Two books published by ORO Editions in 2017 highlight projects developed by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, an outreach program of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

The books are Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan and Houses for Aging Socially: Developing Third Place Ecologies. The first fuses ecological engineering and urban design to address the water quality issues of an urban watershed, while the second focuses on the unique housing needs of an aging population.

Both were written and developed under the leadership of Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School.

Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan grew from a design project of the same name. The Community Design Center worked with the U of A Office for Sustainability to develop the plan, which addresses the impact of urbanization on the 42-square-mile urban sub-watershed that incorporates much of Conway in Central Arkansas.

Funded in part by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, the plan provides city planners and community designers with tools to retrofit a city with green infrastructure and open spaces that reduce the damages from increasingly frequent extreme rainfall events.

Such a plan would have helped the city of Houston and the Gulf Coast of Louisiana weather the effects of extreme flooding and a hurricane last year, Luoni said.

"Considering that city and watershed are distinct systems of flow, generating their own shape and structure across the landscape, how can city form fix the watershed when they occupy the same space?" he said. "City planners focus solely on the human element of design, while environmentalists ignore the issues cities face. We tried to reconcile those extremes in our plan."

The project was an interdisciplinary collaboration between architects, planners, engineers, economists and ecologists. The portfolio of infrastructural elements includes a sponge city gradient, green streets, water treatment art parks, urban eco-farms, conservation neighborhoods, parking gardens, riparian corridor improvements, lake aerators, vegetative harvesters and floating bio-mats, and a city greenway.

The plan won an international LafargeHolcim Acknowledgement Award in October and a 2017 Green Good Design Award for Urban Planning/Landscape Architecture by the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum for Architecture and Design. It also will be awarded a 2018 Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design by the American Institute of Architects during the AIA Convention and Expo in June.

Houses for Aging Socially: Developing Third Place Ecologies grew from a concern that housing outside the nation's urban centers does not adequately address the mobility, access and social needs of seniors.

"As Baby Boomers turn 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day over the next 20 years, we are finding that both the health care system and housing stock are overwhelmed by the scale of need," Luoni said. "Cooperative forms of living involving pocket neighborhoods, new types of housing fabrics and affordable design keep people in their houses so they don't have to be institutionalized."

The book reworks components of the familiar single-family home to promote new levels of neighborhood connection — allowing residents to live alone but in close proximity to neighbors and friends. Design concepts such as connected hyper-porches, live-work patios and garage galleries used for pop-up businesses foster both neighborhood interaction and independent living.

"A majority of residents in senior homes are there due to social deficits rather than medical problems, as friends or family have moved on or their former homes were simply unaccommodating," Luoni said. "The key is to recombine housing types with care service platforms so that residents can 'age in community' while maintaining some independence."

The book is based on a housing master plan study for the town of Freeman, South Dakota, developed in part in a spring 2016 studio for Fay Jones School students. Funded by an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the project won a 2016-17 Housing Design Education Award from the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the American Institute of Architects.

Like all Community Design Center projects, the book uses a specific example to describe a larger transferable planning and design vocabulary that other communities can adapt to their needs, Luoni said.

"We're offering a prototype for policymakers, city planners, designers and others to use," he said. "Both publications give us a vehicle to shape and codify design-based approaches to complex — or 'wicked' — social problems in which design has not yet been fully engaged."

An earlier book, Low-Impact Development: A Design Manual for Urban Areas, has sold more than 7,000 copies and has been translated into Chinese, Luoni said. That book was self-published with EPA funding in 2010.

The two books published by ORO Editions are the center's first foray into work with a traditional publishing company. A third book for ORO, a monograph of Community Design Center work under Luoni's leadership for the past 14 years, is under discussion, he said.

AuthorLinda Komlos

Two University of Arkansas projects have been honored with the highest American awards in architecture and design by the American Institute of Architects, which announced its 2018 Institute Honor Awards.

The Vol Walker Hall/Steven L. Anderson Design Center project, home to the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, has earned an Honor Award for Architecture, while the U of A Community Design Center and the U of A Office for Sustainability have earned an Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design for “Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan: A Reconciliation Landscape.”

These honors will be presented during the annual AIA Convention and Expo in New York City in June and will be featured in the June 2018 issue of Architect magazine. These two U of A projects are among 17 selected this year for AIA Honor Awards in the categories of architecture, interior architecture, and regional and urban design.

“To be recognized with two AIA Honor Awards in the same year is an extraordinary event for our school and the university, and positions us in a clear national spotlight,” said Dean Peter MacKeith. “Individually, these awards recognize the work and leadership of two of the school’s distinguished professors, Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, who holds the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture, and Stephen Luoni, who holds the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies and is director of the UA Community Design Center, as well as Marty Matlock, executive director of the Office for Sustainability. But they also recognize the many graduates of our school who have worked within these practices over many years, including those of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects and Baldwin and Shell.

