News Analysis

COTE Top Ten for 2023 Provide Open Space Teeming with Life

Even constrained urban sites offer biodiversity and equitable access to nature, and winners also include a city park, a nature center, and a tech campus with a public waterfront.

The Committee on the Environment (COTE) of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has unveiled its annual top ten awards for high-performance projects. The projects feature cutting-edge accomplishments in all ten COTE design categories (which a few years ago were also promulgated as the AIA Framework for Design Excellence), but one thing stands out particularly for 2023: each project site, no matter how constrained, yields a panoply of positive outcomes for occupants, owners, neighbors, nature, and broader energy and water systems.


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A child walking on sun-dappled pavement near a perforated lime green architectural screen.

Casa Adelante 2060 Folsom

Mithun with collaborating architect Y.A. Studio

Sited on a former parking lot in San Francisco’s Mission District, Casa Adelante at 2060 Folsom responds to a more than 20-year history of displacement in this neighborhood that was historically (before the dot-com boom of the early 2000s) home to a large concentration of struggling new Americans (see a case study of the project process). With a bold set of murals, a durable affordability commitment to 127 households, and onsite services supporting and enhancing the lives of transition-age youth and multigenerational families, the project holds permanent space for the Mission District’s traditional residents.

A carefully crafted pedestrian paseo and a desperately needed adjacent public park provide food and habitat for pollinators and humans alike. The design of these spaces also allowed the landscaping team to restore some of Mission Creek’s ecosystem services, using contemporary drainage systems and plantings to mimic how the site likely functioned before urbanization. The approach also “helps mitigate recurring backups and flooding in this low-lying neighborhood,” according to the project team.

Photo: © Bruce Damonte



For more information:

American Institute of Architects

Published April 18, 2023

Melton, P. (2023, April 18). COTE Top Ten for 2023 Provide Open Space Teeming with Life. Retrieved from

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