The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it’s grown to 26 exciting categories. As in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you.2016 Best of Design Award for Urban Design: Chicago Riverwalk, Phase 2
Architects:Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki AssociatesLocation: Chicago, IL
Commissioned by Chicago’s Department of Transportation and designed by Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki Associates, the Riverwalk transforms derelict urban infrastructure into a one-and-a-half-mile-long civic space, creating an activated riverfront in the heart of Chicago. Each of the project’s three phases takes on the form and program of a different river-based typology: marina, cove, and river theater. With its wine bar, kayak tours, boat docking services, water taxi stop, and dynamic public programming, the Chicago Riverwalk has virtually become the city’s outdoor living room.
Alfred Benesch & Company
Jacobs / Ryan AssociatesGraniteColdspringOperable Storefront
After poor design additions earned this small inner-city park the moniker “Prison Park,” the Trust for Public Land and the City of San Francisco teamed up with WRNS to create a new park and clubhouse that serves as a model of civic engagement, inspiration, resource conservation, and adaptability, while addressing the community’s needs.
Now a neighborhood of Chicago, Pullman dates to 1880 and is the country’s first planned industrial community. Following its 2015 designation as a National Monument, a wide range of experts came together to launch Positioning Pullman, a collaborative ideas workshop to help Pullman grow into its new role and prepare for increased tourism.
Questions of environment, ecology, and climate have never more intensely occupied the cultural zeitgeist. According to editors Christophe Girot and Dora Imhof of the ETH Zurich, as scarcity, ruin, and a siege mentality drove the functionalism that dominated architecture of the post-war period, the profession of landscape architecture is still in the midst of responding to a decades-long environmental crisis, and has produced similarly functionalist design. They suggest (as Elizabeth Meyer has for years in her Sustaining Beauty writings) that recent landscape architectural production is too highly conditioned by analytics, abstracted from site, and producing works that don’t rise above functionalist responses to an environment in peril.
Thinking the Contemporary Landscape, a 17-essay collection, attempts to set up a discourse between opposing ideologies, such as science and memory, power and territory, fact and myth, in order to present an all-encompassing theory of contemporary landscape practice. While this endeavor ultimately frays, revealing the unlikelihood (or frankly, undesirability) of such unification, the book itself is a must-read for landscape architects and urbanists. The editors wittingly construct a discourse about a schism in modes of practice, a reaction perhaps to the dominance in recent years of landscape urbanism and its hybrids. Despite the foregrounding of an environment in peril, they react to scientific positivism by advocating for a return to aesthetics, poetics, myth, and meaning. The current volume suggests other new identities. If we are to believe Charles Waldheim, landscape architect equals urbanist. Waldheim and James Corner in particular are intent on fomenting this shift in perception; beseeching practitioners to take control of urban design territory (presumably, before the architects and urban planners beat them to it).
Girot’s essay laments the modes of visualization epitomized by the “layer-cake” approach of Ian McHarg, author of the 1969 Design with Nature. He suggests that years of design with 2-D maps and collage have effectively broken down landscape thinking into abstract, and ultimately, meaningless, layers. Girot argues that the results of this diagrammatic thinking have stripped design of character, of local connections, and ultimately, of meaning.
As a counterpoint, Corner argues for the preeminence of the plan, composite layers, and collage, suggesting they have the capacity to become “engendering machines” of “rich and unpredictable interactions,” a method that comes from ecology itself. Corner plays both ends of the spectrum, at once advocating for performance and form. In a mediated (and ultimately modest) position, Corner’s conception of “format” is hardly memorable. In the context of design reviews as long as six years ago, Corner declared that the University of Pennsylvania was about form and aesthetics, and Harvard was about performance. This dissonance of Corner’s recent commentary with his earlier writings manifests as some subconscious and uncoordinated id-war, a shift away from the working landscape and toward the “pictorial impulse” he earlier reviled (in New Operations and the Eidetic Landscape).
