Announcing 2016 Center for Active Design: Excellence Award Winners

The third annual Center for Active Design: Excellence awards recognize compelling research and design projects that cultivate wellbeing by promoting physical activity, mental health, and civic life. This year’s Thought Leadership award recognizes Google for its historic and ongoing efforts to foster employee health through design.

Today, the Center for Active Design® (CfAD) announced the 2016 winners of its annual Excellence awards. An independent jury recognized twelve exemplary design and research projects from around the world that demonstrate a range of creative ways that buildings, streets, and neighborhoods can be leveraged to support healthy and engaged communities. In addition to the project awards, CfAD directors and jury members collectively identified one Thought Leadership award recognizing excellence in the field.

This year’s call for submissions emphasized a holistic understanding of health, recognizing that design can be used to address a wide range of community priorities related to physical, mental, social, and civic wellbeing This holistic orientation is aligned with CfAD’s multi-faceted efforts to translate research into practice, and apply evidence-based design across a range of contexts and development typologies. For example, this spring CfAD launched Fitwel, a unique, low-cost, high-impact certification standard to support building occupant health and productivity through improvements to workplace design and policies. This summer, CfAD also announced “Assembly: Shaping Space for Civic Life,” a pioneering initiative funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to leverage place-based design as a tool to enhance civic engagement.

A jury of distinguished professionals with backgrounds in research, design, and urban development convened this summer to evaluate a short list of 50 Excellence award entries through a blind selection process. The process benefitted from the expertise of the following jury members: Chris Coleman, Mayor of the City of Saint Paul; Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Partner at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG); Linda Gibbs, Principal at Bloomberg Associates; Jamie Chriqui, PhD, MHS, Professor of Health Policy and Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and David Burney, FAIA, Board Chair of the Center for Active Design, Associate Professor at the Pratt Institute.

This year’s Thought Leadership award recognizes Google for its historic and ongoing efforts to foster employee health through design. According to CfAD Executive Director Joanna Frank, “Google represents the cutting edge of design innovation to support employee health and productivity. They leverage unsurpassed data resources to track impacts, and are continually evolving new ways to cultivate a healthy workplace. Such leadership offers an aspirational model for companies everywhere, and influences CfAD’s own work as we prepare for the public rollout of Fitwel in 2017.“

Details on all winning projects can be found on the Excellence awards website: Award recipients will be recognized at the annual “Celebrate Active Design” event, which will be held the evening of October 28, 2016 at WNYC’s The Greene Space. Celebrate Active Design will be open to the public, and tickets are available via the awards website.

2016 Center for Active Design: Excellence awards winners

Google – Award for Excellence in Thought Leadership
“Google represents the cutting edge of design innovation to support employee health and productivity. Such leadership offers an aspirational model for companies everywhere.” – Joanna Frank

CfAD Excellence Awards.Google Oxygen_© HLW International. Photographer Frank Oudeman_OTTO
Google Oxygen © HLW International. Photographer Frank Oudeman OTTO

This year’s Thought Leadership award arose out of the jury’s review of Google Oxygen, an exceptional workspace in New York City submitted by the firm HLW International. Consistently voted the best place to work, Google is widely recognized for creating office environments that support employee wellbeing. The international technology giant recognizes that providing healthy workplaces for its 57,000 employees enhances company culture and is good for business. Like everything they do, Google takes a data-driven approach to creating work environments that support employee health and productivity. Google sites across the world are designed for employee engagement and enjoyment, stimulating innovation and creativity. Offices incorporate playful features—such as slides, secret ladders, and ping pong tables—and a variety of workspaces that offer flexibility, support collaboration, and promote movement throughout the day. For example, Google Oxygen encourages stair use and has outfitted workstation areas with sit-stand desks, lounge seating, and a moveable communal table that can separate and slide into different combinations. Google’s model leadership in supporting employee health and productivity will continue to inform the design of office environments for years to come.

