Design Award 2015

The Montgomery County Planning Department’s First Annual Design Excellence Award 2015

Presenting the 2015 Design Excellence Award Winners


Learn more about the First Annual Design Excellence Award and Citation Winners.

Silver Spring Civic Building

Silver Spring Civic Building

Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center

Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center

Eleven55 Ripley

Eleven55 Ripley

Headquarters of Ruppert Nurseries

Headquarters of Ruppert Nurseries

Town of Somerset Pool Bath House

Town of Somerset Pool Bath House

View a recap of the event

Celebrate Design Event

Hosted by the Montgomery County Planning Department & the Potomac Valley Chapter of AIA

The winner of the Montgomery County Planning Department’s First Annual Design Excellence Award was announced at an award celebration on October 22, 2015 at the Silver Spring Civic Building. The event was combined with the annual awards celebration of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Potomac Valley Chapter.

The celebration brought together urban designers, architects, landscape architects, planners, developers, builders, policymakers, elected officials, design professionals, artists and interested community members from across Montgomery County and the region. A ticketed event, the Awards Celebration was a professional and community networking opportunity. The event included displays of winning submissions, awards presentations and a catered reception.

One of the highlights of the evening was a presentation on the business benefits of design excellence by land use strategist Christopher Leinberger, senior fellow of the Brookings Institution and a founding partner of Arcadia Land Company.

Christopher B. Leinberger

Chris LeinbergerChristopher B. Leinberger is a land use strategist, teacher, developer,
researcher and author. He is the president of Washington, DC-based LOCUS Responsible Reals Estate Developers and Investors, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a founding partner of Arcadia Land Company.

His most recent book is The Option of Urbanism, Investing in a New American Dream. Leinberger writes regularly for The Atlantic Monthly and numerous other magazines. CNN, National Public Radio, Atlantic Cities Channel and the Washington Post, among others, have profiled him.

Leinberger was voted one of the “Top 100 Urban Thinkers” in a 2009 poll conducted by Planetizen, the international urban planning website. He won the 2010 William H. Whyte Urbanism Award from Partners for Livable Communities.


The jury will include accomplished professionals in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, planning and urban design. View the jury bios here.

  • Ed Feiner, FAIA | Design Leadership Council Director, Perkins+Will, Washington, DC
  • Dhiru Thadani, FCNU | Architect and urbanist, Washington, DC
  • Michael Vergason, FASLA | Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Alexandria, Virginia
  • Amy Weinstein, FAIA | Principal, Esocoff & Associates/Weinstein Studio, Washington, DC

About the Design Excellence Award

Design Excellence Award 2015The Montgomery County Planning Department seeks to recognize exceptional work in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design that will represent Montgomery County’s high quality of design to the region, state and nation. Each year, the Department will honor one project that exemplifies the highest qualities of Design Excellence and fosters economic, social and environmental sustainability.

The winning project should express the essential qualities of outstanding walkable, sustainable places at the scale of the neighborhood, block and building.  It will illustrate how great design contributes to the community in terms of character, identity and economic value. It will be a project deserving of community pride. This award is an opportunity for your project to be seen widely, particularly in business and professional settings where the best qualities of Montgomery County are promoted.

Entries are being accepted as of Monday, June 22, 2015.  The deadline for submissions is Friday, August 21, 2015 at midnight.  The selection of a winner will be made by an outside jury of accomplished professionals in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, planning and urban design invited by the Planning Department. The winner will be announced on Thursday, October 22, 2015 during an awards celebration at the Silver Spring Civic Building.

This event will be part of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Potomac Chapter annual awards celebration. One of the highlights of the evening will be a presentation on the business case for design excellence by land use strategist Christopher Leinberger, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.


  • To recognize the best examples of architecture, landscape architecture and urban design that improve a neighborhood’s physical, ecological and social context.
  • To increase public awareness of world-class design excellence within Montgomery County.
  • To promote built work that contributes to the creation of pedestrian-oriented, walkable neighborhoods that enrich and contribute to the greater community.
  • To show how physical design can lead to greater health, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability.