Recalling David Gissen’s Subnatures, Vittoria Di Palma’s intriguing discussion of aesthetics engages the wasteland as site of primal disgust and ultimately, subversive aesthetics. She revisits the picturesque and its power to give “a new prominence to aversive landscape,” (a topic explored by Robert Smithson in 1973’s Frederick Law Olmsted and the Dialectical Landscape), an apt aesthetic history to sample when theorizing the entropy, asymmetry, and gnarliness of the Anthropocene.
Other contributors reject the editors’ prompt of aesthetics altogether. Notably, Kongjian Yu, a practitioner of ecological design in China, argues powerfully for landschaft or the working landscape, suggesting that “the quality and beauty of the landscape has been detached from the notion of a holistic land system for living and survival, and has now become high art landscape design exclusively for the pleasure of the urban elite.” In a similar vein, Saskia Sassen’s critique eviscerates the blunt hand of capitalism that is currently playing out in the form of global land acquisition.
Rather than a clear way forward, the diversity of this volume evidences a fraught world in need of urban design leadership, solutions for the anxious environment of climate change, and rethinking the future of landscape’s territory and meaning in the 21st century.
It is sometimes difficult for people who encounter PORT Urbanism’s work to know whether the projects are hypothetical or practical urban proposals. Despite this confusion, PORT would tell you that all of its work is practical, if not sometimes fantastic.
With small offices in Chicago and Philadelphia, PORT Urbanism fits into a niche of designers that are not typical urban planners and not strictly architects. As its name would suggest, it works at the urban scale, engaging with city governments and large-scale developers to envision near and far futures for public spaces.
AN visited the firm’s Chicago office, which seats four in a small space on the ninth floor of the Burnham and Root–designed Monadnock Building. The office walls are plastered, floor to ceiling, in bright renderings, small models, site photos, and marker-laden site maps. Partner Andrew Moddrell and two employees make up the Chicago office, while the Philadelphia office is comprised of partner Christopher Marcinkoski and one other employee. Moddrell and Marcinkoski started PORT in 2012. With the support of academic positions at the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, they were able to practice on their own terms.
Despite PORT’s small size, it is no stranger to large and complex projects. After being chosen from a request for proposal for a Denver park design with Denver-based Independent Architecture, a NIMBY battle ensued. The project was eventually moved and redesigned for a new park in a neighborhood with a community that appreciated the project. PORT is now moving forward through design development with an improved plan.
Presented at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Big Shift envisioned adding a new coastline and additional land east of Millennium and Grant Parks in downtown Chicago. While dismissed by many as too far-fetched, the project struck a chord with critics and the public. “If we had proposed putting an island in Lake Michigan, then nobody would have cared,” Moddrell said. “But when we ground it in the precision of an infrastructural hierarchy and proposed repositioning of Lake Shore Drive, extending boulevards, and turning Grant Park into a Central Park, and pitch it with a straight face, it is not just architects screwing around for other architects.” Moddrell stands by the idea, however grandiose, as a serious, though speculative proposal.
Carbon T.A.P. (Tunnel Algae Park)New York, New York
Winner of the WPA 2.0 competition, the Carbon T.A.P. envisions a carbon-harvesting algae park attached to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The speculative project proposes to use carbon dioxide released by cars passing through the tunnel to feed algae that can be used to produce oxygen, biofuels, bioplastics, nutraceuticals, and agricultural feeds. Linked to the algae production is a large-scale public space in the form of a swinging bridge. Part of the rationale behind the project is that with the introduction of an innovative industrial infrastructural typology—carbon-reducing algae farms—a new civic infrastructural typology can be realized.
The Big Shift
The Big Shift was originally conceived as an entry to the Art Institute of Chicago’s show Chicagoisms. It was developed further for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The Big Shift proposes to move Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive east and add hundreds of new acres of land in order to expand the city’s downtown and produce hundreds of new acres of park along the lake. Making no small reference to Chicago’s history of reconfiguring its lakeshore, which was mostly fabricated after the 1871 fire, the Big Shift aims to produce trillions of dollars of new real estate. Despite its large upfront infrastructural costs, the plan highlights the advantages of a lakeside park that is three times the size of the current park and of 30 new city blocks of tax-paying, job-producing real estate.