Bagby Corridor
Houston, TX
“Knowing what it takes to reduce a street, Bagby Corridor is impressive. Plus, the redesign had other impacts like reducing surface temperatures, facilitating economic development, and creating dynamic public spaces.” – Mayor Chris Coleman

CfAD Excellence Awards.Bagby Corridor_Credit D. A. Horchner_Design Workshop, Inc
Bagby Corridor Credit D. A. Horchner Design Workshop, Inc

Bagby Corridor is a 10-block streetscape reconstruction and park revitalization in Houston’s Midtown District, one of the city’s largest and oldest central neighborhoods. Prior to the transformation, the street was often in disrepair and not safe or welcoming to pedestrians. Design Workshop and Walter P Moore conducted a comprehensive site analysis and led the transformation of the corridor. The result was a TIA-justified “road diet” that reduced the four-lane road to two lanes, increasing space for pedestrians and minimizing crossing distances. Sidewalks were widened and improved with custom benches, bike racks, rain gardens, and LED street lighting—all of which follow a common language of materials and style to create a distinct visual identity for the Corridor. At the heart of the project, Bagby Park has transformed an abandoned parklet to a vibrant hub of activity. Bagby Park is designed to enhance civic life, with an open lawn for events and programming, flexible seating that encourages social interaction, and a 10-foot-tall illuminated sculpture of the word “midtown” that serves as a vivid citywide landmark of the neighborhood’s identity.

West 215 Step Street
New York, NY
“We’re in a culture now where we just drive everywhere. The way that Step Street changes people’s perceptions of how we can get from one place to another is highly important for civic life.” – Kai-Uwe Bergmann

215th Step Street, Location: New York NY, Architect: WXY Architects
215th Step Street, Location: New York NY, Architect: WXY Architects

West 215 Step Street is a pedestrian corridor that restores a 200-foot-long passageway in the hilly Inwood neighborhood of upper Manhattan. The street provides an essential cut-through to community amenities, park space, and public transportation on an otherwise long, impermeable block. Recognizing the crucial nature of this access, New York City’s Department of Design and Construction commissioned WXY architecture + urban design to lead a full reconstruction of the deteriorating “step street”—a street comprised entirely of steps. The team emphasized safety and accessibility as guiding principles for the design. Landings were reconfigured to include seating, creating areas for those who may need rest when taking stairs, such as older adults. The design entices movement, with stainless bronze markers that indicate step numbers at intervals, playful and inspirational quotes, stainless steel handrails, LED pedestrian lighting, and a new concrete bike channel that allows cyclists to roll their bikes up and down next to the stairs. West 215 Step Street offers a thoughtful, innovative model for rehabilitating pedestrian infrastructure and overcoming topographic barriers to promote activity and community connection.

Wanshou Park
Beijing, China
“Wanshou Park is an exemplary project that shows how a park can improve longevity and quality of life for an aging population. I’ve seen some of these components in other parks, but here they come together to comprehensively promote active aging.” – David Burney

CfAD Excellence Awards.Wanshou Park_Courtesy of Silk Tree International
Wanshou Park Courtesy of Silk Tree International

Silk Tree International led the redesign of Wanshou Park, a four-hectare park in the Xicheng District of Beijing, a region with an aging demographic. The design team set out to create a park that nurtures the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of the surrounding senior population. The plan arose from extensive research, including a site survey, a review of health data, and a survey of park users. The result is a park organized into a variety of zones that stimulate the senses. For example, a zone with horizontal mazes helps test memory, while a zone of fruit and vegetable gardens invokes qualities of sight, smell, and taste. The walking trail that winds throughout the park features gravel paving, designed to give a slight foot massage to visitors engaging in light physical activity. Outdoor exercise equipment stations encourage more intensive strength training, and open plazas provide space for recreational classes like Tai Chi. The park attracts users in all seasons, offering amenities such as heated seating and water stations. A playground and targeted programming bring children and youth into the park, facilitating social interaction and engagement among users of all ages.

