2017 National Planning Excellence Award: Planning Pioneers

Lawrence P. Witzling, PhD, AIA, ASLA

Milwaukee, Wisconsin


For more than four decades, Larry Witzling has inspired generations of planners and urban designers. As an active practitioner, and as a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), Witzling has shared his extensive knowledge with students and aspiring professionals. He has always encouraged his students and colleagues to push the boundaries of innovation and excellence in their work.


For most of his professional career, Witzling split his time between leading a thriving planning practice and teaching at UWM. He relished both roles due to his unwavering commitment to the profession and his belief in high-quality urban design. He helped found UWM's urban planning department as well as its joint professional program with architecture. In 1988 he started his own practice, Planning and Design Institute (PDI). In 2008, PDI became a part of GRAEF, a national engineering, design, and consulting firm.

Over the last 45 years, Witzling has overseen numerous award-winning urban design projects throughout Wisconsin and helped pioneer New Urbanist development. This includes award-winning work on Milwaukee's lakefront; the removal and redevelopment of Milwaukee's Park East freeway; re-industrialization of the Menomonee Valley; and more than 50 neighborhood, downtown, and comprehensive plans throughout Wisconsin.

In his 45-year career, Larry Witzling has overseen numerous award-winning urban design projects throughout Wisconsin. Photo courtesy GRAEF.

He served as the design competition advisor for key civic projects throughout the country, including Pittsburgh's Convention Center, Evanston's Public Library, Cape Canaveral's Astronauts Memorial, Seattle's infill housing for the Denny Regrade, Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley design project, Atlanta's Peachtree Street and Auburn Avenue, Leesburg's Town Hall, and the National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center. All of these competitions led to implementation of award-winning, innovative designs.

Witzling wrote more than 20 feature articles and co-authored two books, Presenting Statistics and The Planning and Administration of Design Competitions.

As a planning professor at the University of Wisconsin and leader of his own design firm, Witzling encourages students and colleagues to push the limits of innovation and excellence in their own design projects. Photo courtesy GRAEF.

Impact on the Planning Profession

Larry Witzling has always believed that public places must be beautiful and should be enjoyed by all, not just a privileged few. He instilled that belief with his students and colleagues for more than 45 years. As an educator he brought real-world scenarios into the classroom and as a professional he brought theory into practice.

He created a passion for planning and urban design in those he coached and supervised, and encouraged many young professionals to pursue new skills and civic leadership. He continues to be active in the profession by serving as a mentor, teacher, speaker and community activist, pushing the boundaries of achieving excellence in urban design.

One of Witzling's most innovative and talked-about projects was the demolition and redevelopment of Milwaukee's Park East freeway. Photo courtesy GRAEF.