City Loop is a $5 million public park planned for the City of Denver. Comprised of a continuous ribbon of program and activity space, the Loop is designed to encourage healthy lifestyles and active play. A series of tubes, colorful paths, and diverse activity pods stretch over the half-mile loop, providing for every age group and taste. Along with physical health, the park aims to promote social and cultural well-being as a civic and community space. The full team working on the project is PORT, Denver-based Indie Architecture, Indianapolis-based Latitude 39, Boulder, Colorado–based engineers Studio NYL, Denver-based metal fabricators JunoWorks, athletics consultant Loren Landow, and Tulsa, Oklahoma–based contractors Site Masters Inc.
Goose Island 2025
In an ongoing collaboration with Chicago developers R2, PORT’s Goose Island 2025 addresses the large industrial Goose Island on the near North Side of Chicago. A planned manufacturing district, Goose Island is now in the middle of a quickly developing part of the city. The island itself, though, has seen little development due to its designation as a planned manufacturing district and the city’s lack of an overall vision. R2 and PORT’s plan looks at the possibilities of the island as it continues as a place of industry, as well as anticipates a future in which some of its land may become available for other programs.
Today, 40 stakeholders released the Brooklyn Strand Community Vision Plan, a set of recommendations for developing almost 50 acres of public space that links the Brooklyn Bridge to Downtown Brooklyn. The plan focuses on broadening connectivity along the corridor by making the space more attractive and pedestrian-friendly, and improving access to the waterfront between the Navy Yard, DUMBO, and Downtown Brooklyn.
In 2014, Mayor de Blasio announced a set of plans to further catalyze the growth of downtown Brooklyn. One of these plans was the Brooklyn Strand, now a disjointed set of parks, greenways, and plazas bisected by highway feeder ramps that present wayfinding challenges even to seasoned New Yorkers. Since then, New York–based WXY Architecture + Urban Design has led not-for-profit local development corporation Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation, and over 250 community stakeholders through an intensive planning process to re-vision the Strand.
Recommendations from the just-released community vision include enhancing non-car links between Borough Hall Park, Columbus Park, Korean War Veterans Memorial Plaza, Cadman Plaza, Commodore Barry Park, the Bridge Parks, and Trinity Park; a "Gateway to Brooklyn" adjacent to Brooklyn Bridge Park with a viewing platform; creating a permanent market at Anchorage Plaza; reopening the long-shuttered Brooklyn War Memorial to the public; broadening access to Commodore Barry Park; widening sidewalks; installing public art to animate under-utilized public space; realign Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) ramps to make the pedestrian experience less alienating.
“The Brooklyn Strand Community Vision Plan is an exciting and ambitious effort to reconnect Downtown Brooklyn’s historic neighborhoods to each other, reinvigorate open space and improve access to the waterfront,” proclaimed New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) president Maria Torres-Springer. “The Plan is the result of an extensive and collaborative community engagement process, and it provides a promising roadmap to the future for this historic business district. At NYCEDC, we look forward to continuing our work with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, community stakeholders and elected leaders, and to making the reinvigoration of the Brooklyn Strand a reality.”
As part of a master plan comprising 23 sites across Paris, Sou Fujimoto, David Chipperfield, and 20 others have been named as winners involved in responding the the Mayor's call to "reinvent Paris."
"A city like Paris must be able to reinvent itself at every moment in order to meet the many challenges facing it. Particularly in terms of housing and everything relating to density, desegregation, energy and resilience," said Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris. "It is important in today's world to find new collective ways of working that will give shape to the future metropolis."