“I would like to recognize further the leadership of professor Jeff Shannon and professor Ethel Goodstein-Murphree – and the work of the school faculty and staff – in guiding the school through the design process of this project. Vice Chancellor Mike Johnson and his team at Facilities Management are equally to be recognized. We are most grateful to the funds provided to the school from Don and Ellen Edmondson, Ken and Linda Sue Shollmier, and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, among many others, in order to advance the school building project.

“But all together, these two awards recognize more generally the deep commitment the Fay Jones School’s faculty, students and staff possess to the highest standards of design and design education and further indicate our presence on the national stage of architecture and design.”

Dedicated in September 2013, the Steven L. Anderson Design Center is a contemporary 37,000-square-foot addition to the renovated historic Vol Walker Hall. Marlon Blackwell Architects was lead architect for the project, with Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects as associate architect. Baldwin and Shell was the contractor. This is Marlon Blackwell Architects’ third AIA Honor Award for architecture, in addition to one for interior architecture and one for regional and urban design.

The Fay Jones School joins a select group of architecture and design schools whose buildings have earned this top honor, including those at Yale University, Harvard University, Cornell University, Clemson University and Ohio State University. This is the first AIA Honor Award for a U of A campus facility.

“Located in the heart of our campus, the Fay Jones School is part of what makes the university special,” said Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz. “This distinction for the building’s design is much deserved. Along with the collaborative, innovative education that the school provides, leading to success in the professions, this remarkable facility is a clear asset for our campus, the state and the region. This recognition raises the design profile of the university and brings renewed attention to the excellent design education it offers.”

Vol Walker Hall Project

The expanded Fay Jones School facility unites all three departments – architecture, landscape architecture and interior design – under one roof for the first time, reinforcing the school’s identity and creating a cross-disciplinary, collaborative learning environment. The integration of old and new revitalized the educational environment of Vol Walker Hall, the campus’ original library and home to the Fay Jones School since 1968.

The addition resonates with the traditional structure of Vol Walker Hall while providing an identity as a progressive design school. The Indiana limestone cladding and steel windows of Vol Walker Hall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, were meticulously restored, while the interior renovation established a middle ground between minimalism and classicism. Glass-enclosed stairwells reveal the formal joint between the renovation and addition, but new, white interior finishes of the renovation and addition provide continuity from old to new.

The addition significantly increased the school’s studio space, with studios on all floors, and an expansive roof terrace provides both a green roof as well as a covered outdoor classroom and event space. Rising from the first floor to the second floor of the addition’s northwest side, a state-of-the-art lecture hall accommodates approximately 200 seats as well as a “standing room” gallery, fulfilling a critical need to provide space for lectures and school events. The facility achieved LEED Gold in recognition of the design’s use of sustainable and urban strategies.

“Consistent orchestration of natural light and a sparse but powerful use of red to make landmark moments in the building is invigorating,” the AIA jury members said.

Urban Watershed Project

The “Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan: A Reconciliation Landscape” was a collaborative resiliency design project done with the city of Conway. This is the center’s 14th AIA Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design.

The interdisciplinary collaboration between architects, planners, engineers, economists and ecologists addresses the impact of urbanization on the 42-square-mile urban sub-watershed that incorporates much of Conway. Problems include increased flooding, water quality contamination and property damage.

“The AIA Awards for Regional and Urban Design this year signal a new urgency in reconciling the development of cities with stewardship of their host ecosystems,” said Luoni, the UACDC director. “We are very pleased that the jury selected our Framework Plan as an exemplar of a new type of urban landscape where infrastructure delivers ecosystem services. We look forward to taking the next steps with the city of Conway to implement and mainstream these novel proposals.”

The AIA jury called the project “head to tail very rewarding. A thoughtful, sophisticated and holistic response to a recurring problem across the country.”

The Conway framework plan imagines a cityscape that cultivates a highly livable green urban environment that solves some of the challenges cities face from climate change. These improvements can be made through low-tech/high-concept enhancements to ordinary infrastructure investments already scheduled to serve the city’s growth.

The three-year project was funded by a $498,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, administered by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, with matching funds from the city of Conway, Faulkner County, the University of Central Arkansas and the Lake Conway Property Owners Association.

The Conway framework plan was released as a book by ORO Editions (San Francisco) in October 2017. The book features transferable technology other communities can apply as a design guide for how to build a green city.

