Awards Program Celebrates Active Design Around the World

Awards Program Celebrates Active Design Around the World

The Center for Active Design celebrated its first annual Awards Monday night with gathering at the “WeWork” space, The Lounge, on Lafayette Street. The celebration followed the “Fit City 9” conference earlier in the day at the New School.

Founded in 2013, the Center for Active Design (CfAD) continues the work started under the Bloomberg administration to effect change in the built environment that promotes public health. In addition to its work promoting the Active Design Guidelines, the Center this year gave several awards to built projects that exemplify the principles espoused in the guidelines. A jury including the Center board chair (and former DDC Commissioner) David Burney, Signe Neilson (landscape architect and chair of the NYC Public Design Commission), Christine Johnson Curtis (Assistant Commissioner at the NYC Department of Health andf a CfAD board member) and AN‘s editor-in-chief William Menking, selected 4 projects for awards, with two honorable mentions.

The Center’s first Leadership Award was given to Les Bluestone (pictured at top), president of Blue Sea Development Company. Even though Les is a CfAD board member the Center applauded his commitment to the cause, not just as a founding CfAD board member, but in the application of the Active Design Guidelines within his own built work. At Arbor House and The Melody—both subsidized housing projects with extremely tight budgets—Les had incorporated gym space, active outdoor recreation and redesigned lobbies that featured attractive stairs over elevators.  The Melody is the first development to receive a LEED Innovation credit for Health rough Physical Activity. At Arbor House he even added a hydroponic farm on the roof.

Awards for built projects went to:

Blue Hole regional Park in Wimberley, Texas, designed by Design Workshop. The project brought active recreation into an environmentally sensitive area in a way that achieved a balance between public access and protecting the natural environment. The design team was able to protect 96% of the area from development while adding 320,000 SF of active programming. Post-occupancy surveys show a 116 percent increase in average user satisfaction.

Buckingham County Primary and Elementary Schools in Dillwyn, Virginia, designed by VMDO Architects. Childhood obesity is perhaps the most alarming public health issue we face and health professionals are concerned about the imbalance in the “energy equation” – too much high calorific junk food gong in and not enough physical activity on the other side of the equation.  Working with the County School District and health professionals the design team was able to address BOTH side of the equation by providing a completely different approach to healthy food access using a “teaching kitchen” and “food lab lounge” to instruct children on healthy nutrition, and by promoting physical activity with prominent staircases and 15 acres of outdoor space.

Greenbridge, in King County, Washington is a public housing development that typified many low-density, car-oriented housing designs. With a HOPE VI grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the King County Housing Authority brought in GGLO Architects to effect a transformation into a walkable, bikeable and healthier community. With input from the community in an inclusive design process the design team produced a vibrant, art-filled neighborhood that connects its residents through play, gardening, walkable and bikeable streets.  This project is a model case study for other affordable housing developments.

Sephardic Community Center, Crown Heights, Brooklyn is a renovation that transforms and old building into a light-filled community center that promotes active design with an innovative idea for a staircase as “gallery.”  BKSK Architects took on the always challenging job of renovating an existing building to produce a sustainable and active design.  Not only does the renovation include a gym, fitness center and pool but the central stair connecting the two main floors is a major feature in which the tall sidewall displays images of scores of Sephardic immigrants to New York over the last century. Thus, active use of the stair is increased in this stair-as-gallery design.

The awards included two honorable mentions:

Gammel Hellerup High School Gymnasium in Denmark, where the Bjarke Ingels Group not only designed a beautiful gymnasium, but ensured that the roof of the gym—which is depressed below grade–also does double duty as a recreation space for the students on the public sidewalk above.

Gensler offices, Newport Beach, California is this part of this renowned design firm’s “Healthy Workplace Initiative” to promote greater physical activity among its employees. Gensler encourages its employees to move away from theirs desks and into alternative work environments during the day. And how many office workers can bike and scooter around their office?!

The Center for Active Design hopes that these projects will inspire others to adopt the principles espoused in the Active Design Guidelines and invites entries to next year’s awards via their web site .