Great Places Awards

The Great Places Awards are unique among programs that honor professional and scholarly excellence in environmental design.

Environmental Design Research Association Announces Recipients of 16th Annual Great Places Awards


May 28, 2015 (Los Angeles, California) – Five exemplary projects and a book in architecture, planning, landscape architecture, and urban design have been named winners of the 2015 Great Places Awards. Each was on display during the 46th annual conference of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), May 27-30, 2015.  The EDRA Great Places Awards recognize professional and scholarly excellence in environmental design and pay special attention to the relationship between physical form and human activity or experience.


“Roosevelt Plaza Pop-Up Park” 2015 Place Design Award winner from Group Melvin Design, Sikora Wells Appel,

City of Camden, and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, sought to enliven Roosevelt Plaza Park, a central open space in downtown Camden, New Jersey, and  encourage residents, employees, students, and visitors to spend time outside in Camden. The Pop-Up was the visionary work of a team of organizers, planners, builders, and artists. Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) totes, sourced locally, were transformed into a shade structure, planters, a piano house, and a night-time interactive light show. The most striking impact of the Pop-Up was the feeling of inclusion that the site brought to a place previously characterized by social fragmentation.


A second 2015 Place Design Award recipient, “Daniels Spectrum - Regent Park, Toronto,” by Diamond Schmitt Architects, was the centerpiece of a $1 billion renewal of Canada’s largest public housing project in downtown Toronto and a cultural hub for the Regent Park neighborhood. Daniels Spectrum brings together community-based arts and cultural groups and provides professional performance, rehearsal, learning and social enterprise space where none previously existed.  Operated by the non-profit Artscape, Daniels Spectrum is rooted in nurturing talent, community outreach and providing a sustainable funding model for future growth. It’s also about celebrating new programming initiatives and mounting culturally diverse events in world-class facilities, including the main 400-seat Ada Slaight Theatre and additional sound-isolated performance and rehearsal spaces. The tangible benefits of this facility helped to realize a $10-million goal in private donations.


Upper Lawrenceville Community Visioning Targeted Development Strategy is the first significant planning effort dedicated solely to Upper Lawrenceville, part of the thriving Lawrenceville area of Pittsburgh and a recipient of the 2015 Place Planning AwardevolveEA collaborated with community development organizations Fourth Econmy Consulting, Lawrenceville Corporation, and Lawrenceville United to create a neighborhood identity and series of principles that would help prioritize future development to suit the community’s long-term livability goals. Soon after the study was completed, the community began implementing their vision. Two neighbors were inspired to open a local grocery, other food-based projects and businesses started, and a campaign was designed to promote access to fresh foods and gardening. One of the central corridor’s biggest vacant properties is being redeveloped as mixed-income housing, and a large green infrastructure demonstration project was installed at one of the neighborhood’s commercial facilities. 


The 2015 Place Planning Award recipient, “Fayetteville 2030: Food City Scenario,” asks the question, What if Fayetteville’s projected growth enabled the city to sustain its food budget through a local urban agriculture network? And what kind of infrastructure would a city have to develop if it cultivated a local food system? While the large metropolis sponsors the most efficient carbon footprint per capita, moderate scale cities like Fayetteville are better equipped to evolve resilient food-secure environments given the interconnectedness and metabolic alignment among their natural ecosystems, infrastructure, and urban fabrics. Food City’s transferable set of planning tools, established by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, not only assists to embed high-quality food production into American urbanism, but shows how urban infrastructure can also deliver important ecosystem services.


The  recipient of the 2015 Place Research Award“Race & the Control of Public Parks” examines the relationships between parks, design and “publicness” to ask: How, when and for whom are parks created? BuildingcommunityWORKSHOP analyzed 100 years of Dallas history, tracing the migration of racial and ethnic populations across the city in relation to the development of the City’s park system. This analysis reveals the controls placed on parks and the people they’re meant to serve and questions the idea that every “public park” is inherently public. The shifts in park types and their uses over time reveal the perspectives of decision makers on their purpose, and the needs of Dallas over the last 100 years.


The 2015 Place Book Award recipient, Community Matters: Service-learning in Engaged Design and Planning, edited by Bose, M., Horrigan, P., Doble, C. & Sigmund, S. (Eds.). (2014) and published by New York, NY:Routledge/Earthscan, offers in-depth evidence of the many ways educators are bringing community and community matters to the foreground in design/planning teaching and research. It showcases community-engaged pedagogies such as service-learning; research methods like action research; and theories and practices of participatory design, placemaking and deliberative democracy.

Community Matters maps an emerging arena for design and planning education, practice and scholarship occurring at the boundary of community and academy.


The winners were selected by an esteemed jury of research and design professionals:  Anuradha Mathur, professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania; Robin Guenther, FAIA, principal, Perkins+Will and Senior Advisor, Health Care Without Harm; Kathy Madden, co-founder and director of Education and Training, Project for Public Spaces; Ray Gastil, AICP, LEED AP ND, planning director, City of Pittsburgh and Principal, Gastilworks; and Lynne Dearborn, PhD, associate professor, Illinois School of Architecture


Award recipients were recognized on Wednesday, May 27, during the opening reception of EDRA46 Los Angeles. To learn more about each of these projects, visit

Now in its 17th year, EDRA's Great Places Awards seek to recognize work that combines expertise in design, research, and practice, and contributes to the creation of dynamic, humane places that engage our attention and imagination. Award-winning projects reflect an interdisciplinary approach that is enduring, human-centered, sustainable, and concerned with the experiential relationship between people and their environment (built and natural) over time.


Download the 2015 Call for Entries brochure!


