Overview: Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award
for Leadership in Urban Design

In 2010, the American Architectural Foundation and the United States Conference of Mayors created the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award for Leadership in Urban Design to recognize mayors whose commitment to excellence in urban design reflects the outstanding example set by the award’s namesake.

Mayor Riley was first elected by the residents of Charleston, SC, in 1975 and completed his unprecedented tenth term in office in 2016. Under his leadership, Charleston has developed nationally acclaimed affordable housing and has experienced remarkable revitalization of its waterfront and historic downtown business district.

Mayor Riley was a founding father of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the American Architectural Foundation and The United States Conference of Mayors. Established in 1986, the Mayors’ Institute has provided leadership training in city design to more than 900 mayors across America. As a founder and champion of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, Mayor Riley has also helped provide critical urban design support to more than 850 mayors across America. For his efforts, he is widely recognized as one of our nation’s most visionary civic leaders.

Honorees of the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award for Leadership in Urban Design:

2016: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore

2014: Mayor Oscar B. Goodman and Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman, Las Vegas

2013: Mayor Mick Cornett, Oklahoma City

2012: Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Philadelphia

2011: Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago


Ron Bogle, CEO and President of AAF; U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran; former Mayor Oscar Goodman; Mayor Carolyn Goodman, and G. Sandy Diehl, CEO and Founder of SD Global Advisors. Featured image courtesy of David Hathcox Photography

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Posted in: Accent on Architecture Gala, Civic Leaders + Government, Design Leadership, Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award, Print, Sustainability

The American Architectural Foundation has been dedicated to advancing the role of architecture and design in American society since its founding in 1943 by the American Institute of Architects.

In its 75 years in existence the Foundation’s work has taken many forms — from educational programming and exhibitions in its early years to large-scale design initiatives and programs —all of which serve to create a rich legacy.

As the managing partner of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design for twenty years, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors, the Foundation helped move the needle on design and cities. And, through its other signature programs like Save America’s Treasures in partnership with National Parks Service, the Sustainable Cities Design Academy, and Design for Learning, the Foundation has provided critical design leadership training and technical assistance to hundreds of elected officials, education leaders, business leaders, and other key decision makers in the design process.

In recent years, cities and civic leaders have embraced design and design thinking in a way that could not have been imagined when the Foundation begin its work back in 1943 — and AAF’s role in this transformation is a source of great pride for the Foundation. With this increased interest in the role of design in shaping our cities came a proliferation of new organizations to support and facilitate this cultural shift. These advances in the role of design in American society and changes in the nonprofit design sector, coupled with the departure of the organization’s longest-serving CEO, prompted the Foundation’s Board to embark on an intensive and lengthy process to examine the ongoing role and work of the Foundation.

As the Board of Regents reflected on the positive changes of the cultural value of design, the accomplishments of the Foundation, and how the legacy of the Foundation’s work is being carried out by its former staff in new roles and organizations across the country, they reached the conclusion that the American Architectural Foundation had accomplished what it set out to do. As a result, the Foundation began to complete its remaining programs and wind down its operations in the Summer of 2018 and the organization’s endowments have been distributed to allied organizations. The Foundation’s research and reports will remain available on its website as a resource to the field.

The Foundation’s work would not have been possible without the incredible talents of its many staff over the decades, the generous support of its funders, and the tireless dedication of its civic & design partners across the country. The Board remains deeply proud of the significant contributions Foundation has made in its 75-year history and would like to acknowledge that this would not have been possible without the efforts, dedication, and support from so many of you.