Place by Design, the SXSW Eco Public Space Design Competition, honors visionary design work that achieves a positive community impact through the creation or re-imagining of public spaces.

These finalists were chosen by the Place by Design Jury, who also determined the winners that where announced at the 2014 SXSW Eco Awards presented by PBS.

View the 2014 Place by Design Semi-Finalists here.

2014 Winners

Community Impact Winner

Libros Libres

Company: bcWORKSHOP
Dallas, United States | | Images


Libros Libres is a literacy and community design initiative in Dallas, TX that pairs neighborhood residents and organizations with local designers to build small book shelters, creating new gathering spaces that promote literacy and community building. The global Little Free Library (LFL) movement was the launching point for the project, with its low-resource, high access model to strengthen reading in neighborhoods. Libros Libres built upon this model by creating a collaborative design process that provides literacy resources housed within high-quality, site-specific designs that are relevant to an urban context and meet the needs of a diverse set of users.

The project brings together residents and volunteer designers to plan, design, and build libraries in South Dallas/Fair Park and West Dallas neighborhoods, regions of the city where literacy is a primary concern. Beyond designing and building the libraries, library stewards were identified to maintain and re-stock the libraries, as well as provide outreach and education to their neighborhoods.

Libros Libres is organized through a collaborative partnership between Big Thought (an arts-based youth education provider), bcWORKSHOP (a non-profit community design center), and the Dallas Public Library. To date, 15 teams of residents and designers have completed and installed 10 libraries, with five more in the planning or construction phases. These libraries are spread across a variety of locations, including a vacant lot, a food pantry, the entrance to a YMCA, a shopping center, and a juvenile detention center.

Global Potential Winner


Pavegen Systems
London, United Kingdom | Images


A global leader within the footfall energy harvesting sector, Pavegen develop and manufacture flooring technology that converts the kinetic energy from footsteps into renewable electricity. This electricity can be used to power lighting, communication networks and advertising displays, or alternatively stored in batteries for later use. Our innovation provides a sustainable alternative in high footfall, urban environments, where wind and solar are ineffective due to high-rise infrastructure and pollution. The highly engaging technology has the ability to transform smart cities of the future, by providing a low-carbon energy contribution and real-time footfall data analytics. Pavegen have recognised that human footfall is a wasted energy resource and presents a significant opportunity for renewable energy generation. A Pavegen tile can either store the electricity in batteries or use it to power local applications. When stepped on, the tile surface flexes a near imperceptible 5mm, generating up to 8 Watts of power over the duration of a footstep. Our vision is to become part of the fabric of urban infrastructure, powering smart cities of the future with a commercially viable flooring solution.

Transformative Design sponsored by gb&d Winner


Created by: Dong-Ping Wong of FAMILY New York, and designers Archie Lee Coates IV and Jeffrey Franklin of PlayLab, Inc.
New York, United States | Video + Images


In June of 2010, designers Dong-Ping Wong, Archie Lee Coates IV and Jeff Franklin, launched the initiative to build a floating pool for everyone in the rivers of New York City. + POOL started with a simple goal: instead of trying to clean the entire river, what if you started by just cleaning a small piece of it? And what if you could change how New Yorkers see their rivers, just by giving them a chance to swim in it? + POOL is designed to filter the very river that it floats in through the walls of the pool - cleaning up to half a million gallons of water every single day. No chemicals, no additives, just natural river water. In addition to contributing to the health of our city’s waters, the + POOL will offer Kids, Sports, Lap and Lounge pools. Each can be used independently, combined to form an Olympic-length pool or opened completely into a 9,000 square foot pool for play in one of New York City’s best resources.

2014 Finalists

Bagby Streetscape Infographics

Company: Design Workshop
Austin, United States
Images 1 | Images 2
Client: Houston Midtown Redevelopment Authority


This project brought the colorful, simple iconography of smartphone apps into the physical world of urban design. A temporary installation timed with the opening of Houston’s redesigned Bagby street, this project gave sustainable urbanism a clear and surprising voice.

These circular signs placed surreptitiously among sidewalks, planters, and bicycle racks played an integral part of the public opening of Houston’s Bagby street. Playful shapes and colors hidden throughout the renovated street corridor invited visitors and residents alike to explore the landscape and learn of its contributions to the environment and social realm.

