The University of Arkansas Community Design Center and its collaborators have received recognition for several projects in The PLAN Awards 2019, an international design awards program sponsored by The Plan magazine.

The Greers Ferry Water Garden master plan, designed by the center with Marlon Blackwell Architects and Ecological Design Group, won the Landscape category for future projects.

Three other center projects were finalists in the Urban Planning category for future projects: the Whitmore Community Food Hub Complex in Hawaii, designed in collaboration with the U of A Resiliency Center; the New Beginnings Homeless Transition Village commissioned by Serve Northwest Arkansas; and The Wharf at Pine Bluff for Go Forward Pine Bluff.

The awards program highlights projects in urban design and planning, landscape architecture, architecture, interior design, product design and transportation engineering. Winners and finalists in 21 categories were chosen from more than 750 submissions in the 2019 competition.

"Our center's mission to promote creative development of place through combined research, design and education solutions is a niche approach in urban and community design and is being recognized as such," said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center. "Because of our institutional strengths and partners, we can formulate robust design solutions addressing health, resiliency and equity in shaping cities. We are on par with some of global design industry's largest firms in addressing challenges in the built environment."  

Luoni is also a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies at the university.

"Greers Ferry Water Garden" updates and completes a project conceived in the 1960s by Edward Durell Stone, an internationally renowned architect and a native of Arkansas. Stone designed a public water garden at Greers Ferry Dam in Heber Springs, drawing on ancient Roman and Persian hydraulics for inspiration.

The Community Design Center and its collaborators refreshed Stone's design with greater ecological considerations and a contemporary visitor-centered approach. They shifted Stone's reliance on classical models to include terrain that reflects the Arkansas Ozarks. The plan pairs the dam as hard infrastructure and the water garden as soft infrastructure, offering a new environmental model for park design.

Water captured by the dam is recycled through the 269-acre water garden to grow new life and create higher-order niche ecologies. Such complex transformations are the key to building sustainable and resilient communities, Luoni said. The project received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the state of Arkansas and the Entergy Foundation.

"Whitmore Community Food Complex: Building Community Around Food" was commissioned by the state of Hawaii to address the problems of food production, processing and distribution on the island chain. The project revolves around a community-based food hub on a former Dole plantation on Oahu. The food hub connects local growers with wholesale consumers while also serving as a cultural destination, connecting visitors with the island's agricultural legacies.

The master plan calls for agricultural workforce housing, local business incubation, retail outlets and cultural tourism, along with the logistics needed to run the food hub. A public concourse features a wetland garden, a demonstration taro garden and a food forest based on permaculture farming principles. The concourse and bridge connect the complex to the nearby town of Wahiawa across a 300-foot ravine.

The project was funded by the Agribusiness Development Corporation of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

"New Beginnings Homeless Transition Village: A Permittable Settlement Pattern" provides a prototype for a shelter-first response to the problem of homelessness. The project reconciles gaps between informal building practices and formal regulations, making interim solutions ecologically sustainable and able to be permitted under city codes.

The design combines individual weatherized sleeping units, a secure perimeter and a 150-foot-long "community porch" for shared services such as cooking, bathing, sanitation, gathering space and social work offices. The components of the village are designed for disassembly and reuse, avoiding the discard of material in a landfill. On-site construction is limited to wet assembly and site preparation for water supply, waste disposal, foundations and stormwater management. 

The project was granted a five-year conditional approval by the city of Fayetteville, with a formal groundbreaking on the site of a former tent city on April 12.

"The Wharf at Pine Bluff: Re-Stitching City and Water" reconnects downtown Pine Bluff to its lakefront area through a bridge and wharf complex that integrates existing infrastructure with interconnected loops to eliminate the conventional cul-de-sac experience of piers. New attractions include a floating lawn, a boathouse, a beach with kayak and paddleboat launch, a boardwalk, several pavilions for retail and food vendors, and a Ferris wheel.

The project is part of a larger effort to revitalize the city by reinvesting in its downtown through the development of attainable housing and allied public works projects. This will support the renewal of an urban living option in the Arkansas Delta, Luoni said. 

AuthorLinda Komlos