Architects Choose Finalists In Design Competition For Newark Visitor’s Center

Designs Submitted By Competitors From Around the World

NEWARK, N.J. (Dec. 17, 2009) — The Newark and Suburban Architects section of the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ), in conjunction with its Emerging Professionals and Young Architects Forum programs, has selected 21 finalists in its design competition for a Newark Visitors Center.

Newark-born architect Richard Meier, FAIA, FRIBA (left), and Alok Saksena, Associate AIA, LEED AP, creator and director of the Newark Visitors Center Design Competition, at the recent all-day judging for the competition, at which 21 finalists were selected.

Newark-born architect Richard Meier, FAIA, FRIBA (left), and Alok Saksena, Associate AIA, LEED AP, creator and director of the Newark Visitors Center Design Competition, at the recent all-day judging for the competition, at which 21 finalists were selected.


The finalists were chosen from nearly 200 entries submitted by architects from 31 countries. The finalists were selected during an all-day deliberation session by an eight-member jury consisting of representatives of local architecture and construction firms, the City of Newark, community organizations and the U.S. Green Building Council.

The honorary chairman was Newark-born Richard Meier, FAIA, FRIBA, who is one of the world’s leading architects. Meier, whose practice includes major civic commissions all over the world, is the winner of the 1984 Pritzker Prize for Architecture. One of the field’s highest honors, it is often referred to as the Nobel Prize for architecture.

The four winning entries will be announced at a Newark Visitors Center Awards Gala to be held in Newark in January, with the date and venue to be determined. The designs of the 21 finalists, as well as the names of the jury panel and photos of the jury panel and competition committee members, can be viewed at www.visitnewarknj.org.

Newark, which is New Jersey’s largest city, is one of the few cities of its size in the nation without a visitors’ center. In an effort to make the competition as relevant to Newark’s needs as possible, the competition committee worked with the city’s planners to identify a site that could actually be used for such a structure.

The site that was chosen is at 923 Raymond Blvd. in downtown Newark, just a five-minute walk from Newark Penn Station.

“We launched this competition to call attention to the need for such a center in Newark,” said Alok K. Saksena, Associate AIA, LEED AP, the competition’s creator and director. “This is a conceptual design competition, but we hope it will inspire the city to actually build a center at this or some other suitable location.”

“The feedback that we’ve gotten from the city is extremely positive,” he added.

The quality of the finalists’ designs was very high, Saksena noted. The architects took care that their designs were inviting, fit into the surrounding community and reflected the city’s extraordinary diversity, he said. In addition, the designs met the competition’s requirement for sustainability with the use of innovative sustainable features.

The challenge was to design a center that would be a destination spot on its own and that created a clear identity for the city, celebrated its unique heritage, reinforced its image as a gateway to the wider metropolitan experience, brought the city closer to its residents and incorporated the city’s business interests, Saksena said.

In particular, the contest called for a 13,435-square-foot building with multi-faceted uses including an information center, an auditorium, an interactive display area, gallery space, a conference room, a café and a gift shop. The contest also called for creating innovative solutions for on-site parking, while still allowing for a pedestrian-friendly site.

In addition to Saksena, members of the competition committee include Melvin Williams III, coordinator; Julie Pagnotta, section administrator; Carolyn Caste, Webmaster; and Matthew Bilow, Gauri Shirvalkar, Marcos Figueroa, Priya Shah, Pinky Samat and Sean Hayes.

The sponsors were Skanska, Design Ideas Group Architecture & Planning and the New Jersey Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

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