The prize is a partnership with the Montgomery Planning Department to promote the winning project as a premier example of Design Excellence in Montgomery County.

This will include a public promotional campaign launched in spring 2016, to include the following:

    • Announcement with images via the Planning Department e-mail list.
    • Illustrated features on the Planning Department website, linked to multiple portals.
    • Newscast feature video on Plan-It Montgomery on cable television and online.
    • News releases to media outlets with video.
  • Display space and a feature slide loop at the Makeover Montgomery Conference in Spring 2016.  The slide loop will exclusively showcase the winning project at the conference conference.
  • Inclusion of the project in Design Excellence presentations by the Planning Department’s Director, Deputy Director and Chief Urban Designer who speak regularly at events each year in the County and region.

Project Eligibility

  • Public or private projects located within Montgomery County.
  • Completed and in use.
  • Built within the past 10 years.

Judging Criteria

The jury will be asked to judge entries based on the following:

  • Exceptional, distinctive, high quality architecture, landscape architecture and/or urban design.
  • Ability of a development to improve its context through outstanding design.
  • Creation and enhancement of an extraordinary public realm.
  • Ability to stimulate greater public and developer awareness of outstanding, creative and high quality design solutions.

Award Submittal

All submitted materials reviewed by the jury, which are shown above, must not include names of project team members and consultants to guarantee impartial judging.  Jury members will recuse themselves from reviewing any project where there is a conflict of interest. Such information will be provided to the public to ensure a transparent process.

A complete submittal will include:

  • Contact information (separate page).
  • Project description of 500 words maximum.
  • Project description fill-in-the-blank online form.
  • Slides for jury review – PDF of 10 slides.
  • Slides for display at awards celebration- PDF of 3 slides.
  • Images for printed materials – high resolution jpeg images 5-10.
  • Team members/consultants information.
  • Entry fee through this link to AIA Potomac Valley Chapter.

As part of your entry you will be asked to prepare a project description of no more than 500 words.

Describe the program, its purpose, goals, scale and details, such as context and site features. Describe the site’s physical, social and ecological setting. Describe how the project was initiated and how the key design concepts respond to challenges posed by the program and context.

  • Point to ways in which design choices are likely to improve the way people will live, work, thrive and prosper in the project area.
  • Point to quality design/quality of life linkages within the project that will achieve quality of life goals.
  • Point to ways in which the project meets standards for sustainability and smart growth.
  • Based on what is known about the links between the built environment and quality of life, explain how the project provides:
    • A healthier place because of design decisions.
    • A place that makes it easier to start and sustain businesses.
    • A place that preserves choices for people at the full range of incomes and life stages.
  • Provide details of lessons learned or expertise gained over the course of this project that will help this project serve as an example for future high-quality development in Montgomery County. Cite innovative ways of overcoming common barriers to the creation of good urbanism and advancing project excellence in areas such as policy, regulations, development process, design and construction.

Please use descriptive information, including supporting graphics, to assist the jury in quickly developing a strong understanding of both the general characteristics of the project and how it demonstrates design excellence, ingenuity and livability.

How to Submit

Click this link to access the online entry portal. We suggest copying the entry form to a folder on your desktop and preparing your content first, before entering all the information via the entry portal.

Dealine and Entry Fee
  • Deadline: Friday August 21, 2015 at midnight.
  • Entry Fee: $175 per submittal.
  • Entry fees will be paid directly to the AIA Potomac Valley Chapter which is handling the finances and ticketing for the Awards Celebration on October 22, 2015.
  • Each entrant receives a complimentary ticket to the Awards Celebration.

There is no entry fee to enter a project in this awards program if it is already entered in the AIA Potomac Valley Chapter award program.

Last Updated: September 29, 2016