Little Rock, Fayetteville designs shine in competition

Two projects by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center have received 2013 American Architecture Awards from The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. Out of hundreds of submissions from the best architecture firms across the United States, the 65 award winners were new buildings, commercial and institutional developments, and urban planning projects designed or built since 2010.

The Community Design Center collaborated with Marlon Blackwell Architect for the first project, The Creative Corridor: A Main Street Revitalization for Little Rock. The project retrofits a four-block segment of historic Main Street in downtown Little Rock. The proposal features economic development driven more by the cultural arts than the street’s traditional retail base.

Project planning was partly funded by a $150,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and by the city of Little Rock.

The second project, Fayetteville 2030: Transit City Scenario, poses the question: What if 80 percent of the city’s future growth was given an incentive to locate around a six-mile streetcar system for Fayetteville’s now auto-dominated commercial arterial? Since 50 percent of the built environment projected to exist in Fayetteville by 2030 has not yet been built, this project envisions changing the direction of growth from sprawl to high-value urban neighborhoods.

Project planning was partly funded by a $20,000 Access to Artistic Excellence grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, along with support from the city of Fayetteville.

“We hope the international recognition that both projects have received over the past year gives the cities of Little Rock and Fayetteville the confidence to move ahead with their projects,” said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center. “Both projects are urban regeneration proposals which underscore the quality of cities in Arkansas – though underutilized as in most mid-American cities. Both proposals offer urban design concepts that are universally appreciated and capable of implementation everywhere. The Fayetteville proposal features new retrofit concepts for suburban neighborhoods, while the Little Rock proposal illustrates how a traffic corridor can be reclaimed to once again make a great pedestrian environment.”

The American Architecture Awards, founded 15 years ago, is a centerpiece of The Chicago Athenaeum and the European Centre’s efforts to identify and promote best practices in all types of architectural development and to bring a global focus to the best new designs from the United States. It is the only national and global program of its kind. This year’s jury consisted of architecture professionals in Greece.

“The American Architecture Awards program showcases the best of new American building design and urban design-oriented research by the nation’s foremost visionary designers,” said Christian Narkiewicz-Laine, museum president of The Chicago Athenaeum. “The American projects selected by the Greek jury exhibit conceptual strengths that solve critical aesthetic, civic, urban and social concerns, as well as the requisite functional, environmental and sustainability concerns. The selected projects for 2013 demonstrate the highest regard for vision and aesthetic image-making, which has traditionally defined the United States as a leading design nation in this decade, as well as the previous decades of the 21stcentury and in the history of modern architecture.”

The award-winning projects will be premiered at the 14th International Biennial of Architecture, which opens today and continues through Oct. 15 at Centro Cultural Recoleta in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The exhibition later will travel in Europe.

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center was founded in 1995 as part of the Fay Jones School of Architecture. The center advances creative development in Arkansas through education, research, and design solutions that enhance the physical environment. It has provided design and planning services to more than 45 communities and organizations across Arkansas, helping them to secure nearly $65 million in grant funding to enact suggested improvements. In addition to revitalizing historic downtowns, the center addresses new challenges in affordable housing, urban sprawl, environmental planning, and management of regional growth or decline. The center’s professional staff members are nationally recognized for their expertise in urban and public-interest design, and their work has received more than 90 design awards.

AuthorMatthew Petty