Rede Bem Cuidar
Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
“This project used a whole community engagement strategy to increase trust and build social value. The clinic itself and the space around the clinic really welcome people in a way that says, ‘This is yours’.” – Linda Gibbs

CfAD Excellence Awards.Rede Bem Cuidar_Courtesy of Grupo Tellus _ Pelotas Town Hall
Rede Bem Cuidar Courtesy of Grupo Tellus – Pelotas Town Hall

Rede Bem Cuidar (Well Care Network) was created with the aim of improving primary care services offered by the UBSs (Basic Health Units) in Pelotas, the third most populous city in Brazil. The initiative was led by Comunitas, a civil society organization dedicated to promoting social development through the engagement of multiple sectors. In collaboration with design agency Tellus Group and the City of Pelotas, Rede Bem Cuidar incorporated a community engagement process that involved local representatives, UBS staff, and community members. The resulting renovations of three UBSs are designed to improve healthcare facilities and services, support employee wellbeing, and create much-needed community space. UBS Bom Jesus, the first renovated unit to open, serves as a robust, multi-generational social hub. The site features a community garden, educational kitchen, open green space, children’s playground, and outdoor exercise equipment. Improved sidewalks, street furniture, and lighting allow visitors and local residents to access and enjoy these communal spaces into the evening. The project’s success has served as a model for other health facilities in Pelotas seeking to adopt similar design features.

Urban Grow Center
Troy, NY
“The Urban Grow Center encourages healthy behavior not only among those in the building, but also in the surrounding community. It capitalizes on its central location, offering a crucial neighborhood asset that’s responding to community needs.” – Mayor Chris Coleman

CfAD Excellence Awards.Urban Grow Center_Courtesy of Capital Roots
Urban Grow Center Courtesy of Capital Roots

The Urban Grow Center is the new headquarters and regional food hub for Capital Roots, an organization in Troy, NY that aims to reduce the impact of poor nutrition on public health in New York’s Capital Region. The organization repurposed a vacant factory building on an abandoned block in a food desert neighborhood that has the highest poverty rates in Troy. The location was selected to demonstrate how sustainable redevelopment could spark community revitalization. Resulting from genuine community planning that engaged local constituents and artists, the Urban Grow Center serves as a significant neighborhood asset and offers a supportive workplace environment for employees and volunteers. Pedestrian access to the site is facilitated through specially designed crosswalks, street trees, planters, and benches. Inside the building, visitors can access an affordable produce market, while community meeting rooms serve as a civic resource for a range of local programming, such as after school youth farm programs, cooking lessons, and wellness classes. Since opening, ripples of neighborhood activity have spread outward from the site, sparking increased development potential.

Regent Park Aquatic Centre
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
“The Aquatic Centre demonstrates how a community facility within public housing can spark a feeling of local pride. With its emphasis on universal comfort and accessibility, I felt a sensitivity that is expressed architecturally.” – Kai-Uwe Bergmann

CfAD Excellence Awards.Regent Park Aquatic Centre_Credit Shai Gil
Regent Park Aquatic Centre Credit Shai Gil

Located in downtown Toronto, Regent Park is Canada’s oldest and largest social housing project; it has become a predominantly low-income immigrant settlement community. In 2005, the City of Toronto began a 12-year revitalization program with the goal of redeveloping the 69-acre site into a vibrant, mixed-use, mixed-income community. The MJMA design team, in partnership with the City of Toronto, created the Regent Park Aquatic Centre, a year-round indoor pool and community center that serves as a civic focal point at the heart of the revitalization. Situated at the head of a new community park, the building maximizes transparency and visual connection to surrounding public spaces. The pool is universally accessible and culturally attuned, emphasizing comfort for all users. Universal changing rooms with private cubicles offer a sense of inclusion and safety, while mechanized opaque screens allow for regular “privacy swims” that cater to a range of cultural and gender identity needs. The building’s sculptural façade and well-lit exterior spaces create an uplifting landmark for the surrounding park and neighborhood.

