TEXARKANA, TX- National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced 69 Our Town awards totaling almost $5 million through the Our Town program’s fifth year of funding.  The City of Texarkana, Texas is one of those recommended organizations and will receive $100,000 to support the Texarkana Perot Theatre Restoration and Art Park Project. The NEA received 275 applications for Our Town this year and will make grants ranging from $25,000 to $200,000.

The Perot Theatre Restoration and Art Park project in Texarkana, Texas engages leading design experts in development of a master plan for the downtown Texarkana Arts and Historic District. The master plan features adaptive re-use of a downtown block connecting the restored Perot Theater and the historic Regional Arts Building with an open air farmers market, outdoor stage, public art exhibition and green space. A public space master plan incorporating the surrounding blocks offers an excellent opportunity to improve livability and safety in the heart of Texarkana’s Arts District.

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center will assist the City to transform the Square from parking lot to productive, sustainable community asset, a fresh expression of the region’s cultural heritage. The City of Texarkana, Texas will work with the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council (TRAHC) and UACDC, with internationally recognized Architect Marlon Blackwell, to ensure the artistic merit and artistic excellence of this project.

The Our Town grant program supports creative place-making projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. Since the program’s inception in 2011 and including these projects, the NEA will have awarded 325 Our Town grants totaling almost $26 million in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

“The City of Texarkana Texas’ demonstrates the best in creative community development and whose work will have a valuable impact on its community,” said Chairman Chu. “Through Our Town funding, arts organizations continue to spark vitality that support neighborhoods and public spaces, enhancing a sense of place for residents and visitors alike.”

Director of Planning and Community Development, David Orr, is pleased to receive the grant.

“This funding will help propel this project forward and continue to generate revitalization in downtown Texarkana,” Orr said. “We have a huge opportunity to create yet another reason for people to engage in our downtown area.”

Executive Director of TRAHC, Brian Goesl, also looks forward to what the project will do for downtown Texarkana.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our community to have the funds to create the architectural plans for the revitalization of the area between the Perot Theatre and the Regional Arts Center,” Goesl said. “TRAHC is very pleased to be a partner with the City of Texarkana, Texas and the NEA in helping to make this a reality for our community.”

AuthorMatthew Petty

On May 7, the 2015 AIA Florida/Caribbean Design Awards Jury convened in Boston to evaluate the nearly 300 projects submitted for this year's awards program.

After a full day of deliberation, the jury ultimately selected 25 projects for recognition. Jury members included Chris Genter, AIA, LEED AP of Boston firm, Utile; Diane Dooley, AIA, LEED AP, principal and senior living project practice leader at DiMella Shaffer and leader of the AIA's Design for Aging Community; and Nader Tehrani, principal and founder of NADAAA and professor at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning.

Projects may be given an Honor Award (the higher of the two) or a Merit Award for design in each respective category. Winners will be recognized on August 1, during the 2015 AIA Florida Convention at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. It is with distinct pleasure that AIA Florida recognizes UACDC along with 24 other firms for their selection for a 2015 AIA Florida/Caribbean Design Award. Two UACDC projects, the Trailhead Complex at Maumelle Nature Center and the Little Rock Creative Corridor have received Honor Awards.

The Little Rock Creative Corridor

The Little Rock Creative Corridor

The Trailhead Complex at Maumelle Nature Center

AuthorLinda Komlos

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center received two new awards for a project that seeks to build food sustainability by promoting local urban agriculture.

The project, Fayetteville 2030: Food City Scenario, won a 2015 Great Places Award in the Planning Category from the Environmental Design Research Association.

It also received a 2015 Green Good Design Award from The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design.

The Community Design Center led an interdisciplinary team at the University of Arkansas for Food City Scenario, which 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.

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 and a Distinguished Professor.

“Food has been absent in planning and urban design, but that is changing as cities worldwide are trying to build greater resilience. Food City asks what kind of infrastructure would a city have to develop if it cultivated a local food system?” Luoni said. “The scenario led to the invention of planning tools for reclaiming a missing middle scale of urban agriculture between that of the individual garden and the industrial farm. Award programs are intrigued by the notion of food as a pressing topic that cuts across fundamental social, economic, political and ecological relationships. Food can simultaneously build greater prosperity, social capital and a true sense of place.”

This collaborative project 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, and the Department of Food Science, as well as the city of Fayetteville. Preparation of Food City Scenario was sponsored in part by a grant from the Clinton Global Initiative and the American Institute of Architects under its Decade of Design initiative.

The Food City Scenario project previously received an Honorable Mention in the 2014 Progressive Architecture Awards program, as well as an Award of Merit in the category for Planning Tool or Process in the 2014 Charter Awards program from the Congress for the New Urbanism.

The Great Places Award program recognizes projects that show concern for human factors in the design of the built environments, as well as commitment to promoting the links between design research and practice. This is the center’s fourth award from the association.

This year’s Green Good Design Award recognized 65 consumer product designs and 25 pieces of architecture and urban planning projects from 24 countries. The European Centre and The Chicago Athenaeum will organize a special exhibition at their museum in Athens, Greece, featuring the winning products, landscapes and buildings. The exhibition also is scheduled to travel, and the winning projects can be found on The Chicago Athenaeum’s website.

In addition, alumni of the Fay Jones School were among the designers for another recipient of a 2015 Green Good Design Award. Modus Studio in Fayetteville was recognized for its project Eco Modern Flats, also in Fayetteville. This project revamped four apartment buildings that were constructed from 1968-72 near the University of Arkansas campus and downtown Fayetteville. The result was modern, urban, green multifamily rental units that saved operations costs through energy and water-saving updates. It became the first multifamily project in Arkansas to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

AuthorLinda Komlos

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 its 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.

Four Urban Housing Narratives: Getting the City to be a Master Developer

Four Urban Housing Narratives: Getting the City to be a Master Developer

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