Atlanta, May 14, 2015 – The AIA Foundation, now called the Architects Foundation, today announced two more Regional Resilience Design Studios as part of its ongoing National Resilience Initiative, which aims to create a network of Regional Resilience Design Studios across the country.

The two new studios are Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, part of the School of Architecture in the College of Architecture, Art and Design; and the University of Arkansas' Community Design Center at the Fay Jones School of Architecture.

“These two new studios, based on the Gulf Coast and in tornado-prone Arkansas, are crucial to our creating a national network of resilience design experts who can help communities become resilient and prepare both for disasters and the effects of climate change,” said Sherry-Lea Bloodworth-Botop, Executive Director of the Architects Foundation.

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center, UACDC, addresses core challenges in the built environment by emphasizing transit-oriented development, watershed urbanism, low impact development, context-sensitive street design, agricultural urbanism, and smart growth urbanism. The school’s top three project types are (1) smart growth urbanism (particularly related to our tornado recovery planning projects); (2) context-sensitive street design related to revitalization of walkable downtowns; (3) and low impact development work associated with new practices in the ecological management of urban storm water runoff.

“This initiative has the potential to do for design what public health as a vector of innovation did for the medical profession,” said Stephen Luoni, Director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center and Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies at the Fay Jones School of Architecture. “The NRI is a tremendously important step toward building the frameworks and influence that will amplify the design professions’ value to the public."

Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, located in Biloxi, Mississippi, was created to respond to Hurricane Katrina and has evolved from disaster recovery to long-term efforts of resilience. The design studio has a full-time staff of planners, architects and landscape architects and works in collaboration with many municipal and community organizations on projects that address mitigation and adaption of households and communities facing hurricane risks, the economic challenges of living in expanded flood zones, and coastal environments threatened by increased development and sea level rise. The design studio’s work includes fortified and flood-proof building design, community engaged storm water and flood-resistant landscapes, low impact land-use in watershed planning, and regional information and cooperation.

“The challenge to transform our cities to be more resilient for extreme events should be seen as an opportunity to make our cities better places to live from day to day,” said David Perkes, Director, Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. “The increasing public awareness of risk is an opportunity for all of us to make stronger and more livable cities.” 

First announced at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, the NRI is a partnership that also includes the Association for Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Rockefeller’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative and others that seek to build a network of community-and university-based design studios dedicated to sharing best practices about how to help communities establish built environments that are more prepared for disasters and more resilient following shocks and stresses.

In 2014, the Foundation announced the first Regional Resilience Design Studio at the New Jersey Institute of Technology's Center for Resilient Design in Newark, N.J. The program was kicked-off with an initial $250,000 social impact investment by Benjamin Moore & Co.

About the Architects Foundation
The American Institute of Architects Foundation, now called the Architects Foundation, advances excellence in design for the benefit of the public.  As a nonprofit philanthropic extension of the American Institute of Architects, the Architects Foundation is the consummate voice and advocate for architecture and design in America.  The Architects Foundation is dedicated to the belief that good design is good for all and plays an essential role in transforming lives and building a better world.

AuthorMatthew Petty

Award is fifth for Community Design Center in eight years

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center has received a national award for a housing design that regenerates the urban context of downtown Fayetteville as an arts district. The Community Design Center is an outreach program of the Fay Jones School of Architecture.

The Community Design Center won a 2014-15 Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture/American Institute of Architects Housing Design Education Award for Four Urban Housing Narratives: Getting the City to be a Master Developer, work that was done in the center’s fall 2013 architectural design studio.

This project was one of two this year to win the award, which recognizes the importance of good education in housing design to produce architects ready for practice in a wide range of areas and able to be capable leaders and contributors to their communities.

Downtown Fayetteville, like many cities, has mostly seen suburban development solutions over the last 25 years because that is what the market rewarded. This proposal, funded in part by a National Endowment for the Arts grant, establishes an urban vision and accompanying pro formastandards by which the city and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce could control the development of its downtown holdings.

The goal of the project is to transform a city-owned parking lot on Dickson Street into a pedestrian-oriented residential anchor for the city’s downtown arts district. Housing configurations delineate new public spaces while creating housing options for those who want to live downtown, including underserved middle-class constituencies. The project revives a missing middle scale of multi-family housing characteristic in high-quality urban neighborhoods –townhouses, urban flats, mansion apartments, patio units and terraced housing.

