Charter Awards this year reflect a difficult economy


Philip Langdon

New Urban Network


Most of the 2011 Charter Awards from the Congress for the New Urbanism recognize projects that manage to deal with austere times.

The South Coast Rail Economic Development & Land Use Corridor Plan, aimed at guiding an economically slugggish section of southeast Massachusetts, is the grand-prize winner in CNU’s 2011 Charter Awards. Drawn up by Goody Clancy & Associates of Boston, the plan aims to ensure that when commuter rail comes to a 750-square-mile area that includes the cities of Fall River and New Bedford, it will help generate compact, walkable, mixed-use development.

Among academic projects receiving Charter Awards, the grand-prize winner is Strategies for Sustainable Skaneateles, a University of Notre Dame School of Architecture undertaking that attempts to influence development in one of the most beautiful communities of the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York.

From more than 100 entries from around the world, a jury chaired by Pasadena, California, architect Elizabeth Moule chose seven professional projects and two academic submissions for the awards, which recognize excellence in urbanism.

“In light of the Great Recession’s slow recovery, nearly all of the projects selected for honors showcase a sensitivity to the economics of the times,” CNU said in a news release. “Many of the award-winning projects highlight an unprecedented level of coordination between all levels of community stakeholders, acknowledging the complexity of the issues a majority of our localities currently face.”

“With the current state of the economy and the need to embrace the frugality of sustainability, projects that use limited resources towards ambitious goals will be most relevant to solving the problems of today and tomorrow,” said Moule, principal in Moule and Polyzoides Architects and Urbanists.

The awards will be presented in a ceremony June 2 during the 19th annual Congress for New Urbanism in Madison, Wisconsin. The two top awards carry cash prizes — $5,000 for the South Coast plan and $1,000 for the Skaneateles project — courtesy of Oram Foundation Inc./Fund for the Environment and Urban Life.

Commuter rail is to begin being extended to the South Coast of Massachusetts in 2016. The state initiated the economic development and land use plan to ensure that as the rail network is completed, it will usher in the right form of development. “By first creating a regional land use map for the corridor, and then narrowing its focus down to 30 different priority development areas, the Goody Clancy plan includes concept stations and area plans that accommodate future growth in a range of transect zones,” CNU explains.

“The plan coordinates transportation investment with economic development and land use planning and represents an unprecedented collaboration between towns, cities, and regional and state agencies,” CNU says. It also emphasizes preservation of working lands.

In Skaneateles, a team of graduate students in urban design, led by Notre Dame faculty member Philip Bess, set out to preserve the rural character of the area while incorporating innovative constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment to increase the density of development. Skaneateles is “the classic lakefront town in the Finger Lakes,” New Urban Network noted in reporting on the project last October.

The plan “weaves together elegant and modest infill interventions within the context of a small, historic village,” CNU says. It includes both a regulating plan and sample pages of a form-based code that was locally calibrated to satisfy existing regulations.

The other winner in the academic category is also from Notre Dame: a master’s thesis project on urban design called From Settlement to City: A Masterplan for Cap-Haitien, Haiti. It proposes a series of design interventions in a densely clogged port city that has been burdened by migration from within Haiti. In an effort to resolve problems often found in newly built urban settlements in developing countries, the plan “uses a hybrid block type that reintroduces the Creole townhouse as a complement of the traditional ‘Lakou’ arrangement of Haitian residential buildings,” CNU notes.

In the professional category, the other winners are:

Washington, DC, Streetcar Land Use Study. This study, also by Goody Clancy, reviews how a 37-mile streetcar network in Washington could reach portions of the District that are currently underserved. Using local demographic information, real estate market analysis and transportation flow within the proposed routes, the project identified which streetcar segments should be prioritized to serve areas of greatest need. It also reviewed where the district should consider revising zoning and design guidelines to facilitate transit-oriented development as well as preserving and expanding affordable housing options.