The scheme was launched last year at the start of November, and has prompted many architects and developers to submit plans for the 23 sites across the city. Ranging from empty brownfield sites, polluted wastelands, classified mansions, office renovations, and train stations, Hidalgo's plan has been hailed by many with French publication Talerma going so far as to call it a "stroke of genius."
Despite the number of changes, one of the 23 sites, an 1880 neo-Gothic former Korean Embassy-turned-mansion has been left neglected. The judges deemed that no proposal (barely any were submitted) was worthy of construction and so the ageing structure will be left untouched on the Avenue De Villiers.
The same cannot be said for the Messana railway station, however. Given the unusual location and former typology, many were inspired to make it their own and judges were spoilt for choice. The winning submission came from Lina Ghotmeh DGT Architects who transformed the space into a healthy eating haven. Including a rooftop vegetable garden, a laboratory for agroecosystem research, gardening classrooms, residences for young chefs, bar, and, of course, restaurant.
Other notable winning submissions came from British architect David Chipperfield and Sou Fujimoto from Japan.
Working alongside Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, Chipperfield will "reinvent" the Immeuble Morland, a 164-foot tall once state-owned building that lies on the river Seine. The mixed-use program will include a swimming pool, ground floor food market, gym, a hotel, offices, a creche, youth hostel, and set aside 53,800 square feet for social housing. The top floor will also offer panoramic bar and restaurant.
Fujimoto, meanwhile, collaborated with revered French product designer Philippe Starck and Manal Rachdi of OXO Architectes. Fujimoto's project will stretch across the Boulevard Périphérique, by the Palais des Congrès de Paris and offer what appears to be a densely packed green roof. Like Chipperfield, Fujimoto dedicated a large portion of his project to social housing. In fact, this will assume 30 percent of the development that will also offer office space, a community center, kindergarten, and play area.
The projects are set to cost over $1.46 billion and return $634 million in revenue to the city through the sale or long-term leasing of land. In addition to this, 2,000 over the course of three years are expected to be generated via construction alone.
The Institute for Rational Urban Mobility is hosting the just-announced vision42design Competition calling on architects, designers, and transportation gurus to re-imagine one of the most iconic (and congested) streets in New York City—42nd Street. Submit your plans today to transform the street into a world-class boulevard complete with a high-quality public spaces and a light-rail tram. In addition to the $10,000 winner's prize, the jury’s top selected projects will be featured in The Architect’s Newspaper. For more info and to register visit the competition website. Registration Deadline: Sept 8, 2014 (Midnight) EST
Crossing the street in Baltimore just got a lot more fun. The city has just unveiled its newest dispatch: a "hopscotch crosswalk" transforming the downtown street crossing at the corner of Eutaw and Lombard streets into an entertaining diversion for pedestrians. The project was a component of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts for the Bromo Seltzer Arts & Entertainment District’s desire in incorporate public art in various areas of the city.
The piece is comprised of four crosswalks, each featuring a different footprint symbolizing the city’s many inhabitants. A shoe-print represents the business person, bird tracks mirror the flock of birds in the city sky, the boot portrays the labor force, and the footprint depicts the numerous artists bouncing around the city.
Baltimore is one of many cities within the United States which has toyed with crosswalks by altering their main function as gateway between intersecting streets into a tangible piece of entertainment. Other cities such as Milwaukee and Miami have altered their crosswalks to create inventive pathways, transforming them into black-and-white oversized piano keys, or multi-colored lines.
This artistic approach has been questioned for its safety, as playing a game of hopscotch in the middle of a busy intersection might not be the most responsible way to interact with traffic. The Baltimore Office of Promotion has assured skeptics, however, that they have worked collaboratively with the Department of Transportation who has approved the design for the project. Both agencies have said that the crosswalk is secure but that its users should remain mindful of the adjacent automobile traffic, stop lights, and other crosswalk signals.
