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Urban design awards

The Ottawa Urban Design Awards is a biennial awards program that celebrates projects in the City of Ottawa that achieve urban design excellence. 

In our ninth instalment of the program, the 2021 awards will honour exceptional projects in Ottawa completed between September 1, 2019 and August 31, 2021.

Winners of an Award of Excellence will be sent forward as the Ottawa entry to the National Urban Design Awards competition in 2022. Due to COVID-19, the 2021 awards will be online only.

Enter an Award Submission

Deadline for submissions is Friday, September 3 at 4 pm. All online submissions must be received by the deadline date. Late submissions will not be accepted.

For more information regarding the Ottawa Urban Design Awards, email

Submission form

Award Categories

1. Urban Infill


  • Low rise (1-4 storeys )
  • Mid to high rise (5+ storeys)

A building or group of buildings, of high architectural standard, that achieves urban design excellence and creativity due to a thorough and sensitive understanding of the context, site plan, massing and pedestrian amenities. The building(s) will enhance the urban fabric of the neighbourhood.

All types of buildings are eligible, whether landmark or background, new construction or a restoration/transformation. Building types may be mainstreet, mixed-use, residential (detached, attached, multi-unit), commercial, institutional or industrial.

2. Public Places and Civic Spaces

A place defined by adjacent buildings or a natural area or park that exhibits sustainability, and that enhances, extends and embellishes an accessible public realm. These shall be public indoor or outdoor spaces and may include streets, courtyards, plazas, forecourts, trails, parks, bridges, streetscapes and mews.

Image of Flora Footbridge - 2019 Award Winner for Public Places and Civic Spaces and Urban Elements

3. Urban Elements

A designed piece or pieces of a building or landscape that makes a positive contribution to the character of the neighbourhood at a human scale. It adds amenity, enhances the public experience and contributes to the quality and accessibility of the environment. Urban Elements can include an innovative solution that embodies the principles of universal design and may be street furniture, permanent works of art, doorways, gateways, fountains, railings, façades, light fixtures, canopies, walkways and signage, etc.

4. Visions and Master Plans

Studies and master plans that are inspiring, trend setting and significant for the future development of the City. A vision for the City.

5. Community Initiatives - A new award offered in 2019

A built project, however modest, that highlights the power of community action and / or community engagement. An exceptional project in this category will demonstrate the roles of the community and design in generating a dialogue on local issues such as environmental sustainability, mobility, inclusivity, social consciousness, and quality of life. Projects in this category are initiated or implemented by a community member or organization and will demonstrate their role as a steward, educator, and community builder. The project may be related to streetscaping, programming, public art, commemoration, environmental stewardship or cultural interpretation, and will be inspiring, imaginative, educational, or aspirational.

Image of The Gather-Ring – 2019 Award Winner for Community Initiatives

6. Student Projects

A theoretical or studio project that specifically relates to Ottawa. Students that attend universities offering degrees in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and industrial design can submit an entry.


Different types of projects completed between September 1, 2019 and August 31, 2021 are eligible:

  • Buildings (residential, mixed-use, recreational, commercial, institutional and industrial)
  • Building additions and exterior renovations
  • Parks and open spaces
  • Civic structures
  • Public utilities
  • Street improvements
  • Public art

The following projects are NOT eligible for the Urban Design Awards:

  • Building interiors
  • Private spaces (i.e. private gardens, backyards, rooftops, etc.)
  • Incomplete projects or plans
  • Projects or plans located outside of the City of Ottawa
  • Heritage and historic preservation, and adaptive re-use projects 

The competition is open to urban designers, planners, landscape architects, architects, engineers, developers, artists, contractors, consultants, landowners, community groups, students and the public who have contributed to Ottawa’s urban design landscape.

Judging and Jury Members

Submissions for the Ottawa Urban Design Awards will be juried in September, 2021 by an independent panel of urban design experts. The applicant of the winning project will be notified in October, 2021 by email. It is the responsibility of the winning applicant to inform all team members of their winning project, including the landowner.

An Award of Excellence may be presented in each category to an outstanding project. Winning projects of an Award of Excellence will be sent forward as the Ottawa entry to the National Urban Design Awards competition in 2022.

A Certificate of Merit may also be presented in each category of projects deserving recognition. More than one Certificate of Merit can be awarded in each category.

