The annual award recognizes outstanding examples of successful large- and small-scale public spaces that have socially enriched and revitalized the economy of their surrounding communities. The competition includes a cash prize that goes to the organizations responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the winning park spaces.
Myriad Botanical Gardens, owned by the Myriad Gardens Foundation and designed by the Office of James Burnett, and Murase Associates, is a joint investment effort that takes a highly-underused yet prime 15-acre urban downtown garden and park site that had fallen into disrepair, and turns it into a state-of-the-art, highly active destination to improve the quality of life in Oklahoma City and continue the renaissance of the entire downtown.
Thousand Lantern Lake Park System, owned by the Nanhai District Government and designed by the SWA Group, is a park system that represents a defining infrastructural effort that is integral to Nanhai’s strategic approach of urban transformation within a successful, people-oriented urban development district. The park system provides a creative solution for attracting people to its newly constructed Guangdong Financial High-tech Industrial Zone.
“Our jury was impressed with the number of submissions that creatively transformed the urban landscape while remaining sensitive to the nuances of the real people who will populate it,” said jury chair Michael Covarrubias, chairman and chief executive officer of TMG Partners in San Francisco, California. “As this is the first year the competition was open to submissions from across the world, the finalists and winners all serve as international case studies demonstrating how cities can leverage open space to create value to cities and entice more useful, healthy downtown activity.
From Maureen Heffernan, Executive Director, Myriad Botanical Gardens: All of us at the Myriad Botanical Gardens now know what it must be like to experience the euphoric joy of winning a hard-fought World Series or NBA Finals, because we just won the Urban Land Institute’s 2015 Open Space award, the highly-competitive and prized ‘ championship’ title for new urban public parks. Along with co-winner Thousand Lantern Park in Foshen, China, Myriad Gardens can now authoritatively state it is a world-class public park and garden.
So many people made this happen – from Larry Nichols at Devon Energy who made possible the transformation of the Myriad Gardens, to officials from the City of Oklahoma City, to Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust, to Jim Tolbert who has helped to guide the organization since the early 1980’s, to top landscape architects James Burnett and Scott Murase and architect firms Gensler and FSB of OKC, to all the members of the Gardens’ boards of directors, donors, Garden members and the Greater OKC community who has embraced the new Gardens and visit us often for its beauty and events. And of course, the day in, day out efforts of our talented, hard-working and dedicated Gardens’ staff who make the Gardens a beautiful and vibrant place for all year-round, continues to be key to making Gardens a bright jewel for the downtown and beyond.
While we have plans to take the Gardens to greater heights in the coming years, this award is a wonderful affirmation of how transformative the 2009-11 redesign of Myriad Gardens has been to make the downtown more beautiful and vibrant. The award also recognizes a successful public and private partnership whose joint investment in the Myriad Gardens is also helping to spur significant economic development surrounding the park.
Special thanks to Leslie Batchelor, local ULI member and attorney, and Aubrey Hammontree, City of Oklahoma City’s City Planner for bringing the award opportunity to my attention earlier this year.
Special thanks to the following individuals who helped the Gardens’ staff plan the day for the ULI juror members, including Amanda Burden from New York City, who visited the Gardens on July 29th:
- Larry Nichols
- Jim Tolbert
- Mayor Cornett
- Kirk Humphries
- Cathy O-Conner
- Aubrey Hammontree
- Mark Beffort
- Leslie Batchelor
- DeShawn Heusel
- Ginny Greenberg
- Paul LeFevre
Myriad Gardens Staff ULI Planning Committee:
- Maureen Heffernan
- Debora Morey
- Jessi Reisenberg
- Erin McFall
The six finalists were selected from an impressive collection of entries representing urban areas from across the globe. While landscape architecture and urban design were factors in the judging, the jury selected finalists based on a broader set of criteria, including overall project performance and the impact on their surrounding areas.
The descriptions of the other four finalists, with the project’s owner and designer in parentheses:
- Marina Bay, Singapore (Owner/Designer: Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority): The 3.5km (2.17 mile)-long waterfront promenade features two pedestrian bridges that encircles a 48ha (118 acre) waterbody. It generates a “water piazza” that becomes a meeting place and focal point for celebrations and activities.
- Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA (Owner: City of Chicago, Designer: Edward Uhlir, FAIA, et al): The park represents a model for successful regeneration right at the urban core providing a place for Chicagoans and tourists to enjoy a broad variety of free public events through an engaging community experience.
- Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square, Santa Monica, California, USA (Owner: City of Santa Monica, Designer: James Corner Field Operations): The project embodies a new type of urban landscape that is active, innovative, resource-conscious, and natural. Shaped by extensive public participation, the design creates a contemporary and transformative series of gardens and active spaces that symbolically redefine and interconnect the center of Santa Monica.
- Washington Canal Park, Washington DC, USA (Owner: Canal Park Development Association, Inc, Designers: OLIN and STUDIOS Architecture, dcpc): One of the first parks built as part of the District of Columbia’s Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, the park is located on three acres of a former parking lot for district school buses, and has been transformed into a model of sustainability, a social gathering place, and an economic trigger for the surrounding neighborhood.
The award was created through the generosity of Amanda M. Burden, former New York City planning commissioner and 2009 laureate of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. In 2011, the Kresge Foundation, MetLife Foundation, and the ULI Foundation joined forces to continue the Urban Open Space Award through 2015. For 2015, ULI reaffirmed its commitment to the award and announced it would expand the program to include global submissions.
To be eligible for the competition, an open space project must have been opened to the public for at least one year and no more than 15 years; be predominantly outdoors and inviting to the public; provide abundant and varied seating, sun and shade, trees and plantings with attractions; be used intensively on a daily basis by a broad spectrum of users throughout the year; have a positive economic impact on its surroundings; promote physical, social, and economic health of the larger community; and provide lessons, strategies, and techniques that can be used or adapted in other communities.
In addition to jury chairman Covarrubias, other 2015 awards jury members include: jury vice chair M. Leanne Lachman, president, Lachman Associates, New York, New York; Amanda Burden, principal, Bloomberg Associates, New York; Terrall Vern Budge, principal, Loci, Salt Lake City, Utah; Dr. Sujata S. Govada, managing director, UDP International, Wan Chai, Hong Kong; Jason Hellendrung, principal, Sasaki Associates, Watertown, Massachussets; Sophie Henley-Price, managing director, STUDIOS, Paris, France; Lance K. Josal, chief executive officer, Callison RTKL; Dallas, Texas; Jeff Kingsbury, managing principal, Greenstreet Ltd., Indianapolis, Indiana; Jacinta McCann, executive vice president, AECOM, San Francisco, California; Steve Navarro, executive vice president, CBRE; Greenville, South Carolina; and Trini M. Rodriguez, principal, ParkerRodriguez, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia.
About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute (uli.org) is a global nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has more than 36,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.