American cities embody our nation’s greatest triumphs and most daunting challenges. At their best they showcase the rich diversity, cultural achievement, and democratic values that characterize the American spirit. At their worst they reflect our country’s most persistent social ills – economic disparity, hopelessness, neglect and abandonment. Yet there are those places that are developed with such vision and imagination that they transform urban problems into creative solutions. By recognizing these extraordinary places, the Award seeks to promote fresh and innovative thinking about cities, and to encourage us all to demand excellence in our urban environments.
Excellence exists in every city. It can be found in downtowns, in neighborhoods, in small cities and large ones. The purpose of the Award is to discover places that embody design excellence inclusive of social, economic, and environmental factors. These places often transcend the boundaries between architecture, urban design, and planning. They are born through processes of transformation – the renewal of something old, or the creation of something new that resonates in the history of community life.
An excellent urban place involves the interplay of process, place and values. Processes may be inclusive, innovative or participatory. Places may be grandiose or modest; new or historic, but must be well designed, and must demonstrate positive contributions to their neighborhoods and cities. Values guide the inevitable tradeoffs involved in bringing a project to life. The Award seeks to illuminate the complex process of urban placemaking, so that it may be strengthened to better reflect the balance between form and use, opportunity and cost, and preservation and change.