Awards, Press Releases

SOM Parkmerced Vision Plan Receives Nation’s Highest Honor in Architecture + Urban Design

Image © SOM

San Francisco, CA: The American Institute of Architects announced this week that the Parkmerced Vision Plan, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) has received a 2013 National Honor Award. This award recognizes design excellence and the most outstanding achievements in the profession. “The field of entries was extremely competitive and the Parkmerced Vision Plan project clearly stood out as one of a small group for its depth and quality of analysis and design resolution,” said Jury Chairperson Mark Shapiro, AIA, NCARB, LEED® AP BD+C. “I would like to add my personal congratulations.” Led by SOM Design Partner, Craig Hartman, FAIA, Managing Director, Carrie Byles, AIA, LEED® AP, and Design Director, Leo Chow, AIA, the Parkmerced Vision Plan is a pioneering neighborhood revitalization program that holistically integrates best principles of environmental sustainability and neighborhood livability. The project will create a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use neighborhood that radically reduces automobile dependency; provides much improved connectivity to transit; creates larger, more usable open spaces by recycling underused urban low density land; and relies upon rapidly evolving green technologies in infrastructure to reduce energy and water usage. An interdisciplinary approach to urban design, architecture and engineering has led to an overall plan that will triple the original project’s density with a net zero increase of potable water, waste water and energy. The project’s transportation plan will reduce automobile traffic generated by Parkmerced by over 9 million miles per year. Taken together, within 20 years of operation, the revitalized neighborhood will cross the threshold to net-zero carbon production – the source of climate changing greenhouse gasses. As a global model, the plan’s extensive engineering and analysis confirmed that compact living patterns produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than their suburban counterparts. Locally, Parkmerced provides an important model as a means to accommodate projected population growth with low environmental impact. By providing new homes within an existing urban environment, Parkmerced will help reverse the Bay Area’s current model of low density development and the associated sprawling consumption of land and destruction of natural habitats. Parkmerced will participate in the improvement of SF’s existing urban infrastructure and transportation systems on which its residents will be able to conveniently rely. “It is a tremendous honor for Parkmerced to receive this national recognition by the AIA. The award recognizes the relevance of Parkmerced’s vision of social equity and environmental stewardship at the neighborhood scale as well as its replicability as a model for compact, walkable and highly livable urban neighborhoods - a significant part of the solution to global climate change.” says Hartman. The plan would protect existing residents at Parkmerced from displacement, and help address the City’s and Bay Area Region’s current housing shortage for households at all income levels. The project was approved by the San Francisco Planning Department and Board of Supervisors in June 2011 with Phase 1 implementation beginning later this year Originally built to house service members returning from World War II, Parkmerced has the distinction of being the Bay Area's largest privately owned residential community. The plan will construct 5,679 net new residences for a total of 8,900, and will create a new social heart containing 250,000sf of new neighborhood-serving retail, a grocery store, community services, a school and open-space. All amenities will be within comfortable walking distance of all residences and will allow residents to fulfill most of their daily needs within the neighborhood on foot rather than by car. Among the plan’s urban mobility innovations is the reconnection of the neighborhood to the rest of the city with the addition of three new Muni stations within the neighborhood. The greatest development intensity is planned around these new stations, capitalizing on the level of activity the new stations will bring to the district. Over the course of the Vision Plan’s incremental development, architecture at Parkmerced will be designed by carefully selected top California-based architects, including SOM, whose focus is design excellence All new construction will be subject to a rigorous Sustainability Plan, which contains specific performance requirements and a Design for Development that focuses design on creating a socially vibrant community. More information about Parkmerced can be found at

About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world, with a 75‐year reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since its inception, SOM has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm has been honored with more than 1,400 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Brussels, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.