Awards for Excellence in Design honor Brooklyn projects

June 15, 2021 Editorial Staff
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The winners of the 39th Annual Awards for Excellence in Design were announced on Friday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been, Public Design Commission President Signe Nielsen and Executive Director Keri Butler.

And, as always, Brooklyn was well-represented.

The 14 winning projects were selected by the Public Design Commission from the hundreds of submissions reviewed in 2020 and exemplify how thoughtful and creative civic design can provide public spaces that enhance New Yorkers’ health and well-being. This year’s awards focused on city parks, which have been essential places for people to gather safely throughout the pandemic. 

Special recognition was given to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreations; park alliances that partner with the city, including Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Alliance; and the more than 3,000 frontline maintenance and operations staffers who have kept parks clean, safe and attractive during the pandemic.

The Public Design Commission reviews permanent works of architecture, landscape architecture and art proposed on or over city-owned property. It has 11 members, including an architect, a landscape architect, a painter, a sculptor and three lay members, as well as representatives of the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library and the mayor.

Members serve pro bono and meet once per month.  Since 1983, the commission has celebrated exemplary public projects with its Annual Awards for Excellence in Design.  

Brooklyn-based projects selected this year include:

A rendering of the redesigned Red Hook Recreation Area, with the soccer fields on the left and the food trucks on the right.
Renderings courtesy of Public Design Commission

The reconstruction of the soccer fields at the Red Hook Recreation Area, Phase IV. This development, bounded by Clinton Street, Bay Street, and Court Street, was a Parks Department project and was designed by landscape architect Abel Bainnson Butz.

As the final phase of the 36-acre reconstruction of the Red Hook Recreational Area, it will complete the transformation of a formerly contaminated industrial site and popular neighborhood park into a citywide recreational destination. The design includes storm resiliency and sustainability, park-wide circulation and accessibility improvements, and a gathering space with seating to accommodate the Food Truck Marketplace held along Bay Street.

Bushwick Inlet Park will serve as a welcome addition to the waterfront.

The construction of Bushwick Inlet Park, Motiva Parcel. This development, on Kent Avenue between North 14th and North 15th streets in Williamsburg,  was a Parks Department project and was also designed by Abel Bannison Butz. 

A critical component of a larger waterfront park initiative and in line with the Williamsburg-Greenpoint Master Plan, this project will remediate a post-industrial landscape while restoring the local ecosystem. A continuous accessible esplanade includes areas for passive recreation such as nature observation points, and a kayak launch provides access to the water for more active pursuits.

The reconstruction of the popular Ericsson Playground in North Brooklyn

Reconstruction of Ericsson Playground. The reconstruction, adjacent to M.S. 126, Manhattan Avenue and Leonard Street, Greenpoint, is another Parks Department project and was designed by James Corner Field Operations, a landscape architecture and urban design firm.

Designed in part to serve the Magnet School for Environmental Engineering, this park will nearly triple the amount of plants on site and expand on the school’s ecology-focused mission and programs. A nature trail defines three activity areas: a flexible field and running track; basketball courts with an outdoor fitness area; and a climbing feature called the “Tree House” that promotes rigor, challenge and socialization.

The design for the renovation of the Carnegie-era Brownsville library branch, with a modern addition.

Brownsville Library Renovation and Expansion. This renovation project, at 61 Glenmore Ave., is a project of both Brooklyn Public Library and the city’s Department of Design and Construction. It was designed by LTL Architects, Architectural Preservation Studio, and Local Office Landscape + Urban Design

The restoration of this historic Carnegie library will provide inspirational light-filled spaces, while the addition will enhance the facility’s ability to provide 21st-century services to the neighborhood. Given the multi-faceted social and cultural roles performed by branch libraries today, this project is designed as a center of hope, learning and gathering for a community that has been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paradise Parados, a stainless-steel sculpture, is located at the Robert W. Wilson Sculpture Terrace at BAM Strong.

Paradise Parados by Teresita Fernández. This sculpture is located at Robert W. Wilson Sculpture Terrace at BAM Strong, 651 Fulton St., Downtown Brooklyn. It is a project of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and was designed by Teresita Fernandez and Camber Studios.

Fabricated from mirror-polished stainless steel, this site-specific installation will reflect the changing light of the day and seasons, passers-by, street activity and the surrounding tree canopies of the sculpture’s dynamic urban surroundings. Derived from the ivy-covered brick walls common throughout Brooklyn, the artwork’s form becomes a canopy that suggests a draped, proscenium-like entrance, mimicking the undulating curtains that would frame a stage.

“Building a recovery for all of us means relying on functional, beautiful, and equitable public spaces. These winning projects will make New York City more livable than ever,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I’m proud to support the Public Design Commission’s awardees, and I look forward to enjoying our city’s open space throughout this summer and beyond.”

“Over the past year, it has become abundantly clear that well-designed and sustainable public parks and open spaces are essential foundations of public health. This year’s awards will focus on projects and programs that will provide and maintain these critical places for social gathering, recreation, and well-being,” said Public Design Commission President Signe Nielsen.

“We are grateful to the Public Design Commission for awarding park designs across the five boroughs and recognizing the dedicated work of our partners and frontline staff,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver. “The pandemic has underscored the essential role that equitable and sustainable design plays in our physical health and mental wellbeing.” 

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