AuthorLinda Komlos

Two University of Arkansas Community Design Center collaborations and a project designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects have been chosen for final consideration in the 2017 World Architecture Festival Awards, the world's largest architecture design awards program serving the global community.

More than 400 projects from about 50 countries were short-listed across 35 individual award categories for the festival, to be held Nov. 15-17 in Berlin, Germany. Large and small firms will compete as equals this week when presenting their designs to international judging panels and festival delegates. The winner of each category will advance and give a presentation on Nov. 17 to the festival's Super Jury for the overall festival awards, World Building of the Year and Future Project of the Year.

The Whitmore Community Food Hub Complex, one of 15 short-listed projects in the Future Projects-Masterplanning category, is a collaboration between the Community Design Center and the University of Arkansas Office for Sustainability. Both entities are part of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

Stephen Luoni, director of the Community Design Center, is a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School. Marty Matlock, executive director of the Office for Sustainability, is a professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in the College of Engineering.

The proposed Whitmore Community Food Hub would help bring locally produced food to Hawaii, where 93 percent of food is imported. The Food Hub will serve Oahu communities while advancing a "missing middle" agricultural infrastructure template for community-based food production among Hawaii's other islands. Besides providing logistics for an underserved agricultural community, the Whitmore complex serves additional community needs through micro-housing for the agricultural workforce, retail, business incubation and cultural tourism. Ideally, the Food Hub will service all stages of the local food supply chain.

Four principles guided the planning and design of the 34-acre Whitmore Food Hub Complex: logistics, placemaking, connectivity and anchoring. The complex provides a Food Hub that meets the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act. It integrates the logistical spaces of the Food Hub with surrounding neighborhoods through serial public spaces that sponsor multiple uses. It connects the Food Hub and Whitmore Village to downtown Wahiawa. And it uses mixed-use spaces and civic frontages to socialize the Food Hub's big boxes and tilt wall concrete construction.

Greers Ferry Water Garden, also one of 15 short-listed projects in the Future Projects-Masterplanning category, is a collaboration between the UACDC, Marlon Blackwell Architects and Ecological Design Group. 

The Greers Ferry design revives the forgotten vision of Edward Durell Stone, the internationally renowned mid-century architect and native Arkansan, for a national water garden to accompany the Greers Ferry Dam in Heber Springs. The team renovated Stone's 1966 plan, which — created in a much different era — did not account for ecological considerations or visitor-centered approaches to support park operations. His vision deployed late modernist tropes combining monumentality and glamour across the 269-acre site.

The revised design uses architectural structures, botanical displays and walkways to engage and educate the visitor about natural systems in non-traditional ways, and the plan showcases a more place-based expression of each of the garden's four territories. Essentially a heritage preservation project despite not having been built, the 2016 plan shows that preservation can be an innovative platform for reframing and refreshing the contemporary.

"The World Architecture Festival's selection of these three projects, led by Fay Jones School faculty, is an extraordinary honor for all involved, and by extension, for the community of the school," said Dean Peter MacKeith. "The UA Community Design Center is the leading design center in the country, and Marlon Blackwell has been recognized as the No. 1 design architect in the nation. These projects promote their authors, the school and the university to an international audience. We're very proud, but also very grateful to the university for its support of our creative practices."

Harvey Pediatric Clinic, one of 10 short-listed projects in the Completed Buildings-Health category, was designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects. Blackwell is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He is the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture and a Distinguished Professor in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. His professional firm is based in Fayetteville.

Harvey Pediatric Clinic, located in Rogers, echoes the strong form and reduced material palette of the agricultural buildings that once dominated the landscape. A cayenne panel — a custom color developed specifically for the project — wraps the south side of the second level. A mixture of natural and colored light creates spaces that convey reflection and healing.

The building uses shape, form and color to appeal to both children and adults. A ribbon window on the north side of the building reinforces the horizontal nature of the form. The darker, cool gray also used on the north side gives emphasis to the warm, saturated color used on the south. Custom break metal trims are incorporated throughout, allowing the detailing of the skin to reinforce the abstract quality of the building shape. 

AuthorLinda Komlos

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center and the U of A Office for Sustainability, both in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, have received the LafargeHolcim Acknowledgement Award for their collaborative resiliency design work with the city of Conway. This honor comes with a $20,000 prize.

Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center, and Marty Matlock, executive director of the Office for Sustainability, traveled to Chicago to receive the award at the Oct. 12 ceremony. The project, titled “Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan: A Reconciliation Landscape,” was an interdisciplinary collaboration between architects, planners, engineers, economists and ecologists.

It addresses the impact of urbanization on the 42-square-mile urban sub-watershed that incorporates much of Conway. Problems include increased flooding, water quality contamination and property damage.