We invite participation from a range of design and research disciplines — particularly projects whose significance extends beyond any one profession or field. All submissions should show how research and/or public participation is linked to or part of an environmental design practice, and vice versa. Submissions should also demonstrate how an understanding of the experience of place may be used to generate insightful design.


We welcome submissions from the full breadth of environmental design and related research activities, including architecture, landscape architecture, planning, urban design, interior design, lighting design, graphic design, place-based public art, environmental psychology, sociology, anthropology, geography, and the physical sciences.


Each year we assemble a jury with diverse backgrounds in design, research, and practice. The jury evaluates how each project, no matter what the discipline, addresses the human experience of well-designed places. Special attention is paid to the transferability of research on this topic into design and planning practice. The jury will select exceptional submissions from four categories: place design, place planning, place research, and a book prize.


EDRA is excited to partner with Project for Public Spaces (PPS) for the 2015 Great Places Awards. PPS is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Their pioneering Placemaking approach helps citizens transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs.


All submissions for the 2015 EDRA Great Places Awards must be electronically UPLOADED using the file transfer protocol below by 11:59pm ET on Monday, February 16, 2015. Entries and their supporting documents can instead be submitted on a CD/DVD and mailed to EDRA Headquarters, Attn: Great Places Awards, 7918 Jones Branch Drive, Suite 300, McLean, VA 22102, as long as they are RECEIVED by the deadline. No paper or late submissions will be accepted.


2015 Submission Process

  • Download the Call for Entries.
  • Click here to process the payment for your submission(s).
  • Upload your submission (entry form, written statement and supporting documents) using the secure file transfer service below, or mail a CD/DVD with all the materials to: EDRA Great Places Awards, 7918 Jones Branch Drive, Suite 300, McLean, VA 22102.

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Anu Mathur

Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

Anuradha Mathur, an architect and landscape architect, is Professor in the Landscape Architecture Department. In collaboration with her partner, Dilip da Cunha, she has focused her artistic and design expertise on cultural and ecological issues of contentious landscapes. Their investigations have taken them to diverse terrains, including the Lower Mississippi, New York, Bangalore, Mumbai, Jerusalem, Varanasi, the Himalayas, and most recently the Sundarbans. An underlying thread in Mathur's work is a concern for how water is visualized and engaged in ways that lead to conditions of its excess and scarcity, but also the opportunities that its fluidity offers for new visualizations of terrain, design imagination, and design practice. In April, 2011 and 2012 she conceived and curated an international symposium titled In the Terrain of Water, at PennDesign.

Principal, Perkins+Will and Senior Advisor, Health Care Without Harm

Robin's innovative healthcare projects have been published nationally and internationally. Healthcare Design magazine named her the “#1 Most Influential Designer in Healthcare” in 2010.  In 2012, Fast Company included her as one of the “100 most creative people in business.” She was a TEDMED 2014 speaker. She serves on the USGBC Green Buildings and Human Health Task Force. She co-coordinated the Green Guide for Health Care, served on LEED for Healthcare committee, and released the second edition of “Sustainable Healthcare Architecture,” with Gail Vittori in May 2013. She is working with the US Dept of Health and Human Services on a Healthcare Infrastructure Resilience Toolkit.

Kathy Madden

Co-Founder and Director of Education and Training, Project for Public Spaces

Kathy Madden is an environmental designer who has been at PPS since its inception in 1975. During this time, Kathy has been involved in all aspects of the organization’s work. She has directed over 300 research and urban design projects along with training programs throughout the U.S and abroad. She also currently directs PPS’s Placemaking Training and Public Space Research and Publications programs.

Ray Gastil

Planning Director, City of Pittsburgh and Principal, Gastilworks

Ray Gastil is a city planner and urban designer, now City Planning Director for Pittsburgh. Initiatives include neighborhood planning, focused on strategic improvement and investments, resilient waterfront communities, and complete streets. He was planning director, Seattle, and Manhattan planning director, NYC, and was the founding director of Van Alen Institute, where he led exhibitions, publications, and design competitions, including Open: New Designs for Public Space and Beyond the Edge: New York’s New Waterfront. Earlier, he served as transit-oriented design director for Regional Plan Association. Recent publications include Success Looks Different Now: Design and Cultural Vitality in Lower Manhattan. He was 2011-2013 Chair in Design Innovation at Penn State, where his work included seminars, symposia, and studios on campuses, waterfronts, and urban innovation. Friedman Visiting Professor at UC Berkeley in fall 2013, he is serving as an Adjunct Professor, Master of Urban Design program, Carnegie Mellon University in 2015. 

Lynne Dearborn

Associate Professor, Illinois School of Architecture

Lynne M. Dearborn, Ph.D. joined the faculty at the Illinois School of Architecture in 2001 and is now Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning. She currently serves as Chair of Architecture’s Health and Well-being Program and as Chair of the Ph.D. programs in Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Her graduate design studios focus on the creation of healthy and socially sustainable communities. Her research highlights adverse environmental and living conditions of low-income and other marginalized groups in the US and internationally and addresses questions of power and agency in seeking to advocate for more supportive environments for these groups. Through the use of community-based participatory processes and evidence-based practices, her design studios seek to ameliorate these unfavorable conditions in underserved communities around the world. She is the author of articles and book chapters on immigrant homeownership, the influence of subprime and predatory lending on low-income communities, and the effect of community-engaged learning on student outcomes. She is co-author with John Stallmeyer of Inconvenient Heritage: Erasure and Global Tourism in Luang Prabang (Left Coast Press, 2010). Her new book manuscript, Living Heritage as Economic Development: Entanglements of Hmong Modernity in Rural Thailand and the Diaspora, has been accepted for publication.