Gala 2012: Mayor Michael A. Nutter Receives Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award for Leadership in Urban Design

The Honorable Michael A. Nutter, mayor of Philadelphia, is the second recipient of the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award for Leadership in Urban Design, awarded by the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) in association with The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM).

In selecting Mayor Nutter for the award, AAF and USCM emphasized the design leadership that he has demonstrated in transforming Philadelphia into a city focused on smart design and sustainability.  Highlights of Mayor Nutter’s accomplishments include:

  • Philadelphia2035:  In 2008, Mayor Nutter tasked the Philadelphia City Planning Commission with developing a comprehensive and achievable overhaul of the city’s approach to planning.  The newly adopted Philadelphia2035 Comprehensive Plan provides strategic planning to align with the City’s overhauled zoning code. Resident outreach through the innovative Citizens Planning Institute keeps citizens informed and involved in the planning process.
  • GreenWorksPhiladelphia:  In 2009, Mayor Nutter launched this initiative to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the U.S.  Investments to date include receiving a $25 million federally-funded, regional loan to help businesses and residents to become more energy efficient, increasing the city’s tree canopy to 30% in all neighborhoods by 2035, and establishing Green2015, an initiative to add 500 acres of new, publicly accessible green space to the city.
  • Delaware River Waterfront:  Mayor Nutter opened the first major Delaware River waterfront re-development project in decades in May 2011.  The Race Street Pier features a boardwalk and redesigned landscape that is linked to the Old City by the newly-built Race Street Connector.  This project serves as a prelude to the comprehensive waterfront investment and development detailed in the 30-year Master Plan for the Central Delaware (October 2011).  The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) created the plan through a process centered on public engagement.  Mayor Nutter demonstrated his design leadership and vision throughout that process through both vocal support and highly active participation.
  • North Broad Street:  Under Mayor Nutter’s leadership, North Broad Street is being transformed through an infusion of $500 million in new development by the Pennsylvania Ballet, Temple University, developers of an expanded Convention Center and other commercial and residential developers.
  • “The Best of Green Schools in 2011”:  In December 2011 the U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools placed Philadelphia on its list of “The Best of Green Schools in 2011” for making “significant steps in 2011 toward the greening of the city’s 291 schools.”

“In the span of just four years, Mayor Nutter has transformed Philadelphia’s approach to urban design,” said Ron Bogle, president and CEO of AAF.  “Mayor Nutter has proven to be masterful at bringing together local leaders and design professionals to make smart design choices that strengthen communities through innovative, sustainable development.”

“A growing number of mayors believe the axiom that good design is essential to the future prosperity of our cities,” said Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of The United States Conference of Mayors.  “From the day he took office, Mayor Nutter set out to prove that axiom right.  He has led Philadelphia and its citizens on a mission to create a city that is welcoming, economically vibrant and green.  He is to be commended for his vision and leadership, which are inspiring his fellow mayors across the country.”

The Riley Award was first presented to former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in February 2011.  The award, presented annually to a mayor by AAF in association with USCM, is named after Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. of Charleston, S.C., who was first elected in 1975 and is now serving his tenth consecutive term in office. Under his leadership, Charleston has been widely acclaimed for its commitment to affordable housing and the revitalization of its waterfront and historic downtown business districts. 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 on City Design has provided leadership training in urban design to more than 850 mayors across America.

Mayor Nutter accepted the award at AAF’s 23rd annual Accent on Architecture Gala on March 9, 2012, in Washington, D.C.




Established in 1943 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that educates the public about the power of architecture to improve lives and transform communities. Through national programs including the Sustainable Cities Design AcademyGreat Schools by Design, the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, and the Architecture + Design Education Network, AAF promotes design leadership and literacy at the local level, where everyday decisions can have a transformative impact on the places that shape our lives and our society. Each year AAF is on the ground in more than 75 cities across the country, helping local leaders to use design as a catalyst for innovation and action.


The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,208 such cities in the country today. Each city is represented in USCM by its chief elected official, the mayor. The primary roles of USCM are to promote the development of effective national urban/suburban policy; strengthen federal-city relationships; ensure that federal policy meets urban needs; provide mayors with leadership and management tools; and create a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information.

Featured in the picture above from L to R are: The Honorable Joseph P. Riley Jr., mayor of Charleston, S.C.; The Honorable Michael A. Nutter, mayor of Philadelphia; Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director, The United States Conference of Mayors; and Ron Bogle, president and CEO, the American Architectural Foundation.  

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Posted in: Accent on Architecture Gala, Design Leadership, Joseph P. Riley Jr. Award, Video

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.