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AIA Columbia Design Awards

Welcome to the 2020 AIA Columbia Design Awards!

Again this year, we are using the AIASC OpenWater online awards portal for our design awards program.  If you're new to the portal, you will need to create an account to begin your entry.  If you already have an OpenWater account, just log on and begin a new application where you will choose which AIA Columbia Awards program you want to enter in the Category section on the Registration form.

Please read the instructions below and then click here to enter a project in the 2020 AIA Columbia Design Awards!

Your design entry must be prepared and formatted as described below for submission through the digital portal.

After creating an entry application, you may begin working on your forms and uploading the required files. You may save your work as you go and return to the site as often as needed, but all submission materials must be completed and submitted by the submission deadline.


  • Submissions Open: Monday, August 24
  • Submission Deadline: Friday, October 2 - Projects must be registered and paid for, and all project data and material uploads must be completed by 11:59pm (midnight). Submissions received after midnight on October 2 will be disqualified.
  • Jury Review: October 2020
  • Design Awards Gala: will be held virtually on November 5. Details to be announced soon.

Through its Design Awards Program, AIA Columbia recognizes excellence in architecture throughout the South Carolina Midlands. The purpose of the awards program is to encourage and recognize distinguished architectural achievement and to honor the architects, clients, and consultants who work together to improve the built environment and for their role in shaping the quality of life through design excellence.

To enter a project, you must complete a registration form first, add it to your cart, and then pay for your entry(s) - see below for entry fees. You will receive an email from AIA South Carolina confirming that your payment has been received or with instructions on where to send payments made by check. After registering your project, you can then proceed to "complete your application" and submit all required project information and material uploads. Multiple projects can be submitted, but each must be registered and submitted separately. 

After you've registered and paid for your entry, you can continue to submit project information and file uploads by clicking on the "Click to Continue" link at the top of the page - or return to your submission at any time before the entry deadline on October 2.  

AIA Columbia members who are registered architects are eligible regardless of project location or architect's residence.

  • If the design architect is not registered in South Carolina, the AIA Columbia architect of record must be credited.
  • Submitting architect may qualify as a member of a design team, whether or not serving as the head of the team. When one architect is not the sole author, all other participants contributing substantially to the design of the project must be given credit as part of the submission, regardless of professional discipline.

Eligible projects include the following:

  • Realized projects must have been completed since January 1, 2015.
    • New construction
    • Additions
    • Projects involving significant changes to existing buildings
    • Residential projects
  • Unrealized projects that fit all other criteria

Ineligible projects include:

  • Those that have previously received AIA Columbia awards
  • Projects that do not fit previously listed criteria

There are two general design awards categories: Realized Projects and Unrealized Projects.

Realized Projects - New Construction:
Projects submitted in this category will include a broad range of types such as Commercial, Educational, Multifamily, Housing, Institutional, or Faith-based Architecture. Master Planning and Urban Design projects are also eligible for recognition under this category. Substantial renovations of existing buildings are eligible, but project scope must be clearly and accurately presented through graphics and written descriptions. 

Realized Projects - Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse/Renovation:
Projects submitted in this category may be of any project type (Commercial, Educational, Residential, etc.) but should include either a renovation within an existing building or a new construction that expands an existing structure or site. Projects that have been recognized for historical value through inclusion in Historic Districts or listing on Historic Registers should identify the type and reason for recognition in the written project description. Projects that do not have official recognition or designation are also eligible and should outline the historical significance in the project description. The intent of this award is to recognize thoughtful interventions or restorations that create a synergy between old and new construction. Routine maintenance, such as painting or reroofing is not considered restoration work for the purposes of this award. 

Unrealized Projects:
Unrealized architectural designs of any project type are eligible including purely theoretical projects and unbuilt client-sponsored projects (commercial or residential buildings, interiors, transportation infrastructure,  monuments,  etc.  - all project types). Projects under construction or otherwise apparently assured of construction are not eligible. All client-sponsored projects must submit a release from the owner. Entrants must be AIA Columbia members in good standing.

Realized Projects:  $50 per entry  
Unrealized Projects:  $25 per entry 
No refunds will be issued for Design Awards registration fees. 

Awards will be bestowed at two levels: Honor and Merit (and at the jury's discretion, Citation and Divine Detail), of which Honor is the highest distinction. No minimum or maximum number of awards will be required of the jury. Each project will be considered on its own merit. Therefore, projects will not be considered in the limited context of the Columbia Midlands region but rather within the context of present day design values and the ideals that have shaped the definition of "good" design throughout the years. As always, a host of design issues will inform the jury process. Issues such as innovation, form, construction, utility, response to context and/or an appreciation of the project's environmental impact are some of the factors likely to be considered for each project.

Joel Blackstock, Principal at Williams Blackstock Architects located in Birmingham, Alabama will serve as this year’s Head Juror.   https://www.wba-architects.com/

The Winners of 2020 Design Awards will be notified prior to the Design Gala in order for the winner to make arrangements with parties involved with the project to attend the Gala should they wish to. We encourage those receiving recognition to invite project team members as well as owners, consultants, contractors and other interested parties to attend the Gala and share in the honor of being selected as an award recipient. Notification will indicate that the project/firm will be receiving an award but will NOT indicate the award level prior to the event.