Within a rain garden, these signs announced the 33 percent reduction in stormwater flow to the local bayou. Walking under newly planted street trees, a radiant symbol illustrated the benefits of 88 percent of sidewalks shaded by trees. Sitting on a new concrete bench, a visitor could contemplate the 300 tons of CO2 reduced from construction emissions due to fly ash concrete. These colorful and engaging metrics were designed to inspire and pique the curiosity of passerby and neighbor alike - bold enough to be seen from a car, and detailed enough to give pedestrians pause.

This project communicated the value and importance of green infrastructure and complete street design to private and public investors as well as local residents weary of 18 month’s construction work. These infographics made mundane statistics data accessible, providing clear evidence of how modern design and green infrastructure make a difference for our environment, our community and our cities at large.

Brooklyn (Williamsburg) Pop-up Bike Park

Company: Dellavalle Designs, Inc.
East Stroudsburg, United States
Images 1 | Images 2
Client: Two Trees Management Company


Through adaptive reuse of an urban landscape, we converted an abandoned parking lot into a progressive bike park. Progressive parks provide users with a range of opportunities based on their skill level, from easier to more challenging, and they allow park users of all ages to recreate safely. They encourage personal growth, social development, family interaction and build self-esteem. They are not proving grounds; rather they introduce riders to foreign terrains, varying slopes, and biking as a lifestyle sport. The Brooklyn Bike Park accomplishes all of these progressive goals in a small urban space.

The park is comprised of a bike shop, gathering space, multi-use trail, beginner/advanced pump tracks, and skill stations. The multi-use trail loop accommodates bikes, strollers and walkers, and provides a more passive way of utilizing the park without having to enter the active biking areas. The skill stations facilitate development of basic skills, which are required for off-road biking. The pump track provides cardio-physical exercise and additional skill development in a fun and safe manner (we call pump tracks a Gateway to becoming a great rider). This park accommodates clinics for teaching kids about biking and proper riding techniques.

Stormwater control, environmental education and informative signage are integral components of the Brooklyn Bike Park, as well. The rain gardens promote stormwater infiltration, are hubs for plant, insects and wildlife and they bring nature into an urban setting. Park signage provides riding tips, difficulty ratings and educational information.

Granby Park

Company: Upstart Collaborative
Dublin, Ireland |
Images 1
Client: N/A


Granby Park was a temporary park built on a vacant site in Dublin's north inner city. It was open for one month, attracting 40,000 visitors and run with the help of 400 volunteers. It played host to exhibitions, installations, events and community activities which were all free of charge. The park was made from up-cycled, recycled, donated and found materials and was a collaboration between some of the city's most talented artists, event coordinators, architects, performers and creatives. Granby Park consisted of an education space, 30 artists installations, a free play area, a 300 person amphitheater (built by young people from Belfast and Dublin as part of a cross border peace process project), graffiti wall and boules pitch, surrounded by planting and furniture.

Granby Park demonstrated an alternative use for vacant sites in the city as well as being an innovative platform for citizens, local government, business, creative professionals, and artists to work together.

HOPE Outdoor Gallery

HOPE Events | HOPE Campaign | Facebook
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Client: N/A


The HOPE Outdoor Gallery (HOG) a three-story community paint park located at 11th & Baylor St. in Austin, TX. Known historically as “the Foundation,” the location was officially introduced to the community as the HOPE Outdoor Gallery (HOG) in March 2011 with the help of artist Shepard Fairey and Obey Giant Art. It is one of the largest outdoor galleries in the USA and was developed to provide muralists, graffiti artists and community groups the opportunity to display large scale art pieces driven by inspirational, positive & educational messaging. The purpose of this community art project is to convert an abandoned commercial property into a creative outlet and educational platform for the artistic community and local neighborhood to utilize for positive messaging, art displays, and community inspired projects.Currently it recognized as one of the Top 10 tourist destinations in Austin and is visited regularly by nearly 50 – 100 people per day. Over the past 3 years the purpose of this “Paint Park” project has broadened based on the response from families, community members and other artists within the Creative Class. It has become an inspirational and creative destination for all that come to visit.This educational “Paint Park” is organized by the HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Campaign with support from SprATX and the property owner, Castle Hill Partners.