In a hybrid of LEGO and origami, Paper Punk has created their first boxed set of punch-and-fold, customizable paper building blocks. Urban Fold is the California-based company’s newest creation by founder Grace Hawthorne, a designer, author, and artist from San Francisco who currently teaches at Stanford University’s d.school (Institute of Design). The set gives builders the opportunity to create a paper city in punchy colors and patterns, inspired by Berlin graffiti and the photography of Matthias Heiderich.
Urban Fold contains 48 buildable shapes and 697 stickers, an urban planning map, and an idea guide to creating the shapes of the world’s most popular cities. Each paper building block comes in a bright shade and/or a geometric pattern and the stickers can transform triangles into spires, quarter circles into windows, or squares into moveable pedestrians.
For Hawthorne, the boldness of the set was key, “I wanted to create an urban-minded build/play experience that was also eye-candy, just impossible to resist because it’s bursting with colors, patterns, cool graphics,” she said in an interview for Mediabistro.
These multi-colored blocks can be arranged and stacked with complete creative freedom and, like traditional wood building blocks, can be built up and knocked down for infinite construction and reconstruction. If a builder prefers a minimalist look, the shapes can also be folded inside out to be all white.
“I refer it to an open box set because there are so many pieces to it," Hawthorne commented, “What anyone can create with it is only bounded by their imagination.”
After 16 months of testing, Paper Punk's imagination brought forth the innovative project, but only with funding can it come to reality. In the same way that her company was launched last year, Hawthorne has taken to a Kickstarter campaign. With a $33 backing pledge, builders of all ages can own a Urban Fold architecture toy set. The funding period ends on December 2nd and the company promises a shipping date in time for the holidays.
Austin, Texas–based architects Dan Cheetham and Michelle Tarsney have given a new face to some of the city's underutilized spaces: alleyways. Their one-of-a-kind community art installation, 20ft WIDE, seeks to resolve conflict between architecture, art, and humanism in order to create places of lasting value. The once forgotten alley between Ninth and Tenth streets, which connects Congress Avenue and Brazos Street in Downtown Austin, has been transformed into a collaborative space to bring attention to public urban places and foster discussion about the new possibilities for their uses
The name 20ft WIDE stems from Austin’s original 1839 master plan, which called for each of the city’s alley to measure, well, 20 feet wide. Austin’s structure consists of many open spaces and side streets that are not being used solely because they go unnoticed by nearby wanderers. Cheetham and his associates argue that these alleys are, in fact, vital components of the city that are being menaced by super-block development that will ultimately alter the grain and scale of the urban fabric.
The initial stimulus of the installation was to bring awareness about the role of these spaces and to generate communal discussions about possibilities for their use. Cheetham explained that "most alleys are overlooked as something that is just a necessity—they serve a utilitarian function, such as trash collection for instance." For him, alleys are a valuable urban asset. They create a gap in mid-blocks, meaning that buildings do not go over them: "they break up the grain which allows for more sunlight and air to penetrate the city street. This is a reason why they feel so nice."
In an interview, Cheetham told AN that 20ft WIDE was part of a larger collaborative project. When asked why the installation had been set up in that specific alley, he explained that the group had initially identified six or seven different urban alleys, and that in order to settle for just one "the trick was to find an alley that had an intersection of several things. It should be located in an area that is not in conflict with people or security measures. Moreover, we were looking for an alley that had some kind of historical significance or interest." He noted, "we were on a very limited budget and were given a quick time frame. Therefore, we needed an alley that had enough quality esthetic to stand on its own with minimal interruptions."
The project was initiated last April, when the team began installing twines of bright colors and different shades all across the alley. They also worked with an Austin-based art education organization, Creative Action. The group created “Peace Cranes”, a project which involved young individuals who folded over 1,000 pieces of origami a week prior at the city’s arts festival. The cranes were integrated in the 20ft WIDE installation as a symbol of peaceful community building. The alley is also filled with stacked pallets, burlap sacks in which people have generously given away clothing, polystyrene shipping foam as well as donated plant materials. The jovial and creative nature of the installation is meant to give rise to thought provoking conversations about the role that unused spaces and tucked-back streets play within the city center.