Four Urban Housing Narratives: Getting the City to be a Master Developer is a collective of proposed housing designs from four student teams who worked with the school’s Community Design Center staff to prepare an urban revitalization approach. The four plans, ranging from lean to ambitious, feature multi-family housing in tandem with a $32 million expansion to the Walton Arts Center and streetscape improvements for West Avenue.

Each approach addresses market challenges in financing, return on investment in structured parking, vertical mixed-uses, elevator expenses and incremental implementation, providing city officials with comparative options to elicit an informed public discussion on development features. The four design approaches also address public-policy challenges in downtown development regarding parking solutions, context-sensitive street design, and inclusionary housing. Advertisement for a design/development team will be conducted once the School Avenue parking garage is completed next year.

“The DNA of our cities is tied to the social life shaped by housing and transportation solutions,” said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center. “We viewed this project as something more than simply providing housing solutions. We wanted to stimulate the supportive public policy, decision-making and municipal administrative frameworks indispensible to building great downtowns. The private sector has not been able to deliver an affordable urban housing supply despite the demand for housing in downtown neighborhoods. This means reclaiming more nuanced partnerships between public and private sectors to achieve the city’s development goals.”

One of the design approaches in the project would alternate parallel bands of public space and housing rows to ensure high-quality urban landscape frontage for all housing units, and is the only approach of the four that relies solely upon surface parking without the need for costly structured parking. A second design approach would cluster micro-scale housing pockets and open spaces, giving a high-density solution a low-density feeling that is familiar to most people.

The third design approach would provide a town plaza to accommodate festivals and maximize event space, projecting a strong civic identity around which mixed-use housing and commercial functions are arranged. The fourth design would stack housing into dramatic terrace formations, providing the downtown arts district and the region with a powerful new architectural icon that complements the arts center. Here, the Nadine Baum Studios plaza acts as a terminus for the Art Loop, which provides galleries, retail shops and restaurants along West Avenue in support of an expanded arts center. The fourth design also provides the highest residential density, which helps absorb the higher construction costs associated with the terracing of building levels.

This is the Community Design Center’s fifth ACSA/AIA Housing Design Education Award. The program has given 20 such awards nationwide in its eight-year history. This year’s winning projects will be featured at the 103rd annual meeting of the ACSA, planned for March 19-21, in Toronto. All award winners will be published in the forthcoming 2014-2015 Architecture Education Awards Book.

AuthorMatthew Petty

Community Design Center, Blackwell firm collaborate

A plan to transform four neglected blocks of Main Street in downtown Little Rock into an arts district has won a 2014 Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architecture. Faculty and staff members of the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas designed this award-winning work.

The Creative Corridor, designed by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center and Marlon Balckwell Architect won an Honor Award for Analysis and Planning, one of five awarded. This is the design center’s sixth ASLA award and the fifth that they have received in this category.

The Creative Corridor plan retrofits a four-block segment of Main Street, between third and seventh streets, by using economic development catalyzed by the cultural arts rather than a traditional retail base. The goal is to structure an identity for the Creative Corridor rooted in a mixed-use, work-live environment that is also sensitive to the historical context of Main Street in Little Rock, which has a metropolitan area population of about 700,000.

The ASLA award represents the highest recognition in landscape architecture design and planning open to North American organizations for work underway worldwide. Thirty-four award-winning projects were selected from more than 600 entries.

The work will be featured in the October issue of Landscape Architect Magazine, and celebrated and exhibited at the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo in Denver in November.

The Creative Corridor’s incremental approach employs three developmental phases to transform the corridor space into a downtown hub that supports a greater level of pedestrian activity, sociability, recreation and aesthetics. To ensure continuity between new and old, the project team devised a townscaping strategy that recombines special architectural frontages with urban landscapes, public art, and shared street geometries to serve this new aggregated arts economy. The Creative Corridor features elements such as marquees, stormwater management landscapes, new public rail transit, and an art installation made from street lamps of different eras from city neighborhoods.

An increasing number of public, private and non-profit groups have already invested in Main Street in recent years, including developers Scott Reed and Moses Tucker Real Estate, and that trend is continuing. Orbea, a Spanish bicycle manufacturer, relocated its North American headquarters to Main Street; the Arkansas Venture Center soon will open on the same block; and the Little Rock Technology Park Authority Board recently voted to build the park downtown along Main Street. Arts and culture mainstays like Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas and Arkansas Repertory Theatre will occupy rehearsal and creative space alongside Kent Walker Artisan Cheese and artist Matt McLeod. Residential installations and dining, along with several other projects, will round out the live/work/play concept that surrounds the Creative Corridor.