North Austin Community Garden

Company: Thoughtbarn
Austin, United States |
Images 1 | Images 2
Client: Art in Public Places


In 2012 Thoughtbarn won a commission from Art in Public Places to design the first “artist-led community garden’ in Austin. The garden is located at a new YMCA on city-owned land in a diverse north Austin neighborhood. The project is an experiment on many levels – in defining a garden as public art, in making publicly-owned land available for community gardening, in growing food at a YMCA facility – and is an example of expanding citywide efforts to support local, sustainable food production at the institutional level.The 25000sf garden is laid out in a radial site plan, with a gathering hub under a shady Arizona Ash at its center. Each slice of the ‘pie’ contains a different program – a wheelchair accessible area, 4’x10’ and 4’x20’ raised beds for individual members, teaching and demonstration plots, an orchard, composting area and a playground. A ‘public spine’ allows for anybody to enjoy the demonstration and gathering areas, while member beds are enclosed by a colorful sculptural fence. A hybrid toolshed and shade structure marks the entry to the garden and acts as a beacon from the adjacent parking lot. The $90k budget allowed for the construction of a first phase of 10000sf, with all 50 plots ‘selling out’ on the day they became available. Thoughtbarn developed the design of the garden in partnership with numerous strategic partners, including the YMCA, Art in Public Places, Sustainable Food Center, John Hart Asher of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and the City’s Sustainable Urban Agriculture Department.

Poppy Seed

Company: Gensler
Shanghai, China
Images 1
Client: N/A


Urban landscapes are changing at a breakneck pace, often too quickly to learn from public patterns of use. To better inform governments and developers with user feedback about the quality of urban spaces and to help citizens engage with their surroundings, Gensler developed the Poppy Seed App – a crowd-sourcing tool that organizes millions of user impressions of places across cities.

Users can download the app on their smartphone or tablet and immediately begin inputting their emotions and memories about a given place. Poppy Seed maps emotions and memories through the planting of digital “seeds” – graphic icons that serve as virtual homepages for individual spaces around the city. Once a seed is created, its information is saved to the Poppy Seed database. This database goes beyond location based searches, allowing users to search for parts of the city that possess a certain emotion, sentiment, or other intangible quality.

Over time, a dynamic urban map is created; a constantly evolving representation of how the public feels about the development of their city. This data can help inform designers, developers and government officials on how to best shape their urban planning decisions.

Rabalder Parken

Company: Roskilde Municipality
Roskilde, Denmark |
Images 1
Client: Lise Hammershoej, Roskilde Municipality


Rabalder Parken is essentially a flood preventing drainage system that manages to combine the main drainage function with recreational facilities. Most importantly, the drainage system doubles as a fully integrated skate park. The park can contain 23.000 m³ of water and will prevent the new urban area in Roskilde, Musicon, from flooding. Skaters do not skate when it rains, and water canals are not utilized when it’s dry. By combining these two, you get a cheaper project and create an awareness of our climate in a place that would normally be hidden away, empty and unused most of the year.

The overall theme of the park area is a celebration of free flows and body culture and as such it also contains fitness equipment, trampolines, swings, a slider, hang-out areas, designated bike- and jogging paths, dancing area, performance stage and a lake.

Rabalder Parken offers a playful way to address the flooding problems caused by the global climate changes. The project offers a non-formal public space in an unconventional environment, which calls for an awareness of your surroundings on both a local and global scale.

Rabalder Parken can generate positive environmental impact as an inspirational concept in order to rethink infrastructure and combine new unseen functions in our urban realm. As cities of the future will become denser, this way of thinking in terms of multi-functionality will become a necessity.

Resilient Modular Systems [RMS] by WE-DESIGNS, LLC

Company: Resilient Modular Systems [RMS] by WE-DESIGNS, LLC
Cambridge, United States |
Client: Harvard Dean's Design Challenge / Social Enterprise – Partners: AECOM / Un Techo Para Mi Pais


Resilient Modular Systems [RMS] seeks to be a leader in innovative products that provides sustainable and construction solutions, within the building industry focused on emerging markets. As the 1st runner-up of the Harvard Dean’s Design Challenge 2014, we have a highly complementary and skilled core team working on this venture, led by founder Wendy W Fok, a trained architect and completing her Doctor of Design at the Harvard GSD, and includes co-founder Natalie Rodriguez alum of the Clinton Global Initiative, Evelyn Tilney the Chief Strategy Officer, Jared Sisk from the Harvard Business School, and Jean-Christophe Ratacjzak a Principal Structural Engineer from AECOM.

Our experienced and diverse board of advisors and mentors include experts from IDEO to esteemed professors at the Harvard Business School and GSD – including familial relationships with the experts in construction and engineering industry in the Dominican Republic, our target pilot country.

