AIA Announces 2011 Urban Design Awards

By on January 28, 2011.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently announced the 2011 Institute Honor Awards. Beyond the architecture projects – which you should definitely check out – the regional and urban design category included some great projects from the last year. Only one landscape architecture firm was able to garner the awards and there is some obvious room for improvement in that regard.



Low Impact Development: a Design Manual for Urban Areas

University of Arkansas Community Design Center

This 230 page publication is a guide for future developers on how to “sustain a site’s pre-development hydrological regime by using techniques that infiltrate, filter, store, and evaporate stormwater runoff close to its source.”

Check out the table above. As a student, I have never found a table that adequately compares all of the stormwater solutions and ranks them on mechanical to biological and on increasing levels of volume reduction. I think that it is a great graphic that is beneficial not only for designers, but for clients, city planners, and anyone that has to deal with installing stormwater infrastructure.

Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan

Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan – Chicago
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

The team basically created an inventory of of all the buildings in the downtown Chicago area and the most important attributes related to carbon pollution (age, size, use, energy, carbon footprint). They then applied this is a a 3D model that extrapolates data for different carbon lowering technologies such as energy engineering, architecture, and urban design. They then adopted “eight key strategies” that created a parametric model for DeCarbonization.

Personally, the data that the team seemed to use is not anything out of the ordinary or hard to attain with current technologies. However, I’m guessing that the advanced approach that they were using to holistically reduce the carbon emissions of an entire are is what won them the award. We have to be a little more advanced than suggesting everyone one put solar panels and wind turbines on their roofs if we wish to truly attain carbon neutral with existing infrastructure. This is an example the such measures.


Beijing CBD East Expansion – Beijing
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

An organized approach to the expansion of Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD), this plan identified opportunities for growth – not just size-wise – but economically and culturally as well. The expansion has an emphasis on sustainability, no doubt pointing out that people are most eco-friendly when living closely together.

Essentially, this plan for the CBD is a structured approach for enveloping the surrounding areas into the zone and how they could be added without ruining the existing relationships of the very successful district. The addition of more residential and green space is of a major importance and it seems that the plan recognizes this. However, thought the plan is impressive because of the monstrous size and scope of it – don’t expect anything mind-blowingly new or cutting edge.

The other two awards given were, for me, not really as impressive as these two in terms of what I could learn from them. I don’t want to take anything away from these great projects, however, so you can check them out here.


Benjamin Boyd is a student of landscape architecture at the University of Florida. He is the editor for Landscape Invocation and aspires to practice in the DC area upon graduation. Check out his portfolio.

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