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Excellence on the Waterfront Awards Program

    In 1987 the Waterfront Center began the “Excellence on the Waterfront Awards Program,” initiated with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts Design Arts Program and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, to recognize top-quality planning, design, and development work from around the world. Entries are for comprehensive plans, built projects and student work. The Center also recognizes grassroot citizen’s efforts through a Clearwater Award named for the non-profit group of that name founded by Pete Seeger working to clean up the Hudson River in New York.

    Over the years the stature of this awards program has grown internationally. In 2012 seven of the ten awards came from outside the U.S., including Malta, New Zealand and Singapore  The Waterfront Center is known as an independent institution and the judgments rendered by the awards juries are seen as unbiased recognition based on merit.  Honor awards are increasingly sought after and prized. The initial announcement of each year’s awards comes during the Center’s annual conference on waterfront planning, development and culture.
    Since the start of the program the Waterfront Center has presented awards to 380 recipients. Since 2004, popular, 20-page illustrated booklets have been prepared each year to publicize the winning projects, and more recently  the winners have been posted on the Internet, see below.

    For those unfamiliar with the program such as the judging criteria and entry requirements see the section below to get an idea of what is involved in submitting your project or plan. 

The 2018 Award winners can be viewed HERE

Jury, Criteria and Application Forms

    An interdisciplinary jury of professional planners, designers, city officials, and community, business and development representatives determines the award winners using the following qualitative criteria:

Sensitivity of the design to water. Document how the entry makes use of the waterfront and the water resource, how it provides for active public enjoyment of the waterfront and, where possible, provides for physical and visual access to and along the waterfront.

Quality and harmony of design. Show how the project/plan citizen effort/student work fits into the surroundings, be they natural or man-made, and incorporates and celebrates the unique historic and cultural features of the community, particularly relating to the waterfront. The human scale of the project will also be a consideration.

Civic contribution. Relate how the project has helped the economy of the community, boosted civic pride or otherwise has had a positive affect on the area. Show that the work is sustainable and how it is economically viable over the long run.

Environmental. Show how environmental values are stressed. This aspect and the importance of sound scientific underpinnings have been very important to recent juries.

Enrichment. Show how the project/plan contributes to the overall cultural richness of the community. Where applicable, relate how the entry provides interpretive signs, displays or other facilities to explain an area’s waterfront heritage and natural values.

Degree of difficulty. Describe how obstacles of various types have been overcome, be they natural, political/jurisdictional, economic or permitting.

Application Form

Entry Guidelines

Project Guidelines

Plan Guidelines

Student Guidelines

Clearwater Guidelines


Awards Search Engine

The Waterfront Center has loaded information about almost all the awards granted by the Waterfront Center since 1987 into a searchable database linked to our webpage, see more detail HERE.

The page to enter queries can be found HERE 

See the  movie about the Excellence on the Waterfront awards search engine HERE


Check out this and previous year award winners. 

Click on booklet covers to view.




These publications are available for purchase.  Click on Books.

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