The three-year project was funded by a $498,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, administered by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, with matching funds from the city of Conway, Faulkner County, the University of Central Arkansas and the Lake Conway Property Owners Association. Undergraduate and graduate students received stipends to support this work.

The Conway framework imagines a cityscape that cultivates a highly livable green urban environment that solves some of the challenges cities face from climate change. These improvements can be made through low-tech/high-concept enhancements to ordinary infrastructure investments already scheduled to serve the city’s growth.

Because urban watershed forest and prairie lands are in direct competition with cities over the very ways in which the surface area should be shaped, this plan proposes a portfolio of infrastructural elements that include green streets, water treatment art parks, urban eco-farms, conservation neighborhoods, parking gardens, riparian corridor improvements, lake aerators, vegetative harvesters and floating bio-mats, and a city greenway. The approach provides city planners and community designers with the tools to create a city with open spaces that reduce the damages from increasingly frequent extreme rainfall events.

The Conway framework plan was released as a book by ORO Editions this month. The book features transferable technology other communities can apply as a design guide for how to build a green city.

The international LafargeHolcim Awards competition is held every three years and recognizes innovative projects and future-oriented concepts on regional and global levels. Each award cycle recognizes 35 projects globally from more than 5,000 submissions from 121 countries. The award juries evaluated projects based on criteria for sustainable construction set forth by the LafargeHolcim Foundation – principles that define sustainable construction in a holistic way. 

The LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, based in Switzerland, was created in 2003 to raise awareness of the important role that architecture, engineering, urban planning and the building industry have in achieving a more sustainable future. This awards competition “seeks projects that go beyond balancing environmental performance, social responsibility, and economic growth. Projects should, in addition, exemplify architectural excellence, a high degree of transferability, and thereby extend notions of sustainable construction and design throughout all stages of a project’s lifecycle,” according to the foundation’s website. 

Luoni is a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School; Matlock is a professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in the College of Engineering. This is the second LafargeHolcim Award received by the project team of Luoni and Matlock in the program’s 14-year history; they received the 2005 Acknowledgement Award for their work in Warren, Arkansas. This award is the fourth they have received for this project.

For more information on the project, visit the Conway Urban Watershed Framework Plan.

AuthorLinda Komlos

A housing master plan study for a community of aging residents has won one of two 2016-17 Housing Design Education Awards from the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

The study, titled “Third Place Ecologies: Pocket Housing Fabrics for Aging in Community,” is a project of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

The center worked with Fay Jones School architecture students in a studio course in spring 2016 to address the housing needs of Freeman, South Dakota, a small town with a population that is largely at or approaching retirement age.

The plan proposes new pocket neighborhood concepts for this aging community – allowing residents to live alone but in close proximity to neighbors and friends. Design concepts such as a connected “hyper-porch” spaces, live-work patios and garages used for pop-up businesses foster both neighborhood interaction and independent living.

The term “third-place ecologies” refers to shared community spaces that aren’t work or home, said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School.

“About 10,000 people a day will turn 65 over the next 20 years, and neither the existing housing stock nor health care system are prepared to serve their social and medical needs,” Luoni said. “Not only is the Baby Boomer generation the most unprepared for retirement, but the pension and caregiving safety net enjoyed by their parents will be overwhelmed and unable to serve their needs.

“We’re looking at reconfiguring single-family housing to support cooperative living without losing the privacy that people like,” he said. “This is a way to solve a gap in the housing needs, as well as address people’s social needs. We’ve created a design guide for non-medical solutions to an emerging public health-care problem.”

An Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts funded the research, as well as future work on an earth arts center for the town.

The master plan illustrates the 21 cooperative living principles developed by the studio for a general neighborhood design that addresses aging populations. These principles are largely common-sense ideas that strive to return a sense of neighborhood community that people once took for granted. Simple measures allow for a shared sense of ownership and connection. These can include sharing meals in a third place (in this case, the hyper-porch), balancing privacy with public spaces by designing glimpses of the street or central court from a residence, and designing porches that open onto the street.

“This work is about code reform and changing mindsets, so we can get to the informality in pre-1920s neighborhoods that made us a powerful economic force,” Luoni said.

This housing master plan study will be published this summer as a book called Houses For Aging Socially: Developing Third Place Ecologies, by ORO Editions.

The project was showcased at the 105th annual meeting of the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture in Detroit last week, and it is featured on the organization’s website.

Each year, the group honors the importance of good education in housing design in a wide range of areas to prepare students to be capable leaders and contributors to their communities.

The Community Design Center has won six of the 25 awards given in the nine-year history of the housing design education awards.

AuthorLinda Komlos