The New York City Public Design Commission (PDC) has announced the winners—11 in total—of its 38th annual Awards for Excellence in Design program. Normally presented as an in-person affair (last year’s announcement reception and ceremony was held at Roche-Dinkeloo’s Ford Foundation building in Manhattan), this year’s awards were conferred during an online event hosted by Vicki Been, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, along with landscape architect and commission president Signe Nielsen and the agency’s executive director, Justin Garrett Moore.
The eclectic group of projects, which represent all five boroughs and include not one but two library revamps, site-specific art installations, affordable housing-focused neighborhood development schemes, park reconstructions, and more, were among the hundreds of design submissions received by the agency last year. The illustrious 11 award-winners were, per a press statement released by the office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, selected by members of the PDC as shining examples of “how a foundation in good design can achieve civic projects that serve communities, inspire neighborhood pride, and provide durable and resilient spaces for New Yorkers.”
Although the winning projects were all submitted to the PDC in 2019, resiliency during uncertain and historically challenging circumstances was a prevalent theme of this year’s awards program with the awards themselves being dedicated to the artists, designers, planners, and city agency staff who have worked to bring a sense of equity and vibrancy to New York’s public spaces in the midst of both a global pandemic and the most significant push for social and racial justice in decades. The COVID-19 crisis has only highlighted the vital role that safe and accessible public spaces of all stripes play, whether they’re providing an outlet for outdoor recreational activities or temporary health services.
“This year, as we struggle through this unprecedented time, the Public Design Commission acknowledges the hard work of every city employee, designer, and artist who has worked on these awarded projects,” elaborated Nielsen statement. “And it is through their perseverance that New York City’s public spaces have been designed with the social and environmental resiliency to meet the challenges of today and our future.”
“The pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests bring broader awareness and acknowledgment that longstanding social and environmental justice issues, including the design of the built environment, affect us all,” added Moore. “We need to do more and better for our people, places, and the planet, whether that is creating moments of beauty, healing, and joy through public art and landscapes or designing for better housing and clean water.”
Moore also highlighted the diversity of designers working within various city agencies including, but not limited to, the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Department of City Planning, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Environmental Protection. The gender and racial diversity of the Big Apple’s so-called “city designers” is greater than what “you typically find in private design and built environment practices” as Moore pointed out to AN. Some of these city staffers, profiled in the PDC’s 2019 Annual Report, also played invaluable roles in the development of this year’s award-winning projects.
In addition to the 2019 award winners, the PDC is also showcasing 16 different city projects—The Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center and Bluebelt Program in Staten Island and Queens among them–from the past five years that contribute to the OneNYC 2050 strategic plan and the global Sustainable Development Goals developed by the United Nations.
Below are the 11 recipients—with project descriptions and imagery courtesy the PDC along with the names of the spearheading city agencies and outside firms, artists, and collaborators—of this year’s Awards For Excellence in Design. Two Special Recognition Awards presented this year are also listed. The full 36-page Awards booklet, which includes further details on the winning projects and the full project teams, can also be viewed here.
Para Roberto by Melissa Calderon — Roberto Clemente Plaza, the Bronx
- A project of the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program, the Department of Design and Construction, the Department of Transportation, and the Third Avenue BID
- Melissa Calderon, Garrison Architects
- This site-specific artwork honors Roberto Clemente, the Hall-of-Fame outfielder and humanitarian, incorporating familiar elements that speak to the memories and history of Clemente’s life and the shared experiences of the many Bronxites that have come to New York City from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and beyond.
Bronx Point Mixed-Use Development
- A project of the Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Parks & Recreation, L+M Development Partners, and TypeAProjects
- S9Architecture, Marvel Architects, Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architects, Abel Bainnson Butz
- This mixed-use neighborhood development will offer more than 500 units of permanently affordable public housing, feature a dedicated home to the Universal Hip Hop Museum, and provide retail and community facility spaces as well as 3 acres of public open space.
Colorful Companions by Olalekan Jeyifous — Brooklyn Animal Care Center, East New York
- A project of the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program, the Department of Design and Construction, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
- Olalekan Jeyifous, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects
- Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Olalekan Jeyifous enlivens the new Brooklyn Animal Care Center in East New York with vivid moments that reference the playful relationship between pets and their owners. Integrated throughout the exterior and interior, the artwork is designed to boost the presence of the BACC and draw visitors into the site.
Red Hook Library Renovation — Brooklyn
- A project of the Economic Development Corporation and the Brooklyn Public Library
- LEVENBETTS, SCAPE
- A complete renovation will enable this 8,000 square foot library to better serve multi-generational programmatic requirements while providing integrated education and learning spaces for the community with a design that addresses health and climate change by utilizing sustainable materials, clean energy, and resiliency.
Eastern Parkway Branch Library Addition — Brooklyn
- A project of the Department of Design and Construction the Brooklyn Public Library
- Allied Works Architecture, Starr Whitehouse
- Along with an interior renovation that will return this 1914 Carnegie Library to its former beauty, the addition was designed as a minimal intervention that respects the historic structure while providing flexible generous, safe and inclusive space for residents and patrons of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds
Primary Settling Tanks Pre-Houses Rehabilitation — Wards Island (part of the Borough of Manhattan)
- A project of the Department of Environmental Protection
- DEP In-house, CDM Smith
- This project updates and enhances a critical component of the plant’s wastewater resource recovery process with a design that draws from the material, texture, and color palette of the facility’s existing architecture, which ranges from WPA-era to contemporary, in order to establish a fresh yet contextual design.
Monsignor Kett Playground Reconstruction — Manhattan
- A project of the Department of Parks & Recreation
- DPR In-House
- In the spirit of NYC’s Parks Without Borders initiative, the design establishes a grand welcoming entrance while incorporating flood resilient materials and increased permeability to address climate change. Diverse areas for activities ensure the park will continue to be a crucial and lively gathering space for the local community.
Michaelis-Bayswater Park Reconstruction — Far Rockaway, Queens
- A project of the Department of Parks & Recreation
- NV5, WXY architecture + urban design
- This complete reconstruction of the 30-acre park will protect the site from future flood damage caused by predicted climate change with a resiliency strategy that was informed by research and field studies. The design was informed by direct engagement with local user groups who helped identify the recreational needs of the community.
Curiouser by Mark Reigelman II — Charleston Branch Library, Staten Island
- A project of the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program, the Economic Development Corporation, and the New York Public Library
- Mark Reigelman II, ikon.5 architects
- Installed throughout the library for guests to discover, Curiouser is a collection of intimate and charming bronze sculptures that encourage a curiosity about literature and the history of Staten Island. These cast sculptures, like books, become portals to other possible worlds to explore and inhabit.
Special Recognition Awards:
Hunters Point South Waterfront Park and Streetscape — Queens
- A project of the Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Parks & Recreation
- Arup, SWA/Balsley, Weiss/Manfredi
- Serving an ambitious adjacent affordable housing development with more than 5,000 units, Hunters Point South is envisioned as an international model of urban ecology and innovative sustainable design.
The Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art Program, for “its dedication to quality and equity in the City’s public art collection.”