Dan Cheetham attended The University of Texas, and later founded Fyoog, a firm inspired by his passion and love for music, the arts, and all things pertaining to architecture, urbanism, and their sub-disciplines. Fyoog’s underlying principles are to combine architectural design and functionality into abandoned or under-utilized urban space, in order to give them a new purpose. Cheetham is deeply concerned with the public realm, and seeks to engage individuals within their city’s creative process. The group hopes the project can be made permanent in the future.
At the end of September, the AIA released “Cities as Lab”, a report stipulating how innovative design can help strengthen modern urban America. Presented during the National Leadership Speaker Series in Washington D.C., it stressed how resilient cities are better suited to address upcoming social, economic, and physical challenges. The report is part of a larger framework looking to guide the international development agenda for decades to come. As a whole, it seeks to fuel the progress of critical sustainable programs around the world.
The AIA report states that by incorporating innovative design and technology within their internal structure, cities would have the power to lead the way toward the future. Urban enclaves are being reconfigured in order to respond to changing realities and contemporary human and economic needs. Some of the key examples stated in the report include the Boston Innovation District, North Carolina's Research Triangle Plan, and the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. These programs focus on a series of urban experiments seeking to promote knowledge exchange and economic opportunities, to develop new technological hubs, to mitigate the ecological footprint through sustainable design, and to introduce new architectural archetypes in order to foster creative place-making. All of these ideas are critical linchpins for visionary and sustainable planning.
In its concluding remarks, the report indicates that intelligent design and wise policy choices help create places that are suited to meet the needs of future populations, to respond to economic challenges, and to manage natural disasters. The general idea is to create more resilient communities and sustainable infrastructures that will be able to sustain future economic and physical challenges. The initiative focuses on ways to create more valuable, healthy, secure and sustainable built environments by exploring solutions to pressing issues that urban enclaves are faced with.
Condos and retail developments aren’t the only changes coming to Boston’s Downtown Crossing. Cambridge-based landscape architecture firm Klopfer Martin Design Group (KMDG) has been selected by the Boston Redevelopment Authority to design the streetscape plan for Boston’s Downtown Crossing Business Improvement District (BID). In response to an RFP to design the Streetscape Design Standards & Wayfaring Program, BRA received 11 proposals and decided to move forward with KMDG’s program. The long-term plan will consist of recommendations for sidewalk and roadway materials, a pedestrian zone, and vending and wayfinding programs. In its proposal, KMDG outlined its main objectives to “recast the crossing as a public, open space” and “connect the connections.” According to the BRA, construction is slated to be completed in late May.
[Editor's Note: This the final in a four-part series documenting the winners of the AIANY's 2012 Design Awards, which are broken down into four categories: architecture, interiors, unbuilt work, and urban design. This list covers urban design awards.]
The AIANY has released its annual list of Design Awards noting projects that demonstrate exemplary originality and quality. Urban Design Honor and Merit Award winners were selected by a jury consisting of Bernardo Fort-Brescia of Arquitectonica, Michael Lehrer of Lehrer Architects, and Donlyn Lyndon of the University of California Berkeley. Two urban design projects were distinguished with the top Honor Award including the Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza by Frederic Schwartz Architects with Ken Smith Landscape Architect and the Master Plan for the Central Delaware by Cooper, Robertson & Partners and Kieran Timberlake with OLIN. Winning work in all four categories will be on display ay the Center for Architecture at 536 LaGuardia Place beginning April 19 through May 31.
Urban Design Honor Award Winners:
Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza, Frederic SCHWARTZ Architects with Ken Smith Landscape Architect
Santa Fe, NM
Master Plan for the Central Delaware, Cooper, Robertson & Partners and Kieran Timberlake with OLIN Partnership
Urban Design Merit Award Winners:
Water Proving Grounds: Rising Currents, LTL Architects
New York, NY
Holding Pattern, Interboro Partners
Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow. All photos courtesy respective firms unless noted otherwise.