2022 Collaborative Achievement Award

The Collaborative Achievement Award recognizes the excellence that results when architects work with those from outside the profession to improve the spaces where people live and work.

When Joseph P. Riley became mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1975, the city's urban center was quickly deteriorating. Over his 10 terms as Charleston’s leader, Riley completely transformed the city into a top cultural destination and positioned himself as one of the country's most visionary and effective leaders. Few understand as well as Riley the many ways in which architecture, urbanism, and human fabric intersect to create great places, and he has forged a path for generations of mayors to follow his positive example.

Across four decades of leadership, Riley continuously considered Charleston’s public realm first and foremost. His work to develop the city's Waterfront Park, the redevelopment of the urban renewal-era Gaillard Center into new city offices, and his insistence that Charleston's government remain in the city's heart demonstrate his forward-thinking vision. The International African American Museum, designed by Moody Nolan and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, will reaffirm Riley's commitment to the city and, more importantly, to its entire history when it opens later this year. Riley considers the project the most important work of his lifetime.

"Joe believes in architecture," wrote Christian Sottile, AIA, professor and former dean at Savannah College of Art and Design, in a letter nominating Riley for the Collaborative Achievement Award.

"As mayor, Joe always surrounded himself with outstanding designers, recognizing that the bone structure of a good city, and all its fine-grained details, mattered." - Christian Sottile, AIA

Throughout his leadership, Riley endeavored to ease racial tensions by working closely with the African American community. Charleston, committed to racial harmony and progress, saw a significant decrease in crime as it simultaneously experienced a stunning revitalization of its historic business district. During Riley's tenure as mayor, the city amassed an impressive record of innovation in public safety, housing, the arts, and development. Today, it is often hailed as one of the most livable and progressive cities in the U.S.

The seeds of Riley's innovative ideas were planted during a late 1970s tour of several European cities, when he was part of a delegation of American civic leaders. In 1985, while on an early morning jog, Riley envisioned a mayors' institute that would instruct other city leaders in the complex matters of good urban design. He passed his idea to Jaquelin Robertson, then dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, who subsequently shared it with the National Endowment for the Arts, which agreed to fund the initiative.

The resulting Mayors' Institute on City Design had its first meeting a year later. For its initial meeting, a maximum of eight mayors, with no staff and no press, met with a small group of design professionals and urban planners over two and a half days. That structure was so thoughtful and successful that it remains unchanged 36 years later. Often, participating mayors return home and emerge as design leaders, fundamentally changing the course of their cities. Since the landmark program's inception, more than 1,200 mayors from all 50 states have participated, ensuring that good design remains at the top of U.S. cities’ agendas.

"Today, Riley's legacy is indisputable, rendered in brick and stone, across architectural styles," Jacob Lindsey, former director of planning and development services for Boulder, Colorado, wrote in support of Riley's nomination. "Mayor Riley dedicated his life to public service in collaboration with the citizens of Charleston, and the built result is an array of civic spaces and architecture that serve the people, enhance the public realm, and set an example for all American cities."


Ryan Gann, Assoc. AIA, Chair, Chicago

Shannon Gathings, Assoc. AIA, Duvall Decker Architects, P.A., Ridgeland, Miss.

Joseph Mayo, AIA, Mahlum, Seattle

Katie Swenson, Assoc. AIA, MASS Design Group, Boston

Image credits

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Joseph P. Riley

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Jack Alterman

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Julia Lynn Photography

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Steve Hall, Hall + Merrick Photographers

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Emma Cobb