Date and details to be announced soon! 

To complete your submission, you must:

  1. REGISTER your project and pay the entry fee in the "Pay First" round. You must pay for your entry (by check or online with a credit card) prior to advancing to the "Submission" round where you will enter project information and upload your image files. Payments made by check must be received at AIA South Carolina, 1530 Main Street - Suite C, Columbia, SC 29201 by October 2.
  2. Complete the SUBMISSION FORM (Project Descriptions, Concealed Project Data) and upload all required files (Public Display Image, Jury Presentation PDF, Photo/Client Release Forms)
  3. Confirm that your Project Descriptions, Architect's Statement and Presentation PDF do not contain your firm name and/or logo.
  4. "Save and Finalize" your submission by Friday, October 2 at 11:59 pm (midnight) EDT
  5. If you're paying by check, be sure we receive your payment at AIASC by October 2.

Please complete all requested information in the portal. Required fields are marked with an asterisk. Please be sure the information appears EXACTLY as you wish to see it published and listed on the awards certificates. Check the spelling of names carefully. You may save your work and return to the submission site as often as needed - as long as you complete and submit all parts of the project submission, along with payment of entry fees, by the due date.

Please direct questions to AIA Columbia's Design Awards Committee Chair, Spencer Hutchinson, AIA at shutchinson@quackenbusharchitects.com  

A complete submission will include: 

  • Completion of the online REGISTRATION FORM and payment of entry fee(s) ("Pay First" Round)
  • Completion of the online SUBMISSION FORM ("Submission" Round)
  • PROJECT DESCRIPTION - 150 words, max.
  • ARCHITECT'S STATEMENT - 500 words, max.
  • JURY IMAGE for reference during jury deliberations
  • JURY PRESENTATION PDF (15MB, 12 pages max) for jury and design awards presentation purposes
  • PUBLIC DISPLAY IMAGE (may have firm name and/or logo on it) for display and media purposes
  • RELEASE FORM (photo/client forms are available for download during the submission process)
  • New this year! Optional FRAMEWORK FOR EXCELLENCE submission questions (see below for preview)
  • New this year! PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD submission questions for inclusion in public voting on Instagram  

Conceal references to the architecture firm on all materials submitted for jury review. Identification of project authorship within the Image Files or Presentation PDF will disqualify the submission.

JURY/PRESENTATION PDF (15MB, 12 pages max.)
Files shall conform to the following page requirements:

  • The total size of the PDF file—all pages combined—may not exceed 15MB of data and 300dpi.
  • Each submission may contain a maximum of 12 pages. At your discretion, submit individual images on separate pages, or arrange multiple elements in a layout on a page. (Entrants are encouraged to include drawings, diagrams or sketches to provide the jury with an insight into your design process and solution.)
  • The submissions will be reviewed digitally and therefore, each page shall be in PDF format, landscape orientation, and developed as a PDF presentation file. The jury will view your submission on computer screens and through screen projection. An easy way to produce your PDF presentation file is to create your presentation in PowerPoint and then save the file as a PDF.
  • Please include photographs, drawings, floor plans, elevations, sections, renderings and graphic images as necessary to provide a clear understanding of the extent and quality of the finished project. A site plan is required, where applicable. Photographs should depict the whole project with views of each exposed exterior façade and each room of the project, as appropriate. Exterior views are optional for Interiors projects.
  • Label images with suitable titling and captions. 
  • Renovations, restorations, additions and conversions should present “before” and “after” photographs. For projects involving changes to existing structures, documentation of original conditions is highly recommended. Process sketches that communicate the development of the project and/or its construction are encouraged.
  • Indicate the project’s physical context or site character through graphics and/or imagery.
  • Unbuilt projects should include floor plans, elevations, sections, renderings, graphic images, and/or site plans as necessary to provide a clear understanding of the project. If client-commissioned, include photos of the site location.
  • When your pages are ready to submit, arrange the desired sequence of pages in a single .pdf presentation and reduce the file size.
  • Please remember you must conceal references to the architecture firm or team members on all PDFs submitted for jury review. Identification of project authorship within the project PDF, including the file naming convention, will disqualify the submission.
  • Use this naming convention for the Presentation PDF file: Entry(number)_Presentation.pdf

Framework for Excellence Questions (OPTIONAL):

  1. Designing for Equitable Communities: In no more than 500 words, describe how community members - inside and outside the building - benefit from the project, including any/all of the following:
    • walkability/human scale/alternative transportation
    • community engagement and buy-in
    • social equity
  2. Designing for Integration: In no more than 500 words, describe how the sustainable design and building performance strategies are integrated within the project's overall design goals.
  3. Designing for Energy: In no more than 500 words, describe any energy challenges associated with the building type, intensity of use, or hours of operation, and how the design responds to these challenges. Describe energy-efficient design intent, including passive design strategies and active systems and technologies. How are these strategies evident in the design, not just the systems? 
  4. Design for Change: In no more than 500 words, describe how the project design anticipates adapting to new uses, adapts to climate change, and supports resilient recovery from disasters.


Click here to enter a project in the 2020 AIA Columbia Design Awards!

Questions? Contact Spencer Hutchinson, AIA at shutchinson@quackenbusharchitects.com