Fitness-Friendly Buildings and Parks Awarded

The Center for Active Design holds first competition recognizing health conscious architecture
Steve Keating Photography

The award-winning revitalized community in Seattle

We tend to think of physical fitness as a personal initiative. For the most part, we choose what we eat, how often we exercise, how we commute, and ultimately those choices and others play a large part in our health.

For those of us who have easy access to healthy food and fitness centers, it’s hard to imagine a situation where those options may not be available. The New York City Government, during the Bloomberg Administration, noticed those barriers to health in their own city. In response to the obesity crisis, they launched an obesity task force and through that task force, the Center for Active Design was founded.

The center is a nonprofit that focuses on turning health research and information into architecture and infrastructure design. Essentially, they aim to improve health through urban building solutions. The center opened in 2013 and they recently held their first design awards competition.

The competition was open to completed projects beyond New York and more than 40 qualified designs entered. Four panelists chose five winners and two honorable mentions.

The “Leadership in Active Design: Excellence” award was given to Blue Sea Development Company, which develops affordable housing. Blue Sea Development received the award for their early work incorporating active design in their projects and their continued improvements in the field. “The Arbor House,” a low-income rental building in the Bronx, is one of the projects that helped Blue Sea Development earn the award. The building features an outdoor gym and recreation area and a 10,000 square-foot hydroponic (soil-free) rooftop farm. Residents in the building can buy shares of the food grown on the roof, which is helpful in a neighborhood without many other healthy choices. Les Bluestone is the President of Blue Sea Development Company; he is also the Treasurer on the board for the Center for Active Design.

Other winners included projects from Virginia, Texas, Washington and, again, New York. The winner from Virginia was a rural elementary school, which incorporated a teaching kitchen and food lab to include hands-on instruction about nutrition. The other New York winner was the redesign of a community center, which included a gym, fitness center, and a pool, in addition to the improved staircase which spans three stories. The winning project in Texas restored a park with a delicate eco-system, into a recreational site featuring many sports and activities while maintaining 70 percent of the natural tree coverage. The Washington winner transformed a Seattle community, taking input from the diverse community; the developers were able to add art, recreation areas, gardens and walkable and cycle-friendly streets.

The winning projects will be displayed at the fundraiser and award reception in New York City on May 19. Find more information on the contest and each winner at the Center for Active Design’s website.

Correction: it was originally stated that Les Bluestone received the award for “Leadership in Active Design: Excellence” for his work designing “The Melody,” an affordable housing project. In actuality, Blue Sea Development Company received the award for a collection of work. Bluestone is the President of Blue Sea Development Company.

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