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Great Places Awards
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EDRA is Pleased to Announce the 2016 EDRA Great Places Awardees!

Four exemplary projects/books on interior design, architecture, planning, landscape architecture, and urban design have been named winners of the 2016 Great Places Awards. The 2016 Great Places Awards was organized and run by the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) in conjunction with the Project for Public Spaces (PPS). Each of these winning entries will be on display during the 47th EDRA annual conference, May 18-21, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. 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.

The Process
The winners were selected by an esteemed jury of research and design professionals:  Kofi Boone, ASLA, Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, North Carolina State University; Michael Mehaffy, Executive Director, Sustasis Foundation; Jill Pable, Professor, Department of Interior Architecture and Design, Florida State University; Katherine M. Roden, AIA, LEEP AP, Associate Principal, Centerbrook Architects and Planners; and John Shapiro, Chairperson, Pratt Institute’s Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment. The jurors followed a rigorous blind review two-tiered process for evaluating the submissions. Final deliberations led to the selection of the winners. The deliberations were overseen by Mallika Bose, EDRA representative and Coordinator of the 2016 Great Places Awards. Kathy Madden, Co-Founder and Director of Education and Training at the Project for Public Spaces served as an observer while Emily Viles provided administrative support.

The Winners
An Outdoor Learning Environment for Children,” the 2016 Place Design Award winner from Matluba Khan at the University of Edinburgh, discusses the Tulatoli Government Primary School, situated in the sub-district of Raipura within Dhaka division some 80 miles from Dhaka in Bangladesh. Like most other government primary schools, the standard school design consists of several classrooms, an office, a toilet block and a barren unsurfaced school yard. With high drop-out and low attendance rates as a main concern in Bangladesh, the school authority was keen to work with the research team to view this issue from a different perspective. The construction cost was sponsored by an anonymous donor with the aim of investigating how the design of a school ground can enhance learning and motivate children to attend school. The project was theoretically grounded, participatory, and rigorous in its data collection. Outcomes demonstrated the positive impact of the design of the physical environment, particularly the outdoor spaces on children’s learning, teacher motivation, reduced absenteeism and parent involvement. This research has the potential to impact school design in Bangladesh and other developing countries.

Akron Better Block” is the 2016 Place Planning Award winner, submitted by Jason Roberts. Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the project acted as a prototype for future street improvements planned for the diverse North Hill neighborhood in Akron, Ohio. Roberts worked with local activists Tina and John Ughrin, and a number of neighborhood groups such as International Institute, Keep Akron Beautiful, AMATS, Boy Scouts of Akron and Temple Square Properties to test the plan for the block and give residents, city officials, and local stakeholders a view of what a complete street and an engaged community could look like. This project served as a catalyst for more permanent changes on the block and neighborhood.

The 2016 Place Research Award recipient, is the book “Cognitive Architecture: Designing for How We Respond to the Built Environment,” authored by Ann Sussman, and Justin B. Hollander, and published by Routledge. It reviews new findings in psychology and neuroscience to help citizens, community leaders, architects and planners better understand people as the sophisticated mammals they are, arriving in the world with built-in responses to the environment that have evolved over millennia. We live in a time of burgeoning new information about the brain which will have growing relevance for place-making, the authors argue. The book looks at key subconscious proclivities some of this research has revealed to help designers not only better understand what they observe today, but have a basis for forecasting the quality of the human experience in developments in the future. As one of the jurors pointed out, this book will be “invaluable to placemakers during any point in design”.

The 2016 Place Book Award recipient, “Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces,” authored by Daniel Winterbottom, and Amy Wagenfeld, (2015) and published by Timber Press, Inc., discusses how therapeutic gardens reduce stress, improve treatment outcomes, and increase health and wellbeing for people of all ages and abilities.  In Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces, a case-study-supported instructional document, a collaborative approach is presented, successfully translating the principles of therapeutic design into practice for designers, healthcare practitioners, and students. Using evidence-supporting place attachment and centeredness, coupled with global examples of successful therapeutic gardens, the authors demonstrate how gardens support learning, movement, reconciliation, mediation and memorialization, and improve health and social connection. The book sheds light on how the combined strengths of multiple professions collaborating with common goals can provide tools to design meaningful and successful healing landscapes evocative of a deep sense of place. Using the latest evidence, the book positions therapeutic garden theory in a practical and scientifically valid context. 

Award recipients were recognized on Wednesday, May 18, during the opening reception of EDRA47Raleigh. To learn more about each of these projects, visit

EDRA is excited to partner with Project for Public Spaces (PPS) for the 2016 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.

Now in its 18th 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.

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.

View additional Great Places Award recipients here.


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