The American Institute of Architects state chapters of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina have selected a project by local architectural designer Michael Caraballo as the 2023 Aspire Student Design Award winner. Caraballo’s winning design is for a supportive transitional space outside of Atlanta called Foster Forward. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) honored the project at its Aspire design conference in Asheville September 10-13.

Now an architectural designer with Columbia-based Garvin Design Group, Caraballo completed his graduate studies in Architecture at Clemson University in spring 2023. Caraballo teamed with Morgan Clark to create the Foster Forward project as part of an exit exam. Caraballo and Clark are both former Garvin Design Group interns.

Caraballo and Clark’s Foster Forward project aims to create a supportive transitional space for youth aging out of Georgia’s foster care system. Sited in Atlanta’s Lenox neighborhood, the project is strategically located proximate to job opportunities, future green spaces, public transportation access, and career-building resources. Caraballo and Clarks’ design adapts to the area’s changing needs over time and utilizes public spaces as a platform for personal growth and community engagement. The campus program includes an expansive courtyard, a café, a gallery, a bike shop, a dining and teaching kitchen, counseling and administrative offices, a gym, residential spaces, and career and resource centers.

Presented annually, the AIA Aspire Design Awards recognize architectural design projects that improve the quality of the built environment in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This 5,500-person membership includes all AIA chapters within the Carolinas and Georgia. A jury of architects and designers from outside the South Atlantic Region select the year’s winning projects.

“We wanted to create a supportive transitional space, empowering young adults to thrive as they age out of foster care. Our approach breaks down barriers, fosters belonging, and strengthens the connection between residents and the surrounding community,” said Caraballo. “We’ve both graduated since we completed our design for Foster Forward, and Morgan and I are eager to apply the lessons we’ve learned through this project and others into our professional lives.”

Caraballo returned to Garvin Design Group as a full-time hire in June 2023.