CHICAGO, Jan. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has conferred its 2013 Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) for their work to create a vision for an international region that contains the largest source of surface fresh water in the world. Known as "The Great Lakes Century – a 100 Year Vision," the work highlights the many challenges faced in the region and defines a future that takes full advantage of the water resource in a way that is sustainable in the long term. The 100 Year Vision sets out ideas on many themes such as agriculture, energy, transportation, water, urban areas, higher education, and more to give the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence community a much better sense of what is possible for the region. "We have a responsibility to be stewards of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin," SOM Urban Design and Planning Partner Philip Enquist, FAIA, said. "We must design our cities and region to eliminate waste, and rely on more innovative and sustainable development strategies. We can and must ensure fresh water for all future generations." Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, board member of the Cities Initiative, praised the work of SOM and added, "The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence are our Yellowstone Park, and this vision will help people in the region and around the world understand even better what a treasure we have in our front yard." Chair of the Cities Initiative and Mayor of Milwaukee Tom Barrett remarked, "By bringing large and small cities together from across the basin, we have been able to think and act much more effectively as a region to tackle the tough problems of invasive species, chemical pollution, beach closures, and much more. We are also making sure that the economic benefits that come from an abundant fresh water supply, unlimited recreational opportunities, a $7 billion fishery, and other advantages are fully utilized." Vice Chair Mayor Keith Hobbs of Thunder Bay, Ontario, noted, "Even though here on the north shore of Lake Superior we are many hundreds of miles away from most of our Canadian and U.S. neighbors, the unifying force of the water is bringing us closer together all the time. It is helping us act much more effectively as a cohesive community to solve the problems we face and make a better future for our children and grandchildren." At the far eastern edge of the basin along the St. Lawrence is Quebec City where Mayor Regis Labeaume, secretary treasurer for the Cities Initiative, remarked "When the first French explorers came to what is now Quebec City, little did they realize what a boundless treasure would unfold as they moved up the river to the Great Lakes. Over 400 years later, it is time we do even more to bring about a future that matches the magnitude and quality of the resource we are so fortunate to share." "The basin's mayors are bringing to life a shared vision of a healthy and prosperous region in harmony with nature," Enquist said, "Executive director Dave Ullrich and the Cities Initiative's elected leaders have been fantastic partners who are making changes for the better happen from Chicago and Duluth to the Gulf of St. Lawrence." SOM, the Cities Initiative, and many other partners will be working together to advance the ideas set out in the 100 Year Vision to make them a reality.