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YAF and COD Honor Designs for a Universally Designed Olympic Village

Those recognized mention plan for universal design in the short and long term.

By Mike Singer

The Young Architects Forum (YAF) and Committee on Design (COD) announced the first-place award recipient and two honorable mentions in its 2011 Ideas Competition at a reception last night during the AIA National Convention attended by nearly 200 young and emerging professionals.

Competition submitters were asked to explore a design for a mixed-use building that includes athlete housing for Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. Successful solutions demonstrated a commitment to Universal Design, which has been defined as the design of products and environments usable by all people with all levels of physical, sensory, and cognitive abilities, to the greatest extent possible. First place went to a team from WDG Architecture’s Washington, DC office.

“The topic of Universal Design is something that all young architects need to be aware of,” said YAF Events Advisor Brad Benjamin, AIA, of Radium Architecture. “It’s not just being compliant with ADA. It could be a slight disability with your hands, or somebody being very short or very tall. Universal Design is good design.”

In recent years, architects have come to recognize significant and growing overlaps between Universal Design principles and emerging values of social and environmental sustainability. This year’s design problem provided entrants with the opportunity to explore these overlaps, along with ways for the Olympic Village to play a vital role in the ongoing development of Tokyo–not only for the short-term as athletes’ housing, but also for the long-term, as a catalyst for infrastructure revitalization once the games have closed.

The first place recipient was Project Via Aequalitas, and the award was presented to team members Eric Liebmann, AIA, Tim Bertschinger, Megan Shiley, Alex Taylor, and Tom Zych, all with WDG Architecture in Washington, DC. Their winning concept included rethinking the traditional streetscape and creating an elevated ground plane that lets pedestrians move throughout the village uninterrupted by vehicular traffic. In the project’s first phase, Olympic-mode dwellings easily transform into a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments in post-Olympics legacy mode, with only the manipulation of the dwellings’ interior walls.

Two honorary mentions were also presented. The first, to Warp & Weft: Constructing Tokyo’s Olympic Selvedge Project, was presented to a team from Eskew+ Dumez+ Ripple in New Orleans, consisting of Nicole Marshall, Assoc. AIA, Jose Alvarez, Assoc. AIA, Marty Mcelveen, Amanda Rivera, AIA, Cristina Ungurea, Tracy Lea, AIA, Scott Simon, Assoc. AIA, and Michael Keller. Their entry included the development of a topographic order reminiscent of a textile, with traversable passages that enable equity of access and integration. Another honorary mention was awarded to Urban Village Project’s creator Meagan Stables, of KGD Architecture in Rosslyn, Va. Her concept is composed of numerous hamlets, each with garden hubs, connected by pedestrian paths and networks that can accommodate small electric taxis for those with special needs.

In addition, the TOTO Prize for the Best Universally Designed Bathroom was awarded to Tokyo Trusswork, a design by the Italian-based team of Roberto Pasini, Andrea Ranieri, Alice Ranieri, and Matteo Lucc, of the design firm AUS in Forli, Italy. Their design includes 4,000 residential units, with each unit offering a “neo-bathroom.” Intended as a secluded space for physical rest and personal meditation, each bathroom is equipped with an advanced SPA (‘Salus Per Aquam,’ i.e. ‘wellbeing through water’), with a chromo-therapy lighting system, an automated washlet, a LED lavatory, and a shower-tower/bathtub combination.

Gunnar Baldwin, the first U.S. employee with Tokyo-based TOTO, said he was pleased to present an award that recognizes designs for his company’s home city. “Tokyo’s bid was not just for the Olympics, but also for the Paralympic Games, which makes it even more important that the projects followed Universal Design,” Baldwin said.

Honored entries are now in a gallery display at the AIA National Convention in the New Orleans Convention Center and will be included soon on the AIA YAF and COD Website pages. They will also be featured at the 2011 COD and AIA Japan Northwest and Pacific Regional Design Conference.

The 2011 YAF/COD Ideas Competition Jury included Michael Graves, FAIA, of Michael Graves & Associates in Princeton, N.J; Hansy L. Better Barraza AIA, of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence; Karen L. Braitmayer, FAIA, of Studio Pacifica, Ltd., in Seattle; and Walter J. Hood, Jr., of Hood Design in Oakland.

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