Keystone Award Overview

Selected and presented by the American Architectural Foundation’s Board of Regents, the Keystone Award is an annual national award that honors an individual or organization from outside the industry for exemplary leadership that has increased the value of architecture and design in our culture. The winner of the Keystone Award reflects AAF’s vision of a society in which architecture enriches lives and transforms communities.

Past honorees include the Chicago Architecture Foundation; the U.S. Green Building Council; Amanda M. Burden, Chair of the New York City Planning Commission and Director of the Department of City Planning; Manny Diaz, former Mayor of Miami; the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); Save America’s Treasures; the Pritzker Family of Chicago; former Mayor Jeremy Harris of Honolulu; the Office of the Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration; Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. of Charleston, SC; Rick Lowe, Founding Director of Project Row Houses in Houston, TX; and Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago.

The objective of the Keystone Award is to recognize and encourage individual leadership in architecture and design by all members of society and to reflect the increasingly important role that design plays in our lives and communities.

Eligibility Requirements and Nominations

The Keystone Award honors an individual or organization from outside the field of architecture for exemplary leadership that has increased the value of architecture and design in our culture. The recipient’s contributions to the advancement of design in our culture should be significant and innovative. Efforts to improve his or her community’s future through design should give evidence of a personal commitment beyond financial assistance. Patrons could qualify for this award, as might other individuals such as (but not limited to) advocates, critics, activists, clients, representatives of government, or education leaders.

Presentation of the Award

The Keystone Award is presented at the annual Accent on Architecture Gala in Washington, D.C.


Lynn Osmond, Hon. AIA and President and CEO of Chicago Architecture Foundation, receives the Keystone Award on behalf of the organization. Featured image courtesy of  Jeff Malet Photography

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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.