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Competition: Harvey Milk Plaza, San Francisco

Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco

An open international competition has been announced for a $10 million USD upgrade of Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco (Deadline: 31 May)

The contest, backed by the Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, seeks a new vision for the landmark public space which is named after California’s first openly gay person to be elected to public office.

The project aims to transform the plaza – famous for its prominent rainbow flag – into a safe, user-friendly, and inviting public gathering space for the surrounding Castro neighbourhood. The winning urban street plan will integrate improved escalators and subway station access, upgraded pedestrian routes and lighting, and new public spaces and art installations.

Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco

Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco

Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco

According to the brief: ‘Designs will reimagine the space at the corner of Castro and Market at a LGBT and civil rights memorial and public gathering space by leveraging best practices in architectural, lighting, landscape, memorial and public plaza design.

‘Many elements need to be considered to rethink the existing plaza, and envision a new space that provides a safe, celebratory memorial with low-maintenance features that can adapt as the needs of the neighbourhood evolve.’

Harvey Milk was born in New York in 1930, moving to San Francisco’s Castro neighbourhood in 1972, where he ran a camera shop close to the present day site of the plaza. Milk became famous for advocating for LGBT rights with a megaphone in streets in the area and was successfully elected as a city supervisor in 1977.

Milk backed a gay rights ordinance for San Francisco but was assassinated by a political rival a year later. As the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, he became a local and community icon with the plaza – which features a large rainbow flag – named after him.

Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco

Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco

Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco

The latest project – backed by local residents and stakeholders – aims to revitalise the plaza and deliver new infrastructure and artwork to create a fitting memorial and a gift to the city.

Around $500,000 USD of donations have so far been raised to fund the project and design contract and no public funds are expected to be used for the scheme. The project organisers plan to secure around $10 million USD to support the full design, construction and maintenance of the plaza.

The scheme is sponsored by the Center for Architecture + Design, working in partnership with Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza, San Francisco Municipal Transport Agency, San Francisco Public Works and Arts Commission and AIASF. They will select the best designs and promote the winner to take part in the development stage.

The contest is open to both professionals and students, but entries by the latter must include a named faculty sponsor to qualify for the cash prizes.

Submissions should include a 1,450-word statement covering project narrative, maintenance and the public art strategy. Images must be in JPG format and feature site plans, elevations and infrastructure details with 3D renderings strongly encouraged.

The overall winner, to be announced in July, will receive a $7,000 USD top prize while a $3,000 USD prize will be awarded to a maximum of three shortlisted teams.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 31 May


There is a $100 USD registration fee for professionals and no fee for students

Contact details

Stacy Williams
American Institute of Architects San Francisco
Hallidie Building
130 Sutter Street
Suite 600
San Francisco
CA 94104

Tel: +1 415 874 2626

View the competition website for more information