Community Design Center Framework Plan Wins Green Good Design Award, Great Places Award

This bird blind tower is one component of the Framework Plan for a Riverine Commons and Institute for the Watershed Conservation Resource Center. The plan, developed by the U of A Community Design Center and its partners, has received a 2023 Green GOOD DESIGN Sustainability Award and an Honorable Mention for Place Planning in the 2023 Great Places Awards.
Rendering courtesy U of A Community Design Center

This bird blind tower is one component of the Framework Plan for a Riverine Commons and Institute for the Watershed Conservation Resource Center. The plan, developed by the U of A Community Design Center and its partners, has received a 2023 Green GOOD DESIGN Sustainability Award and an Honorable Mention for Place Planning in the 2023 Great Places Awards.

The Framework Plan for a Riverine Commons and Institute for the Watershed Conservation Resource Center has received both a 2023 Green Good Design Sustainability Award and an Honorable Mention for Place Planning in the 2023 Great Places Awards.

The framework plan was developed by the U of A Community Design Center and its partners and was based on the Watershed Conservation Resource Center's vision for a 98-acre property that was purchased for conservation and water quality protection. The Arkansas Archeological Survey, City of Fayetteville, an Osage Nation citizen and the NWA Black Heritage organization provided input for the plan.

This award-winning project is aimed at transforming a long-neglected corner of Fayetteville. Only minutes from the heart of the city, the site is composed of the West Fork of the White River, natural wetlands and historic prairie — key ecological and cultural resources present in the region's past.

The Green edition of Good Design, sponsored by the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, represents new international products, buildings, construction and planning projects that are leading the way globally to sustainable and compatible design. This year, hundreds of designs and projects were submitted from more than 42 nations. Throughout the more than 70 years of the award, the Good Design award has been given to everything from a NASA spaceship to a paper clip.

The EDRA Great Places Awards, sponsored by the Environmental Design Research Association and Project for Public Spaces, are unique among programs that honor professional and scholarly excellence in environmental design. The awards seek to recognize work that combines expertise in design, research and practice, and that contributes to the creation of dynamic, humane places that engage people's attention and imagination.

The U of A Community Design Center, directed by Steve Luoni since 2003, is an outreach center of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. Luoni is also Distinguished Professor of architecture and the Steven L. Anderson Chair in Architecture and Urban Studies at the university. The center's staff also has written a book about watershed urbanism.

"This Framework Plan for a new river institute in Arkansas orchestrates watershed stewardship through a unique mix of educational, recreational and heritage experiences," Luoni said. "Our planning collaboration with the Watershed Conservation Resource Center and the Arkansas Archeological Survey foregrounds the emergent interest in food anthropology and other ways in which different populations civilized riparian systems. On-site river institutes beyond research centers are uncommon in the U.S. We are most fortunate in Northwest Arkansas to have the WCRC and their vision for a cultural offering in a river institute."

Under the Community Design Center plan, extensive remediation will undo decades of damage from urban encroachment, while new facilities and installations will create a unique interpretive landscape and reveal hidden layers of heritage. An elegant visitors center — including full-size reconstructions of settler, Native American and early African American housing types — will showcase the diverse social history of the Ozark waterways.

Elsewhere, winding paths will cut through dense patches of indigenous plants and gardens featuring traditional agriculture, recalling the area as it was before European settlement. A bird blind tower will loom on the water's edge, beckoning visitors onward to a first-hand encounter with Arkansas' winged wildlife.

In the schematic design portion of the work, the collaborators looked at the development of a boat livery and intercity water trail on the West Fork of the White River flowing through the site. The master plan incorporates a new spur of the nearly 40-mile Razorback Regional Greenway and secondary trails displaying information about Native American land-use practices through the design of outdoor exhibit assemblies.

The plan includes a celebration of food as technology through an array of gardens: the Rice Garden, the Native American Garden, the African American Garden and the Euro-American Garden. The site also will be a haven for plant species native to the Ozarks region, providing locals the opportunity to reimagine how they landscape their own properties.

Luoni and the Community Design Center staff collaborated on this project with Sandi Formica, co-founder and executive director of the Watershed Conservation Resource Center in Fayetteville, who is an authority on design-build restoration of river, wetland and riparian landscapes; Matthew Van Epps, co-founder and associate director of the resource center, who specializes in anthropogenic processes affecting watershed resources, river restoration design and implementation, and engineer landscape restoration strategies; and Jami Lockhart, Ph.D., archeologist at the Arkansas Archeological Survey and a prominent author on Arkansas history, who oversees the development of programmatic content on Indigenous and settler lifeways and agricultural practices for exhibit on the trail system.

"The WCRC's vision for the River Commons and Institute is to create a place where people can connect to the environment, cultural diversity and outdoor recreation through the site's riverine landscape and training center," Formica said. "Integrating the site's rich cultural history of Native American, African American and subsistence settler populations with the local ecology, river and wetlands can create a deeper understanding of the importance of our natural resources in our daily lives and our connection to each other. This effort is bringing together a 'River Coalition' of partners that will promote inclusiveness and diversity for this significant place. I'm grateful to Steve and his team at the UACDC, along with our partners, for creating an innovative framework plan for this vision to take root in Northwest Arkansas."

This project occurred over three years, Luoni said, and a robust group of Fay Jones School students in a fall 2022 design studio was involved in the preparation of the final master plan.

The Community Design Center was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to support the creation of the master plan. The property is co-owned by the Watershed Conservation Resource Center and the City of Fayetteville.

Earlier this year, the Framework Plan received a citation in the 2023 Progressive Architecture Awards.

Winning projects for the 2023 Green Good Design Awards will be featured on the Chicago Athenaeum museum's website and published in European Centre's annual book on the awards.

The project was also exhibited and featured with other winners during EDRA54 Mexico City UNAM June 20-23. 

Contacts

Tara Ferkel, communications specialist
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
479-575-4704, tferkel@uark.edu

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

Headlines

Rachel Debuque Named Director of the U of A's School of Art

Debuque, a visual artist, designer and prominent arts administrator, has been named director of the School of Art, effective July 1.

Phase One of HPER Building Renovations Underway

All fitness equipment from the Donna Axum Fitness Center and HPER 220 will be temporarily relocated, and locker/towel service will end on July 14.

Farewell Reception for Elecia Smith Today

A reception will be held from 2-4 p.m. today, July 12, at the Unity House to express gratitude to Smith for her dedication and contributions to the U of A over the last 15 years.

College of Education and Health Professions Seeks Student 'Highlighters'

Students in the college who are passionate about their academic program, active on social media and eager to share their stories may apply to become a COEHP Highlighter. Apply by Aug. 9.

Middle East Studies and Jewish Studies to Offer Fall Seminar on Israeli Politics and Society

Shai Gortler, an expert in Israeli history, society and politics, will offer seminars on Israel in fall and spring, and will also be creating educational events open to the wider community.

News Daily