CNU Announces 2009 Charter Award Recipients

Winners of Urbanism's Premier Award Demonstrate Excellence and Ambition in Putting Charter Principles into Practice

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The Congress for the New Urbanism announces the recipients of the Charter Awards for 2009. The 10 professional and 2 academic projects selected by a jury of leading urbanists represent the best of the New Urbanism. They will be recognized in a ceremony at the annual Congress for the New Urbanism in Denver, CO, June 13.

The 12 recipients bring excellence in urbanism and sustainability to sites large and small, ranging from the blocks around a formerly abandoned streetcar storage facility in Toronto to the Crystal City office corridor near Washington DC to the entire Hertfordshire region in England. The honorees showcase the adaptability of New Urbanist principles to this extraordinary range of contexts while also illustrating how today's urbanists are building on collective experience and successfully tackling ever more ambitious challenges.

Plans in Buffalo, NY and Washington, DC draw inspiration from reviving historic street patterns and restoring urban fabric partially obscured by freeways and disinvestment in those cities. The Washington, DC plan uses the future office and security needs of the U.S. House of Representatives as a catalyst for bringing graceful urbanism inspired by the L'Enfant Plan to the neglected, freeway-traversed area south of the U.S. Capitol.

A second D.C. area award went to a daring plan to transform the notorious Crystal City area in Arlington, VA, bringing residential life, street activity and urban order to a precinct that, despite its status as a longtime hub of business and government, had come to symbolize for new urbanists the bleak anonymity and oppressive public realm of the motorized “modern” city of the mid-20th Century. “Only urbanism could fix this,” said jury chair Victor Dover, principal of Dover Kohl & Partners.

Two large-scale planning studies lay out the retrofitting of suburban areas in the Bahamas and the United Kingdom. (Like many environmental and planning challenges, sprawl is not strictly indigenous to the United States.) The UK project elaborates several different scenarios for growth, and illustrates how to repurpose suburban structures like shopping malls in ways that draw on the British heritage of townbuilding. The Bahamas project also draws heavily on traditional settlement patterns, thereby reducing impacts to sensitive lands and softening the division between resort and worker communities.

Themes of mobility, environmental sensitivity and innovation were all evident in Baldwin Park, a traditional neighborhood development built on a former military base in Orlando, Florida. The structures on the base were dismantled and recycled, with much of the recycled material used on site. Wetlands were enhanced in consultation with Audubon, Florida, while the shorelines of on-site lakes were preserved for public enjoyment.

Several winning plans propose building on the success of well-designed city fabric to catalyze improvement of nearby areas. A project in Savannah, GA extends the parks and blocks of the central city into and adjacent former industrial area. A plan for central San Antonio, TX extends from the Riverwalk area, connecting it to nearby institutions by improving walking and transit routes, while setting the groundwork for the renewal of three adjacent neighborhoods.

The San Antonio plan incorporates a form-based code, a method pioneered by new urbanists to make land development regulations more conducive to mixed-use, walkable development. Continuing this theme, the jury also recognized the innovative SmartCode and its accompanying Manual with a Charter Award. “This is particularly overdue recognition,” said Dover.

Smaller-scale designs receiving Charter Awards also demonstrate New Urbanism’s capacity for small interventions that improve neighborhoods in big ways. Artscape Wychwood Barns resurrects a set of streetcar storage sheds as a neighborhood hub for artist live-work galleries, urban agriculture, a multi-use arcade that hosts a weekly a farmers market and other vibrant uses. A student-designed theater complex in Beijing, China acts as a new hub for its neighborhood. Building on traditional theatrical and architectural forms, it impressed jurors with its meticulous, professional execution. At a windswept crossroads formerly known for vacant lots, the Columbia Heights, D.C. mixed-use project offers a compelling testimonial to the sustainability and vitality of transit-oriented mixed-income development.

This year's submitters were also given an opportunity to demonstrate their projects' relationship to the Canons of Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism, a set of operating principles that expands on the Charter of the New Urbanism's vision of a sustainable built and natural environment. At a time of major simultaneous challenges involving economics, energy and the environment, these projects serve as important models for growth and redevelopment that promotes long-term sustainability, livability and community value. See listings and descriptions of winning submissions from 2009 and previous years.

Members of the 2009 awards jury are: Jury chair Victor Dover, Dover Kohl & Partners, Coral Gables, FL; Karen Parolek, Opticos Design, Inc., Berkeley, CA; Eduardo Castillo, Castillo Arquitectos, Guatemala City, Guatemala; Doug Farr, Farr & Associates, Chicago, IL; Ferhat Zerin, Gingko Planning & Design, Orland Park, IL; Diane Miller, Envision Central Texas, Austin, TX; and Evan Jones, Multuplex, Perth, Australia; Special thanks to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for providing the jury with the use of studio space in Louis Sullivan's Carson, Pirie, Scott Building.

The winning projects for 2009 are (with location and submitting firm):

Buffalo Comprehensive Plan, Buffalo, NY
The Urban Design Project - The School of Architecture and Planning, SUNY Buffalo
Hertfordshire Guide to Growth – 2021, Hertfordshire, UK
Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company

Crystal City Vision Plan 2050, Arlington, VA
Torti Gallas and Partners
East Riverfront Extension, Savannah, GA
Sottile & Sottile
The SmartCode
Center for Applied Transect Studies and Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company
Baldwin Park, Orlando, FL
New Broad Street Investments
River North, San Antonio, TX
Moule & Polyzoides, Architects & Urbanists
House Office Buildings Facilities Plan and Preliminary South Capitol Area Plan, Washington, DC
Wallace, Roberts & Todd, LLC

Columbia Heights, Washington, DC
Torti Gallas and Partners
Artscape Wychwood Barns, Toronto, Ontario
du Toit Architects Limited

Guo He Lou Theatre Complex, Beijing, China
Kai Hu, University of Notre Dame
Planning Abaco, Abaco Island, Bahamas
The School of Architecture, Andrews University

Large photo: Future traffic circle and monument, Crystal City, VA, courtesy of Torti Gallas & Partners.