Through two years worth of projects, students in the two-semester, third-year architecture course “design/buildLAB” have transformed a post-industrial brownfield into a public park in the heart of the community of Clifton Forge, Va. 

Their work on the Smith Creek Park has been recognized with the Popular Choice in the Architecture + Urban Transformation category of the 2014 Architizer A+ Awards. The category celebrates projects that are, "revitalizing abandoned infrastructure, creating new public spaces out of neglected areas, and building new ways for the world's citizens to live more densely within existing urban fabric."

The 2014 Architizer A+ Awards, billed as, "the definitive global architectural award program with 60+ categories and over 200 judges," received entries from 100 countries and represents the best of architecture and design worldwide. Jurors nominated five finalists within each award category, and the Popular Choice winner was then selected by online voting. 

Award winners will be recognized at the Architizer A+ Awards Gala on May 15 in New York City during the city’s design week, NYCxDesign.

The Smith Creek Park project took place over two successive academic years. Each year, a group of students worked with the community to design solutions and then built the final structures. 

The first project in the Smith Creek area, designed and built in 2011-12, was the Masonic Amphitheater, which features a curving, sculptural form emerging from the landscape of the park that provides a public performance venue. The second phase, completed the following year, was the addition of a pedestrian bridge, park space, and creek access.

Following the completion of work on the Smith Creek Park, work in Clifton Forge has continued for the design/buildLAB. The students enrolled for 2013-14 have designed a field house, including concessions and restrooms, for the Clifton Forge Little League and are currently working on pre-fabricating elements of the structure in Blacksburg before finishing its construction on site.

This award is part of the continuing success of the design/buildLAB. The first phase of the Smith Creek Park — the Masonic Amphitheater — was named American-Architects Building of the Year 2012. The faculty leading the course, Keith and Marie Zawistowski have also been recognized for their work with the program, receiving a national Design Build Award from the Associate of Collegiate School of Architecture, and the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects’ 2011 Award for Excellence in Architecture. The Zawistowskis and the design/buildLAB were also listed among the Public Interest Design 100.