Two projects of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center and its partners have been recognized with 2019 American Architecture Awards from The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

One winning project is Greers Ferry Water Garden, a conceptual design created by the center in collaboration with Marlon Blackwell Architects and the Ecological Design Group. The other is the Center for Farm and Food System Entrepreneurship, a project designed for the U of A Division of Agriculture.

These are the 11th and 12th Community Design Center projects to receive American Architecture Awards. The center is an outreach program of Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

"We are pleased that these combined landscape and architectural complexes — both for the state of Arkansas — are receiving recognition," said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center. "They serve important public interests for the state."

Luoni is also a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School. Blackwell is a Distinguished Professor and the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture in the school.

Greers Ferry Water Garden at Greers Ferry Dam in Heber Springs updates and completes a plan conceived in the 1960s by Edward Durell Stone, a native of Arkansas and an internationally renowned mid-century architect.

Present-day designers updated Stone's ornamental landscape to support a natural fish hatchery, wetlands, edible landscapes, an improved riparian system, irrigated vertical gardens, wet meadows and a pond ecosystem to showcase niche plant communities and wildlife.

Water from the dam is circulated throughout the site in micro-loops, enhancing nutrient exchange, metabolic cycles and life in this whole-system watershed approach.

"We refreshed Stone's design with greater emphasis on ecological considerations, including a place-based expression of the Ozark landscape toward a more contemporary visitor-centered approach," Luoni said.

The garden combines botanical features with facilities for both the performing arts and installation sites for large-scale public art.

This design has received numerous design awards since its completion in 2017. The project received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the state of Arkansas and the Entergy Foundation.

The second project, the Center for Farm and Food System Entrepreneurship, is a training center for future farmers near the U of A campus in Fayetteville. The center models new concepts and technologies in farming — from organic vegetable production in fields and greenhouses to machine repair, marketing, business planning, value-added food innovation and cooking.

Members of the Community Design Center, the Fay Jones School and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences served on the project team.

"The center articulates the farm as a next-generation civic infrastructure central to community well-being," Luoni said. "The center is both an immersive program in the rhythms of farm life and a public facility for hosting gatherings that celebrate value-added food products."

Entry to the complex is layered through successive landscapes, beginning with parking gardens in an orchard and continuing through a tractor garage/shop and greenhouses. These portals open to the central barnyard that frames the formal training loft at the edge of the fields.

The training loft extends the heavy timber traditions in barn technology through the use of contemporary sustainable timber construction. The structure is engineered from glue-laminated timber and cross-laminated timber, materials that comprise the cutting edge of wood design.

The open timber structure filled with glass provides a sense of warmth and intimacy within the barnyard, while its opposite edge presents a cladded surface to Garland Avenue east of the farm.

The American Architecture Awards program, started 25 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.

Winning projects may be viewed at The Chicago Athenaeum or The American Architecture Awards

AuthorLinda Komlos