We envision a resilient world dependent on the thoughtful cultivation of plants

Design Futurist STUDENT Award

The Design Futurist Student Award elevates planting design that supports ecosystems, climate resilience, and human health.

2023 Pioneer Park Competition

The Design Futurist Student Award challenge for 2023 is based on an existing Pioneer Park site. In-person visits are not required to submit entries to the competition.

Project Brief

The once elegant gardens surrounding the tower have become outdated and suffer from a lack of maintenance and stewardship. The Friends of Pioneer Park Project, a citizen volunteer group focused on improving and maintaining the landscape surrounding Coit Tower, is interested in updating the plantings surrounding the tower and along the park’s trails and green spaces to better celebrate the unique character of the site and highlight the climate, topography, and flora of the region at an intimate scale. They want to utilize plants to create new experiences and spatial organizations within the park’s landscape. 

Photo Credits: San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and Ken Maley


Your goal is to develop a planting plan that maximizes opportunities for urban wildlife, embraces principles of sustainability, promotes biodiversity, and incorporates local materials and resources where possible. Using existing garden beds and planting areas, incorporate the aesthetic (color, line, form, texture), sensorial (touch, sight, sound, smell), and ecological (biodiversity, sustainability, resiliency) properties of plants to design spaces directly connected to the functions and qualities of the park and its local ecology.  


The winning design will encompass one or more of the following themes.

Growing for Biodiversity

Ecologically focused gardens that support food webs and pollinators by including native and keystone plants with minimal or no traditional lawn, low water use, and functional planting.

Drought and Fire Resilience

Gardens that demonstrate principles of water wise design or protection from wildfire especially in the wildland urban interface, including appropriate plant selections for the garden and community.

Nature is Good for You

Gardens that support human health and well-being, connecting individuals or communities with nature and place.

Garden Futurist

Gardens that embody a vision for future livability in the face of climate change, embracing research, innovation, or inclusivity in connecting people with nature.

Sustainable Gardening

Gardens that demonstrate a commitment to green infrastructure, temperature moderation, fossil fuel reduction.

Photo Credits: Caitlin Atkinson, Under Western Skies. From Left to Right: The Nature Gardens, Los Angeles, CA. Designer: Mia Lehrer, Studio-MLA; Marwin Gardens, Watsonville, CA. Designers: Sandi Martin and Art Winterling; Columbia River Gorge Garden, Hood River, OR. Designer: Paden Prichard; The Valley of Hearts Delight, Los Altos, CA. Designer: Leslie Bennett, Pine House Edible Gardens

Layout - the existing terrain must be studied to design the planting layout within in the park design. Decide on what must be retained and what can be removed with justification. 

Context - the culture, heritage, and environmental conditions of the existing park and the tower must be taken into consideration while designing.  

Sustainability - Local biodiversity must be incorporated. The design of the park must reduce air pollution, urban heat island effect and noise pollution, and other site issues. There must be no wastage of resources or harm inflicted on the site.  


Pioneer Park is a 5-acre park located at the summit of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, CA. It was established in 1876 when a group of 22 socially prominent men donated four lots to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to celebrate the United States Centennial. Landscape gardener William Culligan designed the park’s drives, walkways, and gardens. The main feature of the park, Coit Tower, was designed by the firm of Arthur Brown, Jr. (architect of San Francisco’s City Hall). and named for Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy eccentric who left a bequest of $118,000 “for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city I have always loved.” The tower was completed in 1933 and has become a San Francisco landmark. Its observation deck provides 360-degree views of the city and the bay, and its base includes historic murals by Works Progress Administration (WPA) artists depicting life in California during the Depression. 


Take a virtual tour of the site here.


Top Prize is awarded to one desisn that exceptionally embodies one or more themes.

Honors are awarded to designs exemplifying a theme.


Award applications may be submitted by current college and university (undergraduate or graduate) students or recent graduates within the 2023 calendar year.  

Student’s residence or current college level program must be within the Pacific Region, defined here as: California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Hawai’i, Alaska, and Baja California. 

Team Submissions: All members of a submitting team must meet current student or graduation year requirements and one team member must meet residence or program location requirement.


Call for submissions opens: March 7, 2023

Deadline to submit: July 26, 2023

Awards recipients announced: October 11


To learn more about our 2023 Design Futurist Student Award Jury Members click here.


Sponsor logo collage new 6.28.23


Design Futurist Student Award Top Prize

The designer(s) receiving the Top Prize Design Futurist Student Award 2023 Pioneer Park Competition will receive a cash prize and be showcased in a Pacific Horticulture feature article. The top prize winner will also receive a gift package assembled by our generous sponsors.

Design Futurist Student Award Honors

The designer(s) receiving Honors in the Design Futurist Student Award 2023 Pioneer Park Competition will receive a cash prize and be showcased in a Pacific Horticulture feature article.


Pacific Horticulture is committed to creating an inclusive, equity-based, community focused organization that empowers people to take action on science-based climate solutions. 


The application window for this year’s contest has closed.

Thank you to all who entered their submissions.

CleanShot 2023-02-02 at 16.26.44

Student’s residence or current college level program must be within the Pacific Region, defined here as: California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Hawai’i, Alaska, and Baja California.

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