In Pursuit of Design Excellence in the Heartland

Ross Barney Architects releases new plans for a park in Rogers, Arkansas.

Architect’s Newspaper recently shared new images of the Railyard, which will take center stage of downtown when complete next year:

“The five-acre park, which extends a tip of the hat to the city’s rich history as a railway water stop and cider production hub, aims to re-energize the sleepy historic downtown area by spurring economic development and establishing Rogers as a destination on par with its attention-grabbing—at least from a design, architecture, and public space standpoint—neighbors in fast-growing Northwest Arkansas…”

Over the last 25 years, the population in Northwest Arkansas has more than doubled – and is expected to double again by 2040 – creating opportunities and challenges in planning and design. As part of a broader effort to preserve the region’s sense of place during a period of rapid growth, the Walton Family Foundation launched the Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program – an initiative that promotes the highest level of design in the development of public buildings and spaces.The Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program uniquely tackles the impact the shift of rapid growth has on communities in the American Heartland, focusing on elevating design in downtowns across an entire region and ensuring its projects complement the rich architectural history of the community’s urban fabric. Since its launch in 2015, the program is supporting 13 design projects in the region’s five largest downtowns. Through the program, Northwest Arkansas organizations have access to nearly 70 architecture, landscape architecture and urban design firms representing 15 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Denmark.During the session, attendees will hear from the philanthropic sector, design professionals and participating clients.

At the Congress for New Urbanism’s 2020 Virtual Gathering Carol Ross Barney joined Karen Minkel of the Walton Family Foundation; Martin Miller, Executive Director of TheatreSquared; and Matthew Leister, Managing Director at Gehl to speak about the role Design Excellence plays in sustainable community development, particularly with the backdrop of a pandemic. In her own words: “The impact of the pandemic on the design of spaces for the short and long term suggests that people will not want to live in cities. But that’s where most of us live and we can’t do without them, but we need to make them better. We now have a great need to make sustainable and healthy environments (and these two ideas are one in the same), especially when it comes to the design excellence of public buildings and spaces.”

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