Bay Terrace Community + Education Center
Tacoma, WA
“In terms of activating interior space, this exemplifies what we want people who design community centers to think about. The circulation and movement is planned in a way that supports physical activity, as well as opportunities for social interaction among residents.” – David Burney

CfAD Excellence Awards.Bay Terrace_Credit Lara Swimmer Photography
Bay Terrace Credit Lara Swimmer Photography

The Bay Terrace Community and Education Center provides high quality educational support services and community space for residents of the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma, Washington. Designed by GGLO, the Education Center is adjacent to affordable housing and within walking distance of a range of local resources, including an elementary school. In this economically challenged community, the building radiates vibrancy, with an abundance of greenery, bright colors, and large windows showcasing activity. The layout creates opportunities for casual movement, placing an emphasis on stairs and ramps to make active vertical circulation central to the building experience. The building offers a variety of flexible spaces for formal and informal learning, including a classroom and adjoining playground for the Head Start preschool, a computer lab for job training, and a flexible community room that connects to an outdoor porch. The main corridor is wide enough for congregation and features seating designed to promote social interaction. Biophilic elements, including glazing that maximizes daylight and views of greenery, helps support the mental wellbeing of visitors. Bay Terrace provides a welcoming civic resource and active learning environment for the whole community.

2 Lafayette Street
New York, NY
“It’s inspirational for a public agency to lead the way with such a vibrant renovation of their office. Hopefully the success of 2 Lafayette Street will expand to other offices, both public and private.” – Jamie Chriqui

CfAD Excellence Awards.2 Lafayette_© Raimund Koch
2 Lafayette © Raimund Koch

The new design for 2 Lafayette Street, part of the Design Excellence program of New York City’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), breathes fresh air into 110,000 square feet across seven floors of the city-owned Court Square Building. The renovated space, home to the City’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) and Department for the Aging (DFTA), is designed to foster synergy and internal connection within each of the departments. BKSK Architects prioritized employee comfort throughout the renovation, which translated to creating a more flexible workplace to accommodate private, collaborative, and community-oriented work. At the core of DYDC’s six story offices, brightly colored steel staircases create convenient vertical pathways, and the space invites movement through the placement of amenities such as centralized print stations. Informal seating areas encourage interaction and connections to views of NYC’s civic center. In DFTA’s space, special attention was given to providing a safe and comfortable environment for seniors, including installing rails in the hallways, carefully selecting furniture, and incorporating enhanced hearing technology in teaching rooms. The hallway and lobby features floor-to-ceiling headshots of smiling “stylin seniors” taken by the department’s senior resident photographer. Throughout the building, large windows embrace natural lighting and sweeping city views, while automated shading devices temper heat and glare to support occupant comfort.

SRAM Corporation
Chicago, IL
“It’s about finding the essence of your company, and activating that through the architecture of the workplace. With playful elements like the cycle track, SRAM Corporation’s office design finds a creative way of infusing their essence into their whole work environment.” – Kai-Uwe Bergmann

SRAM; Chicago, IL
SRAM; Chicago, IL

For their new headquarters, global bicycle component manufacturer SRAM Corporation selected a 72,000 square foot space spread across a single floor in Chicago’s burgeoning Fulton Market District. The new office design caters to the staff’s already robust bike commuting habits, through elements such as a bike storage facility, bike wash station, locker rooms with showers and laundry, and bike mounts at individual workstations. The Perkins+Will design team turned the large floorplate into a 1/8-mile bicycle test track that winds through the entire office, connecting coworkers and facilitating product testing. Height-adjustable desks for all employees as well as strategically located communal spaces further encourage movement throughout the floor. An open-air terrace functions as an all-day working and social space, providing staff with a place of respite and natural light. The new headquarters design supports a fun, active, high-performance environment, which connects employees and reinforces SRAM’s unique office culture.

