freeing the client  and clients are free to offer the amount they  want
  • Obliging the client to choose a winner
  • Lowering the cost of client acquisition to the architect
  • Being free to the architect


All of this encourages people to refer more to architects for advice in their projects, increasing the market. At the same time, this make it easier for architects to prove their skills in an ordered competitive market.



The projects posted on the site  are running as an architectural competition, with competitive selection processes to delivers choices, inspiration and value to clients. This is the same as architectural design competitions that are used by big organizations that plan to build hospitals or schools.



At a time when youth unemployment is so high around the world and particularly in Southern Europe where people is struggling, blocking initiatives like CoContest will reduce the few options available in the market to overcome the unemployment.



In other topic, the founders of CoContest are currently in Mountain View, California having been selected by 500 Startups, the prestigious incubator lab. They are the only Italian start up chosen this year.



For more information, please visit



To learn more about this issue, please contact Maria Rita Bovi or Filippo Schiano di Pepe