“The list of investments rolling in from the private sector is impressive as construction commences on the Creative Corridor,” said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center. “It’s instructive to see the power of public sector leadership in catalyzing urban revitalization simply by establishing a coherent vision. The project is attracting attention from multiple agencies in Washington, D.C., looking for public-private success stories.”

The Community Design Center is an outreach program of the Fay Jones School. For this project, the center partnered with Blackwell’s Fayetteville-based firm. Blackwell is also a Distinguished Professor and head of the Fay Jones School’s Department of Architecture.

Planning and design for the Creative Corridor was funded by a 2011 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Construction on the first phase began over summer and should be completed early next year.

The Creative Corridor also has received other honors, including a 2014 Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design from the American Institute of Architects and a 2013 American Architecture Award from The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. It also won a Charter Award in the Neighborhood, District and Corridor category in the 2013 Charter Awards, sponsored by the Congress for the New Urbanism, and it was short-listed for the 2013 World Architecture Festival Awards in the Future Projects – Masterplanning category.

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 100 design awards.

AuthorMatthew Petty

Project funded with an NEA Our Town grant

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center and the U of A Office for Sustainability will partner with the rural city of Freeman, South Dakota, to design a master plan, conduct community engagement activities, and create a conceptual design for the Freeman Arts/Earth Center in South Dakota.

Freeman, a community of 1,300 residents, has been awarded a $150,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for this project. Boston & Western, economic development expert experts, also will be working on the project. Our Town grants invest in projects that contribute to the livability of communities and place the arts at their core.

The Community Design Center and the Office for Sustainability will use the NEA grant to prepare designs for a food production greenhouse complex coupled with an arts center capable of supporting the area’s strong and vibrant arts, heritage, and agricultural traditions. The planning and development is scheduled to take place over the next year. Economic development experts Boston & Western Corporation will also partner on the project.

Freeman has grown to become a vital economic and cultural anchor in the region adjacent to the Sioux Falls metropolitan area. The city has a strong tradition of agriculture, performing arts and music, and a heritage with strong ties to the Mennonite tradition.

The Community Design Center will be the lead designer for a 16,000-square-foot cultural center, which will house a 400-seat theater, a 120-seat recital hall and space for arts and agriculturally based programming.

The center will combine tourism, arts training and performances and commercial agricultural activities, including artisanal and heritage food production systems. It will also feature educational and research programs centered on sustainable agriculture and land stewardship practices.

“We are excited by this new plateau in community development that combines livelihoods in the cultural arts with urban agriculture,” said Steve Luoni, Community Design Center director. “The proposal models holistic synergies in town development called ‘transition towns.’ Transition towns stage the next level of social and economic organization necessary to achieve true sustainability and resiliency. Given the unrivalled community traditions in Upper Plains states, it makes sense that this unique partnership including scientists, designers, artists and financiers finds itself in South Dakota.”

The plan will feature integration of modulated commercial food production systems based upon the Greenhouse Village model, a closed-loop building design framework pioneered by the Innovation Network in the Netherlands.

The ecological engineering team from the U of A Office for Sustainability will develop a set of preliminary designs to evaluate the production potential for four alternatives for greenhouse-based production, including integrated aquaculture and hydroponic production of vegetables, incorporation of solar heat, natural gas, and wind energy for heating and light, and integrated water and soil systems for nutrient management.

“This project will provide the city of Freeman with the opportunity to create their future through integration of the strong agricultural roots and arts traditions in their community,” said Marty Matlock, executive director of the Office for Sustainability and professor of biological and agricultural engineering in the College of Engineering. “The incorporation of the community’s core values, represented through the arts, with economic development through greenhouse-based sustainable agriculture is a new model of prosperity for rural communities.”

This NEA grant for the project in Freeman is one of 66 Our Town grants totaling $5.073 million and reaching 38 states in the Our Town program’s fourth year of funding. This is the third NEA Our Town grant for which the Community Design Center has been the lead designer.

“The support of the NEA is immensely important to us,” said John Koch, project director of the Freeman Arts/Earth Center. “It’s not just the financial support. It is an affirmation that the shared vision of our community is worthy of full and serious consideration.”

The Community Design Center was founded in 1995 as part of the Fay Jones School of Architecture. 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 100 design awards, including a 2014 Charter Award from the Congress for the New Urbanism for their Fayetteville 2030: Food City Scenario project.

