2021 Design Excellence Awards

The Design Excellence Awards are back!

The Montgomery County Planning Department is seeking to recognize exceptional architecture, landscape architecture and urbanism that makes a difference in people’s lives and represents the county’s highest quality of design to the region, state and nation. This year, Montgomery Planning will hold its fifth Design Excellence Awards competition to honor this work.

The Montgomery County Planning Department’s Design Excellence Awards are open for:

  • Building, Site and/or Urbanism Projects
  • Exceptional Multi-Family Housing, and
  • Public Projects

SUBMITTAL DEADLINE: Monday, July 19, 2021

Great design can offer creative solutions to the challenges we face every day, from social inequity to climate extremes. The Montgomery County Planning Department seeks to recognize exceptional architecture, landscape architecture and urbanism that makes a difference in people’s lives and represents the County’s highest quality of design for the region, state and nation. This year, the Department will hold its fifth biennial Design Excellence Award competition to honor this work with three award categories:

  • Buildings, Site and/or Urbanism Design Excellence Award
  • Exceptional Multi-Family Housing Award
  • Public Project Award

The top award recognizes an exceptional building, urban design and/or landscape that represents built excellence which enhances the public realm and promotes a stronger and sustainable community through physical design. Another top award will be given to honor extraordinary multi-family housing that impacts the larger community through greater human connections, health, resilience, and accessibility to all. This multi-family housing winner will exemplify design excellence by making lives better for those who live there now and into the future. A third top award will be given to a public project that exemplifies the best qualities of design that support the public realm, community-building, and place-making. This winning public project design will bring beauty as well as social, economic, and environmental value to its community. All winning designs will help promote great urbanism no matter where their location is within the County.

The three winning projects should demonstrate the essential qualities of outstanding walkable, sustainable places at the scale of the neighborhood, block and/or building. They should be integral to the surrounding public realm of the pedestrian, bike and street networks. They should be the buildings and places that people love and will fight to preserve well into the future. All three award winners will illustrate how great design contributes to the community in terms of character, identity, and economic value. These awards provide the opportunity for the winning projects to be seen widely, particularly in business and professional settings where the best qualities of Montgomery County are promoted.

Entries will be accepted starting Monday, June 7, 2021. The deadline for submission is Monday, July 19, 2021 at 11:59pm. WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO UPLOAD YOUR SUBMISSION(S) EARLY. The selection of the three winners will be made by an outside independent jury with expertise in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and urban design. These expert jurors were invited by the Planning Department.

This year’s jury consists of:

  • Matt Bell, FAIA – Principal at Perkins Eastman, Washington, DC
  • Tom Canfield, AIA – City Architect, City of Alexandria, VA
  • Luanne Greene, FAIA – President of Ayers Saint Gross, Baltimore, MD
  • Jair Lynch – President of Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, Washington, DC
  • Trini Rodriguez, AICP, AIA, ASLA – Principal at Parker Rodriguez, Alexandria, VA

The Design Excellence Awards will be presented on the evening of October 21 at Celebrate Design 2021. This event will be held at the M-NCPPC’s new Wheaton headquarters at 2425 Reedie Drive, Wheaton, MD 20902. It will be held in conjunction with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Potomac Valley Chapter annual design awards celebration. The public is welcome to attend.

Criteria for project eligibility:

  • Private or Public projects built within Montgomery County.
  • Built/completed within the last ten years.
  • Exceptional high-quality design that has a clear relationship to its community context, promotes sustainability and enhances the public realm.

Montgomery County Planning Department point of contact:

For any questions or clarifications, please contact:

Paul Mortensen, paul.mortensen@montgomeryplanning.org, O:301-495-4523. C:240-338-9521


Materials needed for a complete entry submission:

PLEASE NOTE: Submissions may not display the firm name or other identifying information related to the design team. Submittals that do not conform to this requirement will be disqualified.

Information for the form:

  • Your contact information
  • Names and contact information for team members and consultants
  • Key facts about project

Files to attach:

  • PDF of Project Description Text
  • PDF of Slides for Jury Review
    • Neighborhood Context – Provide an Area Site Plan within ¼ mile radius of the project.
    • For Buildings: Typical floor plan(s) including each building level where people enter/exit
  • PDF of Slides for Awards Celebration
  • 5 – 10 JPEG images for printed materials

Entry Fee:

Credit card or PayPal to pay $175 via Eventbrite


Design Excellence Award Entry Form

    Please select all that apply. There is no additional entry fee for submittal for more than one award.
  • Project Information

  • Month and Year
  • Contact Information

  • Project Team Information

    Names and contact information for team members and consultants
  • NameEmailPhone 
    Maximum of 6 Team Members
  • Key Project Facts

  • Key facts about the project, such as: What is the project program? Size of site, number of units, square footages of uses, etc. Is it a private or public development? What level of environmental sustainability is incorporated into the development and how? 500 words maximum.
  • Attachments

  • Accepted file types: pdf, Max. file size: 64 MB.
    500 words maximum
    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.
    Describe the design program, its purpose, goals, scale and details, such as context relationships and key site features. How does this design support good walkable urbanism and improve the public realm?
    Describe the site’s physical, social, and ecological setting and this project’s response to it.
    Describe how the project was initiated and how the key design concepts respond to the challenges posed by the design program and context.
    Point to ways in which design choices will improve the quality of life for people in the project and in the surrounding neighborhood.

    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.
    • Economic, social and/or environmental sustainability through design, construction, and connections to the public realm.
    • Provide details or 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 this project overcomes common barriers to the creation of good urbanism and advances project excellence in areas such as community input, policy, regulations, development process, design and construction.
  • Accepted file types: pdf, Max. file size: 64 MB.
    Neighborhood Context – Provide an Area Site Plan within ¼ mile radius of the project.
  • Accepted file types: pdf, Max. file size: 64 MB.
    For Buildings: Typical floor plan(s) including each building level where people enter/exit
  • Accepted file types: pdf, Max. file size: 64 MB.
  • Accepted file types: pdf, jpg, png, Max. file size: 64 MB.
    5-10 PDF images for printed materials (Please combine into a single file). Please note: images provided may be used in Planning Department marketing materials.
Last Updated: June 10, 2021