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Excellence on the Waterfront Awards Program

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 


Awards Search Engine

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 Center will conduct the awards program this year

We will grant extensions to those who need more time to complete their photography should sites be closed due to the virus. However, we would like to have people fill out the forms and send what info they have like the two page summary in order that we can put together the data base of names, project and other information for out files and the jurors. Deadline July 15, 2020. All text, images, and supporting materials should be digital. The Waterfront Center can accept e-mail, DropBox, CD, or flash drive transport media.

All or parts of the deliberations will be done virtually. Some jurors may be able to be on hand but others may not. Winners will be notified before Labor Day. While we will not be having the conference in Detroit in September 2020, we plan to have a virtual ceremony in September to let everyone know who the winners are and maybe skype or zoom short presentations.

Details to be worked out. The awards booklet we, with the help of Chris Carlson and Steve Durrant, have put out since 2004, will be published in the fall of 2020. See examples of previous years below.

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


The 2018 Award winners can be viewed 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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