Myriad Botanical Gardens wins Open Space Award from Urban Land Institute

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Two urban parks — one in Oklahoma City, the other in Foshan, China — have been selected as winners of this year’s Urban Land Institute (ULI) Urban Open Space Award.

Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City and Thousand Lantern Lake Park System in Foshan, Guangdong, China were honored Thursday, Oct. 8, at the ULI Fall Meeting in San Francisco. The day before, Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma CIty was named a finalist for ULI's Global Awards of Excellence.

Mayor Mick Cornett accepted the Open Space Award in San Francisco.

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.”

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 (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, Calif., (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, D.C.,  (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.

About the Urban Land Institute The Urban Land Institute ( 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.

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