The Belmont Revitalization Project
Brooklyn, NY
“The long-term impacts of The Belmont Revitalization Project are incredible. Belmont stands apart by linking programming with lasting, visible changes in the physical environment.” – Joanna Frank

CfAD Excellence Awards.Belmont Revitalization Project2_Credit Brownsville Community Justice Center
Belmont Revitalization Project Credit Brownsville Community Justice Center

The Belmont Revitalization Project is transforming the Belmont Business Corridor—a series of four troubled commercial blocks in the heart of Brownsville, Brooklyn—into a thriving civic space andbusiness district. Brownsville is a two-square mile neighborhood with some of the highest rates of violence, incarceration, and poverty in New York City. Led by the Center for Court Innovation’s Brownsville Community Justice Center in collaboration with numerous project partners, Belmont Revitalization was launched in 2014 to improve public safety, drive economic development, and restore a strong sense of community to the neighborhood. Design strategies include reclaiming vacant spaces, incorporating greenery, and featuring locally designed public art. Community members and local government agencies are closely engaged in this collaborative work, resulting in increased community stewardship of public spaces, as well as growing trust in government. Launched with a day of service that mobilized over 100 volunteers from the Brownsville community, most of who were under 24, over 300 volunteers have contributed more than 500 hours to the revitalization. Since the project began, shootings in the area have fallen to their lowest rate in years. Belmont Revitalization reconnects Brownsville residents to the physical spaces in their community, and creates a sense of pride stemming from collective efforts. The project continues to inspire new place-based initiatives, including a youth-designed community clubhouse and a light installation under the elevated 3 train.

Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women
United States
“A lot of policy and action happens based on what’s in vogue, and there’s not always solid research behind it. This kind of research helps communities make investments that really improve health in a measurable way.” -Linda Gibbs

CfAD Excellence Awards.Harvard_Credit Emily Young
Harvard Credit Emily Young

“Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women,” a study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School examined the association between residential greenness and mortality. Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a prospective cohort study that was initiated in 1976, the Harvard researchers followed over 100,000 women between 2000-2008. They used a satellite image-based vegetation index of the area surrounding each participant’s home to estimate exposure to greenery. Higher levels of greenery were found to be associated with decreased mortality. Women living in homes surrounded by higher levels of greenery within a 250-meter radius had a 12% lower mortality rate than those surrounded by the least amount of greenery. Associations were strongest for respiratory and cancer mortality. The study concludes that policies to increase vegetation may positively impact a range of community health outcomes by providing opportunities for physical activity, reducing exposure to harmful air pollutants, increasing social engagement, and supporting mental health.

Design 4 Active Sacramento
Sacramento, CA
“From my experience, the adoption of zoning changes can be a very slow, arduous process. In this regard, Design 4 Active Sacramento’s many achievements are monumental.” – Jamie Chriqui

CfAD Excellence Awards.Design 4 Active Sacramento_Courtesy of Design 4 Active Sacramento
Design 4 Active Sacramento Courtesy of Design 4 Active Sacramento

Design 4 Active Sacramento (D4AS) brings together a cross-sector team of professionals in health, planning, transportation, and architecture to advocate for local built environment changes that promote health. Drawing inspiration from New York City’s evidence-based Active Design Guidelines, the D4AS brought an Active Design lens to the update of Sacramento County’s codes and policies. Most notably, in 2015 the team successfully incorporated Active Design-oriented language and a distinct icon into the County’s Zoning Code and Design Guidelines. D4AS authored an appendix to the design guidelines that describes Active Design and explains why it is crucial to reducing chronic disease and promoting health and sustainability for Sacramento residents. The new design guidelines feature an Active Design icon that makes health-promoting strategies easy to spot. Through these successes and other ongoing initiatives, D4AS continues to elevate health across the region and state as a key priority for shaping the policies that guide future healthy community development.