In case you missed it, the deadline for the 19th Annual Great Places Awards has been extended to February 14th, 2017. With now just less than a week left to apply, we encourage you to spend the weekend getting your application materials together!

Every year, the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), in partnership with Project for Public Spaces, holds the Great Places Awards, inviting submissions from the full breadth of environmental design and related research activities, including architecture, landscape architecture, planning, urban design, interior design, lighting design, graphic design, place-based public art, environmental psychology, sociology, anthropology, geography, and the physical sciences.

The Great Places Awards recognize important work that contributes to the creation of dynamic, humane places that engage our attention and imagination— a unique honor among programs for professional and scholarly excellence in environmental design.

Past recipients of the Great Places Awards have demonstrated excellence in interdisciplinary projects that are human-centered, sustainable, and concerned with the experiential relationship between people and their environment (built and natural) over time.

For example, Matluba Khan from the University of Edinburgh was a recipient of the 2016 Great Places Awards recipients in the Place Design category. Her PhD project involves the co-design and building of outdoor learning and play space at a rural primary school in Bangladesh. With a life-long interest in education, Matluba grew up in a family of teachers, including her father who was a principal. While her academic focus began in architecture, she was also interested in psychology and child development, and she began exploring ways to use architecture to help children’s learning and to increase children’s access to a better education.

Matluba Khan after winning EDRA’s Great Places Awards | Image courtesy of OPENspace

Her undergraduate thesis aimed to rethink learning spaces, looking specifically at how indoor and outdoor spaces impact childhood learning and development. To do so, she created a series of spaces—active spaces, interruptive spaces, multi-purpose/interactive spaces. Then, based on student observations, she found that some spaces, such as outdoor spaces, were quite effective, even if unintentionally so. Matluba continued this research throughout her graduate studies, and similar to PPS’s Power of 10 concept, Matluba found that outdoor spaces can have everything in one place.

Matluba’s project, “An Outdoor Learning Environment for Children,” discusses the Tulatoli Government Primary School, situated in the sub-district of Raipura within Dhaka division some 80 miles from Dhaka in Bangladesh. Like most other government primary schools, the standard school design consists of several classrooms, an office, a toilet block and a barren unsurfaced school yard. With high drop-out and low attendance rates as a main concern in Bangladesh, the school authority was keen to work with the research team to view this issue from a different perspective. The construction cost was sponsored by an anonymous donor with the aim of investigating how the design of a school ground can enhance learning and motivate children to attend school. The project was theoretically grounded, participatory, and rigorous in its data collection, and it ultimately demonstrated the positive impact of the design of the physical environment on children’s learning, teacher motivation, reduced absenteeism and parent involvement. This research has the potential to impact school design in Bangladesh and other developing countries.

Children in their outdoor classroom in Tulatoli Government Primary School, Bangladesh | Image by Matluba Khan

Just as Matluba’s project achieves, EDRA Great Places Awards applicants should engage places and designs that help improve their setting by advancing a larger vision, repairing an unsatisfactory relationship, or adding something that a previous design failed to provide.

EDRA invites projects from a range of design and research disciplines—particularly those whose significance extends beyond any one profession or field. All submissions should show how research and/or public participation is linked to or part of an environmental design practice, and vice versa. Submissions should also demonstrate how an understanding of the experience of place may be used to generate insightful design.

The Great Places Awards has four award categories: Place Design; Place Research; Place Planning; and the Book Award.

For further details about the application process and each category’s specifics, click here. And make sure you submit before the deadline – there is still time!

Last Call for Applications! EDRA’s 2017 Great Places Awards was last modified: February 10th, 2017 by Project for Public Spaces
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