In a city that prides itself on its historic buildings, architects face a challenge: How do you push forward with the best new designs without sticking out like a sore thumb? On Oct. 19, city officials will drop a few hints with the first-ever City of Charleston Award for Design Excellence.

Timed to coincide with National Design Week (Oct. 15-23), the award will recognize designers and developers for building projects that have been completed since 2000. Future awards will recognize the best designs of each subsequent year. Tim Keane, the city’s director of planning, preservation, and sustainability, says the design criteria are “inside baseball to some degree,” but he hopes to highlight the best of the best.

“This is the first time the city has done this, and I guess it’s overdue,” Keane says. “What we’re trying to do is clarify what we think of as high-quality design of new buildings and new spaces in the city.” Buildings will be judged for their placement relative to public spaces, their durability, their adaptations to the Southern climate, and their use of sustainable building materials. Keane says his department will also factor in design “at the pedestrian human scale, that it works well at the street level.”

Awards will be given in three categories: Public Realm (parks, streets, and other shared spaces), Buildings Within the Historic Districts, and Buildings Outside of the Historic Districts. In a press release, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. says the awards will also highlight the city’s collaboration with private designers and developers.

“These awards are one way for us to recognize architecture and design that most exemplifies our aspirations for the future of the city,” Riley says.

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