Formally recognized during last week’s EDRA48 Conference in Madison, WI, four exemplary projects on design, architecture, and urban planning have been named winners of the 2017 Great Places Awards. This annual award program is organized and run by the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), in partnership with Project for Public Spaces.
The EDRA Great Places Awards recognize professional and scholarly excellence in environmental design and pay special attention to the relationship between physical form of the built environment and human activity or experience. Each year, EDRA assembles a jury with diverse backgrounds in design, research, and practice. The jury evaluates how each project, no matter what the discipline, addresses the human experience of well-designed places. Special attention is paid to the transferability of research on this topic into design and planning practice. The jury selects exceptional submissions from four categories: place design, place planning, place research, and a book prize.
Here is a snapshot of this year's selected entries:
Submitted by Simona Serafino, the 2017 Place Design Award goes to Mariahilfer Strasse in Vienna—a previously traffic-heavy 19th century shopping boulevard that has been transformed into an inviting, pedestrian-friendly avenue. Like many cities around the world, Vienna is facing a mobility transition: Slowly but surely people are getting out of their cars and are starting to walk, bike, or trolley around. To encourage more social and active transportation, the municipality is drastically changing the road structure on three of the seven main roads, including Mariahilfer Strasse.
This project is especially noteworthy because of the participatory, multi-stakeholder processes that were involved in helping to build support for the transformation. An initial phase involved using prototypes of potential street furniture as a way to test the design, build support for the project, and give users the chance to get a feel for the proposed street changes. As a result of this project, there has been a dramatic reduction of traffic, noise and pollution. As the once auto-centric street has become a human-scale shopping area, today the street invites people to walk, bike, and linger. Half a year after the its completion, this exciting Streets as Places transformation is a model for those cities looking to carry out their own human-centered street renovations.
Making Our Own Space (MOOS)—the 2017 Place Planning Award entry submitted by David Jurca—is a project that provides middle and high school students with the skills to transform their local public spaces. Led by a team of local and nationally-renowned designers in conjunction with the Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) and the City of Shaker Heights, OH, this initiative uses hands-on, on-site workshops to build physical and social infrastructure in collaboration with the surrounding community. Student-organized outdoor workshops address issues related to shared space, inclusive decision-making, and diversifying the design field by better involving underrepresented groups. In response to the project, the City created a committee of staff, residents, and councilpersons to expand leadership opportunities for Cleveland youth, and the Shaker School district is currently exploring ways to incorporate the MOOS placemaking workshop into its curriculum. This project is a great example of how to engage youth in placemaking and community building efforts.
The Renewable Energy Landscape, by Dean Apostol, James Palmer, Martin Pasqualetti, Richard Smardon, and Robert Sullivan, reviews existing literature on renewable energy and the cultural value of landscape that people inhabit.
Arguing that we must change how we produce energy, the book shows how initial attempts to do so have resulted in landscapes that are unacceptable to a significant proportion of the public that live, work, and play in sensitive landscapes with high scenic quality. Against this backdrop, the book proposes a process for evaluating the (primarily visual) experienced effects of renewable energy projects on our landscape and proposes a more positive public decision making process. The authors develop research and policy recommendations that reflect international needs and priorities regarding integrating public input into large scale renewable energy projects and ensuring that their impact on the landscape is minimized. This work provides guidance to professionals who plan and design renewable energy projects, to decision makers who approve such projects, and to members of the public who are seeking to represent their own interests responsibly and at the same time to critique these projects in a constructive manner. In the era of climate change and global warming, the research represented in this book is particularly significant.
Authored by Kristi Gaines, Angela Bourne, Michelle Pearson and Mesha Kleinbrink, Designing for Autism Spectrum Disorders aims to increase knowledge about the influence of natural and man-made environments on individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other forms of intellectual/developmental disabilities. Traditionally, the built environment has been designed around the average user, with the needs of diverse populations considered the exception in design. However, research is expanding the role of the design professional to consider differences in the way individuals perceive and interact with the environment.
Using a variety of methods (case studies, interviews with individuals, behavior mapping, picture preference survey, photo voice and survey of special education teachers), authors identify a number of environmental features that impact individuals on the autism spectrum, and the book presents findings in an accessible manner to enable practitioners to plan and design inclusive environments for a diversity of users, taking into account their specific needs.
Congratulations to this year’s winners!