Metal roofing, although not the first choice, is the most economical option for the emerging class. With the need to be repaired at least once every 2 years, it offers little protection against extreme heat or cold. In addition to its high maintenance, some of the biggest problems people face are how their homes react to natural disasters, mainly hurricanes and flooding, in which current construction methods are not suitable.

RMS will address this problem through a modular system. The impact through the performance of our design aims to reduce to the C02 in production, saved cost per unit, less fuel, and reduce lifetime costs and capital expenditures through local sourcing and distribution.

The 'T' House: Experiments in Microbial Architecture

Company: BioCultura
Albuquerque, United States |
Images 1 | Images 2
Client: N/A


Inspired by the structure and function of traditional teahouses, The 'T' House: Experiments in Microbial Architecture is a temporary built structure for sharing and exploring microbiology and culture through screenings, dialogues, workshops and performances.

The ‘T’ House will include a seating area for guests, a tea preparation area from which performers will present workshops highlighting the microorganisms and plants in food and that live on and in human bodies. Near the preparation area there will be a screening area for presenting visual aids for workshops, videos for screenings when performances are not happening, and other materials. In addition, wooden blackboards and printed material will be used for workshops and to publicize events.

The Lowline by Raad Studio

Company: raad
New York, United States |
Images 1 | Images 2
Client: The Lowline Foundation


The Lowline is a nonprofit organization dedicated to converting an abandoned, historic trolley terminal in New York City’s Lower East Side into an extraordinary subterranean cultural amenity for New Yorkers, using cutting-edge green technology to illuminate the space.

Designed by the Lowline’s Co-Founder, James Ramsey of RAAD Studio, the Lowline employs a new solar technology to capture sunlight above ground, channel it underground, and redistribute it, enabling plants and trees to thrive. In an area of New York City sorely lacking in public green space, the Lowline will provide a respite for residents young and old, and drive new visitors to the neighborhood as well.

Additionally, the Lowline will set an international precedent for the adaptive reuse of abandoned underground spaces, conserving the largest existing historic remnant of Manhattan’s trolley-car past and integrating cutting edge “green” technology.

Through the Young Designers Program, local youth can engage with the project before it is constructed; with the Lowline concept serving as a catalyst for interdisciplinary after school education in a variety of fields including science, engineering, architecture, design, technology, math, and history. While we expect the Lowline’s model to change the future of urban planning and green space development in cities across the world, the Lowline remains a local, community organization that exists to provide healthy and inspiring public space for residents of the Lower East Side and of New York City.

The Transformation of Waller Creek

Company: Waller Creek Conservancy
Austin, United States
Images 1
Client: N/A


The nonprofit Waller Creek Conservancy was established in 2010 to serve as steward to the creek and its surrounding areas. The City of Austin is constructing a massive infrastructure tunnel project, underway right now to maintain constant water flow, prevent future flooding, and prevent further erosion. The Conservancy embarked on a mission to make the newly engineered creek an ecological system that can connect the city’s downtown core to underserved East Austin while creating a destination—or a series of destinations—that will protect the ecology of the creek, Austin’s distinctive local culture, and revitalize the area. Money was raised and a competition was won by renowned landscape architecture firm Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, in partnership with architecture firm Thomas Phifer and Partners. The resulting design concept expands a rejuvenated Waller Creek into a linear chain of five park districts. Each has a distinctive character, and together they will give Austin a network of pedestrian bridges, opportunities for development, urban outdoor oases, and an iconic new music venue.

Waller Creek is the key connecting tissue that can and should bind all the independent entities into a workable landscape that rests on the bedrock of extraordinary design.

Urban Skyfarm

Company: Aprilli Design Studio
Los Angeles, United States
Images 1 | Images 2
Client: N/A


The Urban Skyfarm is a vertical farm design proposal for a site located in downtown Seoul, right adjacent to the Cheonggyecheon stream which is a heavily populated dense urban area within the CBD. Inspired by Dickson Despommier’s original idea of vertical farming, the Urban Skyfarm is a vertical farm prototype which would mainly support food production and distribution and improve the urban environmental quality through water, air filtration and renewable energy production. By lifting the farming decks high up in the air, the plantations gain more exposure toward sunlight and fresh air while the ground becomes more freed up with nicely shaded open spaces that could be enjoyed by the public.

View the Place by Design Semi-Finalists here >>