The World Architectural Festival is a feast of stunning buildings, big names and weeping designers

The world's architects have descended on Barcelona for the first World Architecture Festival, and I´ve come over to take in the atmosphere.

It´s a little bit like Cannes, but with buildings as the stars. All the big names of the past couple of years are here, including Zaha Hadid´s Stirling-nominated Nordpark, Lord Foster´s Wembley Stadium, HOK Sport's Olympic Stadium and more. There are also the indie kids, smaller international buildings from architects you´ll never have heard of in Australia, Japan, Bahrain and the Philippines.

The format is as follows: each scheme is presented to a trio of judges by the architect involved. The judges then proceed to crit his or her designs in front of an audience of their peers. The overall winner of each category - schools, transport, housing etc - will be announced tomorrow.

They don't hold back …

As a journalist, the WAF has so far provided a learning curve I could not hope to achieve back at my desk in the UK. Hearing architects critique each others' buildings in front of each other is, surprisingly, not something that happens terribly often to us. It just isn´t done. It´s sort of like honour amongst thieves. But here, they don´t hold back. I´ve already heard rumours of one architect running out from their crit in tears. Though Spencer de Grey of Foster + Partners told me the judges for the “Pleasure” category had been very kind - as well they might, given de Grey's boss is on the senior judging panel.

The real pleasure here, though, is in seeing a cross-section of architectural projects, familiar and unknown, from around the globe. I happened to bump into Chris Wilkinson, director of Wilkinson Eyre, wandering around the exhibits this morning. He called the Festival a “snapshot of architecture today”, and that I suspect is the true value of a conference like this. It's unclear what benefit a practice will get from winning the World Architecture Festival Building of the Year award. As far as I can see there are barely any clients at the Festival. But the respect of one's peers - and they are more or less all here, from every UK architect you can think of - is a comparably satisfying reward.

Very touching

A nice touch here, finally, is the choice of exhibitors. Architects have nominated materials suppliers to exhibit wares used on their shortlisted buildings. So for example NBL Keramic, the terracotta specialist for Allford Hall Monaghan Morris' Westminster Academy, is showing off the distinctive green and yellow tiling of that building. Likewise, Zabag is featuring the bespoke glass panels that made Zaha Hadid's wintry Nordpark so ice-like. It's a pleasingly down-to-earth touch.