2023 Urban Design Award Recipients Announced by AIA California

Schemes that remake a mid-century landscape into a space of inclusion in San Francisco and adaptive re-use conceived with a radical imagination in Oakland are Honor Award recipients. 2023 also recognizes students through its inaugural Student Awards category.

Sacramento, California—The American Institute of Architects California (AIA California) is delighted to announce the four recipients of its 2023 Urban Design Awards, along with an additional three architecture students, recognized in the inaugural Student category.

The awards program honors excellence in the creation, improvement, and sustainability of the physical environment by architects and landscape architects as embodied in master planning, landscape architecture, and conceptual architectural design.

This year, a plan for a San Francisco Civic Center Public Realm; a Township Commons already realized in the City of Oakland; a master plan to repurpose “Hensley Field,” previously an airfield in Dallas; and a renovation of the Monterey Conference Center Portola Plaza are recipients, along with three inaugural student winners.  

Fifty individuals currently studying or who have recently graduated entered AIA California’s Urban Design Awards inaugural Student Category. This new feature was launched to recognize the importance of emerging student professionals’ contributions and vision as significant strategists in our livable environments.

“The caliber of work by the awarded students demonstrates the validity and vitality of creating this category,” noted AIA California President Scott Gaudineer, AIA. “These student-designed projects address contemporary urban design challenges with solutions offering the quality and complexity required to realize their thoughtful ideas,” continued Gaudineer. Gaudineer first joined the AIA as a student member and has continued his participation in the organization ever since.

Recipients of all awards are noted below; “Honor” denotes the highest level.

San Francisco Civic Center Public Realm Plan
(San Francisco, California)
CMG Landscape Architects with Kennerly Architecture & Planning

Jury Notes:
This unbuilt project goes to a bigger vision. It’s a path forward to the future: San Francisco has big issues to deal with, but it is such a positive gesture to understanding the importance of nature in the context of urban space. It balances the use of being an ”active” park as well as a ”ceremonial” one. The spaces are well-scaled, addressing both the monumental “civic heart” of the city and the day-to-day use of community, neighbors, and employees.

Township Commons
(Oakland, California)
Einwiller Kuehl Landscape

Jury Notes:
This built project is an alluring homage to the industries that once occupied the site and increases a superlative public realm in an area in Oakland that much needs it. Its clarity is impressive. The jury was impressed by how the elements the architect kept were used and dispersed. The adaptive reuse works: There’s a sense of history there, giving communities much greater depth. The project is not overdesigned: the urban design gestures are large enough in scale but with a ‘light touch,’ that’s hard to achieve.

Hensley Field Masterplan
(Dallas, Texas)
Grimshaw and Studio-MLA

Jury Notes:
This proposal envisions an amazing new urban community anchored by five distinctly different core districts, transformed from an original former airfield. Faint traces of the airport infrastructure remain, together with building fabric, but the site is radically transformed through the manipulation of the landscape. The jury admires the compelling distribution of patterns and uses, nicely represented with sustainability in mind. The designers deliver a clear hierarchy of elements while including a variety of open-space approaches.

Monterey Conference Center Portola Plaza
(Monterey, California)
GLS Landscape | Architecture with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Jury Notes:

The Conference Center addition creates a transparent and compelling backdrop–to a curbless public realm—that appropriately preferences the pedestrian as much as the car, despite the obvious need for a vehicular dropoff. The geometries of the space simultaneously allow for flexibility while centering the composition. Lighting, landscaping, and artistic ground plane treatments work together to reinforce a distinctive environment.


The Diversity Plaza to the Jackson Heights Place (Queens, New York)
Frank Wen Yao (University of California, Berkeley – for identification purposes only, student projects were submitted by individuals, not schools)

Jury Notes: 
This is a very nice project with a rich complexity that feels like it could really happen. It offers a nice approach and concept: proposing a need and way to expand the public space over time. The project tackles a compact, dense site but sees this as a potential for creating more active public spaces rather than as a constraint. And it proposes a way to generate energy from the overhead rail system—an intriguing idea.

Logistics Community Hub in California High Speed Railway
(Central Valley, California)
Vishesh Naresh Khetwani & Daisy Porras (California College of the Arts – for identification purposes only, student projects were submitted by individuals, not schools)

Jury Notes:
This project explores a problem in so many cities where public spaces are not connected; the student really thought through how to bring them together in a well-developed polemic on the intersection between transportation and architecture. The jury applauds their efforts to leverage rail for increased efficiency in logistics and economic development.

(Pasadena, California)
Austin Nguyen (University of Southern California – for identification purposes only, student projects were submitted by individuals, not schools)

Jury Notes:
This urban design intervention cleverly works within the constraints of the pervasive road network to establish a new design language, at once fitting in and asserting itself. The student found a way to deal with a problem that so many cities have: how to fill up the ”underbelly of the beast”

Reviewing and selecting the 2023 AIA California Urban Design Awards recipients were 2023 jury members: David Gamble FAIA – Principal, Gamble Associates; Keith McPeters – Principal, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd; Gwynne Pugh AIA – Principal, Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio; Maria Ogrydziak AIA – Founder, Maria Ogrydziak Architecture; and Steve Wilson AIA – Senior Associate, Gensler.

Skip to content