University of Texas at San Antonio — Campus Master Plan.

The plan, submitted by Austin-based BGK Architects with Michael Dennis & Associates, calls for transforming a suburban commuter school into a traditional residential campus. It envisions restoring the original campus to a plan based on the 1573 Law of the Indies, and would create a grand outdoor space at the center of UT-San Antonio. With paseos radiating outward, plan enhances the pedestrian experience and enlivens the campus with close-by housing and an overall reestablishing of urban character. The retrofitting allows for the expansion of the academic and research space while preserving land for aquifer recharge.

East Beach, Norfolk, Virginia, submitted by East Beach Company, LLC. This project transformed a post-WWII neighborhood along the Chesapeake Bay through a series of dramatic design interventions. The master plan established public access to a restored beach and a sand dune system and shifted the existing street infrastructure one half-block to save existing stands of mature trees. Development of the mixed-use traditional neighborhood has revitalized the Ocean View peninsula, stimulating new construction and renovations as well as reclaiming and restoring beach coastline.

Seaside Town Square and Beachfront Master Plan, submitted by Opticos Design Inc. of Berkeley, California. The plan tackles the idea of how to best use the town square of Seaside, the early new urban resort community on the Florida Panhandle, as the center of activity for the beachside district. In providing a stronger link between downtown and the ocean, the design employs palm trees to create a border along an amphitheater perimeter, establishes a new beachside plaza lined by two buildings with deep, two-story arcades that contain up to 14 new residential units, and has a new market area flanking a civic tower.

San Francisco Better Streets Plan, submitted by the San Francisco Planning Department in collaboration with Community Design + Architecture and Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.

Given overlapping government jurisdiction on street design and maintenance, the City of San Francisco embarked on development of the Better Streets Plan — a unified set of policies, guidelines, and standards for the design of the pedestrian realm. The Better Streets Plan promotes a balance among all the various functions of a street. and places a renewed emphasis on their role as public spaces. The plan includes a street typology to guide overall streetscape design.

Saint Anne’s Square, Belfast, Northern Ireland, submitted by WDR & RT Taggart. Creation of a new public square within a historic district that was damaged by 1970s urban renewal is the focus of this project. As political stability has materialized in Belfast, demand has risen for mixed-use space and amenities such a community arts center. Recognizing this, the Saint Anne’s Square project uses new buildings to define the plaza and aligns them symmetrically with the major axis of the adjacent cathedral to frame the square. New streets are added to strengthen the street network.

Honorable Mentions went to the following nine projects:

• Augusta Sustainable Development Agenda, submitted by Shields Design LLC.

• Georgetown, Corbeanca, Romania, submitted by Architecture and Urban Design Studio, The University of Notre Dame.

• Aga Khan University-FAS Land-Use Study, Karachi, Pakistan, submitted by Goody Clancy.

• Hampstead, Montgomery, Alabama, submitted by City Loft Corporation.

• Caliza Pool, Alys Beach, Florida, submitted by Khoury & Vogt Architects.

• GreenWORKS Courtyard Housing, Santa Fe, New Mexico, submitted by Opticos Design.

• 4th + Linden, Long Beach, California, submitted by Studio One Eleven at Perkowitz+Ruth Architects.

• Cottages on Greene, East Greenwich, Rhode Island, submitted by Donald Powers Architects.

• The Haitian Cabins/Les Cabanons d’Haiti, submitted by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company.

Moule was joined on the jury by:

• Wu Yaodong, professor, Architectural Design & Research Institute, Tsinghua University, Beijing.

• Dennis McGlade, principal, Olin Partnership, Philadelphia

• John Dutton, principal, Dutton Architects, Los Angeles.

• Jaime Correa, founding principal, Jaime Correa and Associates, Miami.

• Margaret Newman, chief of staff, New York City Department of Transportation.

• Chris Wilson, professor, School of Architecture and Planning, University of New Mexico.