A Community Partner Award of Merit may be presented for an award-winning project from any category that best exemplifies the positive outcome of collaboration efforts between the project team and the community. The winning project will be a public or private project of any scale that highlights the critical role of establishing a strong dialogue between all stakeholders and fostering exceptional cooperation, partnership, and/or engagement in achieving good urban form, design excellence, and context sensitivity.

Important Note: The number and type of award given is at the discretion of the jury and their decision is final. The jury has the right not to present awards in every category and can reallocate an entry into another category (instead of the one that it was submitted in) if deemed appropriate.

Jury Members

Matthew Hickey
Partner, Two Row Architect

Matthew Hickey

Matthew is Mohawk, Wolf clan, from the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve. Receiving his Masters of Architecture from the University of Calgary and his Bachelor of Design from the Ontario College of Art and Design, his background continues to have a significant impact on his work. Practicing architecture for 14 years at Two Row Architect, located on Six Nations, he currently oversees design and development for the firm. Their core focus is on Indigenous design and architecture, designing buildings, landscapes, and installations, on and off-reserve located all over Turtle Island.

Matthew’s focus towards sustainability is on regenerative and restorative design - encompassing ecological, cultural, and economic principles. His work pushes the concepts of integrated landscape, Universal Inclusivity, food equity, the importance of water, and place-keeping for all species, including humans. Matthew’s research includes Indigenous history in architecture of Northern & Middle America and the realignment of western ideology towards historic sustainable technologies for the contemporary North American climate.

Currently teaching at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, and critiquing at the University of Toronto, he believes that giving back and encouraging younger generations is key to moving Indigenous ways of thinking about design and architecture forward. Matthew has lectured across Canada, including most recently, at the Architecture Now Series at the University of Lethbridge. Art being in his blood, he is proud to be a Director on the Board for Artscape Toronto Inc. and a member of Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel.


Meg Graham
Principal, Superkül

Meg Graham

With over 20 years of experience, Meg is widely respected within Canada’s broader architecture and real estate community, and is known for her formidable design acumen, rigorous diligence, hands-on approach, and warm and honest communication style. Alongside work-life partner Andre D’Elia, she helms Superkül’s thriving practice and oversees the firm’s residential, academic, institutional, commercial and mixed-use projects.

As an advocate, educator, and mentor, Meg plays a strong leadership role both in and beyond the design community. She has taught at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto since 2001 and is a regular visiting lecturer and critic at architecture schools across North America. Meg also contributes her expertise in volunteer and board positions, including as past Chair of the Toronto Society of Architects and current Co-Chair of the City of Toronto Design Review Panel, as well as on the Metrolinx Hamilton LRT Design Excellence Conformance Review Panel and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design Alumni Council. Since 2015, Meg has been a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Toronto Schools as well as the Steering Committee for the renewal of the school campus on Bloor Street.

Meg received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Waterloo, winning the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and holds a Master in Design Studies from Harvard University. She is a registered architect with the Ontario Association of Architects and was made a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 2015. In 2020, Meg received the H.J. Crawford Award from the University of Toronto Schools in recognition of her contributions to the advancement of the school through commitment, dedication and volunteerism, and a lifetime of significant achievements in contributing to greater society.


Donald Schmitt
Principal, Diamond Schmitt

Don Schmitt

Don Schmitt is a principal of Diamond Schmitt and a registered architect across Canada and the United States. A graduate of the University of Toronto, Don has several decades of experience in the planning, programming and design of award-winning architecture.

A Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and a member of the American Institute of Architects, Mr. Schmitt and his firm have won over 400 design awards including seven Governor General’s Awards.

Don’s recent notable projects in Ottawa include the transformation of the National Arts Centre, the Senate of Canada Building and the Conservation and Collection Centre for the Museum of Science and Technology. His work also includes the Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning at Sick Children’s Hospital, Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, Lazaridis Hall at Wilfrid Laurier University, Geffen Hall at Lincoln Centre in New York City and the compact, mixed-use, transit connected and pedestrian oriented SmartCentres Place in Vaughan, at 20 million square feet, one of North America’s most significant new urban neighbourhoods.

Don is the Founding Chair of the Public Art Commission for the City of Toronto for which he was awarded the Civic Medal. He was a member of the Advisory Committee on Planning Design and Real Estate for the National Capital Commission in Ottawa for 12 years (2004 - 2016) and a member of the Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel (2006-2016) He is currently a member of the University of Toronto Design Review Panel. Don is a member of the Canadian Arts Foundation Advisory Committee and is an academian with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Donald Schmitt is a Member of the Order of Canada.