AuthorMatthew Petty

Northwest Arkansas leaders travel to Congress meeting in Buffalo

A project that seeks to build food sustainability by promoting local urban agriculture was recognized earlier this month at the annual meeting of the Congress for the New Urbanism. The University of Arkansas Community Design Center led the team that created the Fayetteville 2030: Food City Scenario project, which won an Award of Merit in the category for Planning Tool or Process.

The Charter Awards ceremony was held earlier this month at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center in Buffalo, New York, at the organization’s yearly Congress meeting, which brings architects, urban planners, developers and advocates together to network, learn and collaborate. The Congress is an international organization that works with multidisciplinary professionals to promote walkable, diverse and sustainable development.

Lioneld Jordan, mayor of Fayetteville, was one of about two dozen leaders from Northwest Arkansas who attended the meeting in Buffalo. The Walton Family Foundation funded the travel of this region’s leaders to the conference, which included a special meeting with the Congress board and chief executive officer. Mayors, chamber of commerce officials, county commissioners and Northwest Arkansas Council officials attended in an effort to develop greater urban livability and planning coordination in the region.

Jordan said the event was educational and inspiring as ideas were shared from cities around the country. “A lot of the things that they talked about are things we’re looking at in this city,” he said. “I think they showed us some easier ways to do them.”

Food City Scenario is a solid project that caught the attention of the Charter Awards judges and also features some ideas already being implemented in Fayetteville, Jordan said.

“We’ve got to look at urban development different than we have in the last 50 years for sure,” Jordan said. The award recognition “shows that we’re doing some stuff that’s even a little outside the box.”

The Fayetteville City Council recently passed a comprehensive urban agriculture ordinance, which allows city residents to raise goats and bees, plus more chickens than previously allowed. It also allows them to sell produce grown in their home gardens. Next, city officials plan to look at the possibility of planting fruit and nut trees alongside public streets.

“I’m a firm supporter of people being able to sustain themselves and being able to grow their own food,” Jordan said. As more people are living in urban areas than rural ones, “we’ve got to learn how to produce our own food.”

The Community Design Center led an interdisciplinary team at the University of Arkansas whose project, Fayetteville 2030: Food City Scenario, speculates on what Fayetteville might look like if the city’s growth integrated local urban food production sustainable enough to create self-sufficiency. Fayetteville’s population of 75,000 is expected to double over the next 20 years. In addition, although the region is the most prosperous in the state, it also has one of the state’s highest child hunger rates.

Supported by the Clinton Global Initiative, Food City Scenario is an urban agricultural project that aims to weave agricultural urbanism back into the city environment, with the prospect of helping Fayetteville achieve greater food security and resiliency, said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center.

Most cities stock a three-day supply of food, mostly from global supply chains, “meaning that we are only nine meals away from anarchy,” Luoni said. This scenario devises a middle-scale urban food production model that lies between the scale of the industrial farm and the individual garden, called the “missing middle.” In this plan, this foodshed – a geographic area of connected food production and consumption – functions as an ecological municipal utility, featuring green infrastructure; public, food-producing landscapes, such as edible forest farms, orchard-lined streets, fruit and nut boulevards; food hubs; organic waste recycling districts; and various other agrarian initiatives.

“Food has been conspicuously absent from American planning, even though it ranks in importance with water, power and sanitation – the latter all utilities,” Luoni said. “Our scenario plan formulates the rationale, design tools and placemaking concepts for making urban food production an option once again in the construction of cities.”

Juror Brent Toderian called Food City Scenario a “highly creative, comprehensive and leading-edge ‘thought piece’ on urban food.” From farm-to-table arrangements with local institutions to a closed-loop, upcycling waste management system (including extracting nutrients from food waste through composting) to several greenhouse and other geothermal plans, Food City is an in-depth look at a city’s vibrant potential.

“The project went well beyond policy and principle, to connect urban food production with alternative growth scenarios, public space types, and real-world housing,” Toderian said.

This collaborative plan involved the Fay Jones School of Architecture, the department of biological and agricultural engineering, the Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability, the School of Law and its master of laws program in agricultural and food law, the department of food science, and the city of Fayetteville. This team also worked with local nonprofit groups dedicated to fighting hunger and poverty. The report can be found on the Community Design Center’s website.

Earlier this year, this project was recognized with an Honorable Mention in the 61st Progressive Architecture Awards program.

AuthorMatthew Petty