SWA projects in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Houston, Texas; and Ningbo, China, have received awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Each of the projects reveals innovative strategies for vastly improving water quality to reconnect communities to their waterfront identities. The three projects are among 30 recipients of the ASLA professional awards honoring top public, commercial, residential, institutional, planning, communications, and research projects in the U.S. and around the world, selected from 456 entries.
“Reconnecting urban communities to their waterfronts is an increasingly important element of our firm’s work, as a means to address environmental, cultural, and economic challenges,” said Gerdo P. Aquino, CEO of SWA. “We are honored that the ASLA has recognized SWA’s innovative work in this area.”
Garnering an Honor Award in the General Design category was a 250-acre remediation project located in the southern part of China’s Yangtze River delta region. Eco Corridor Resurrects Former Brownfield spoke to the jury on many levels: “They succeed admirably in making this site feel natural. There are so many opportunities to enter and enjoy it.” SWA design principal Hui-Li Lee and her team, based in the Sausalito office, stress the broad application of their creation of a “living filter” in Ningbo’s canals there to other similarly sized cities, encouraging people to view it as an example of the economic and quality of life successes that investing in green infrastructure can offer.
The firm’s two other award-winning projects were undertaken in SWA’s Houston studio and also exemplify successful approaches to building community by addressing the health of local waterways. Baton Rouge Lakes: Restoring a Louisiana Landmark from Ecological Collapse to Cultural Sanctuary traces the ongoing regeneration of a popular open space in a city frequently strained by environmental challenges. The jury gave it an Honor Award in the Analysis & Planning category, applauding the project’s ambition and commending its “approachable, clear, and understandable” presentation and straightforward analysis.
Kinder Baumgardner, Houston’s managing principal and the lead designer on this project, also sees his team’s efforts in Baton Rouge as prototypical. “I’m interested in how cities work, and the rewilding of our urban places,” he explains. “The future of biodiversity and the preservation of wilderness now lies in the hands of city dwellers. When cities embrace the complex relationships between nature and infrastructure the effects can transform attitudes that result in a healthier population, and a healthier environment.”
Further supporting Baumgardner’s claim is the third award-winner, in Houston: Bayou Greenways: Realizing a Vision acts on a master plan that will see a 300-mile-long linear park system connect over 1.9 million residents along Harris County’s 10 major waterways. The effort’s economic, environmental, and physical and mental health benefits are estimated in excess of $117 million. The jury’s verdict of “transformational” highlighted the value of returning nature to the city. “Simple and clear of vision,” was their final judgment.