Community Design Center Housing Project Wins 2021 American Architecture Award

A green street in the "Markham Square Housing District" project incorporates bioswales, which help treat stormwater runoff.
Rendering by U of A Community Design Center

A green street in the "Markham Square Housing District" project incorporates bioswales, which help treat stormwater runoff.

A U of A Community Design Center project, "Markham Square Housing District," was recently recognized in the 2021 American Architecture Awards, the nation's highest public awards given by a non-commercial, non-trade affiliated, public arts, culture and educational institution. The project received an American Architecture Award in the Multi-Family Housing category.

The Community Design Center is a public design outreach program of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the U of A. Stephen Luoni, who directs the center, is a Distinguished Professor and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies in the Fay Jones School.

Now in its 27th year, the American Architecture Awards program is organized by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, which jointly present this prestigious annual program for design excellence and for the best and next contributions to innovative contemporary American architecture. More than 120 buildings and urban plans were recognized in one of 23 categories, celebrating the best new architecture designed and constructed by American architects and by international architects with offices in the United States.

The "Markham Square Housing District" project is a downtown regeneration proposal for an industrial brownfields site, a former scrap metal yard four blocks north of Conway's main commercial street, re-imagined as a new square surrounded by a mixed-use residential district. The vision for this new square features "wilded," or natural, landscapes that will help manage stormwater runoff and control flooding. It also proposes multifamily housing with distinct frontages — including two-story screened porches, balconies, terraces, patios and courtyards — that line the edge of "green" streets incorporating stormwater treatment landscapes.

The housing types consist of affordable walk-up residential multifamily typologies — rowhouses, bungalows, triplexes, courtyard housing and townhouses — that have not been built since the dominance of 1950s suburban policy. These housing typologies, also called missing middle housing, are compatible with single-family housing. They are affordable types (between 900 and 2,100 square feet) that are key to revitalizing small and mid-sized downtowns without the population dislocations that accompany gentrification.

The Markham Square proposal connects street and square as a continuous civic space, with a design that combines pedestrian-friendly "slow streets" with the square's plazas that showcase public art. The goal is to create an iconic downtown gathering place while introducing downtown housing options for which there is demand but no supply. Markham Square could become a choice downtown neighborhood for an underserved market desiring downtown residential living in Central Arkansas.

"Like pre-World War II neighborhoods characterized by high levels of informality, neighborhood services and social capital, housing that serves future populations well will have to be conceived at the level of the neighborhood rather than the individual project," Luoni said. "We are grateful that the American Architecture Awards recognized the same beauty we see in getting social, ecological and aesthetic systems to work harmoniously toward shaping ordinary places."

The "Markham Square Housing District" project was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts under its Art Works program and the city of Conway. It was a collaboration among the Community Design Center staff, the Department of Architecture students, Conway's planning and transportation departments, citywide stakeholders and the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.

The design team includes Luoni, Claude M. Terral III, Adriana Ramos-Hinojos, Tarun Kumar Potluri and Kacper Lastowiecki, all with the Community Design Center, as well as Fay Jones School student interns Isabelle Troutman, Jala Jones, Molly Dillard, Bryan Murren, Mitchell Pickering, Urbano Soto, Bethany Stanford, Dayton Thurn and Garrison Weaver.

In addition, Adohi Hall, completed in 2019 on the U of A campus, received an American Architecture Award in the Schools and Universities category. Adohi Hall is a 202,027-square-foot sustainable residence hall and living-learning community, as well as the nation's first large-scale mass timber project of its kind. The innovative project was conceived and designed by a design collective led by Leers Weinzapfel Associates of Boston, Modus Studio of Fayetteville, Mackey Mitchell Architects of St. Louis and OLIN of Philadelphia. Nabholz Corporation of Rogers was the general contractor.

All award-winning projects will be featured in the American Architecture Awards Yearbook, to be published by the Metropolitan Arts Press. This is the Community Design Center's 16th American Architecture Award.

More information about the 2021 American Architecture Awards can be found on The Chicago Athenaeum website

Contacts

Shawnya Lee Meyers, digital media specialist
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
479-575-4744, slmeyers@uark.edu

Michelle Parks, director of communications
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
479-575-4704, mparks17@uark.edu

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