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Walton Family Foundation Invites Design Excellence Program Applications

September 1, 2021
Initiative Focused on Building Vibrant, Inclusive Public Spaces

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Sept. 1, 2021 – The Walton Family Foundation is enlisting design professionals to help support its efforts to build a more vibrant and inclusive region. Now in its sixth year, the foundation’s Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program is accepting applications at through Oct. 1, with a focus on architects and firms experienced in inclusive public engagement, innovative neighborhood-scale projects or mixed-income and missing middle housing.

Over the past 25 years, the population in Northwest Arkansas has more than doubled to nearly 535,000 people. The foundation established the Design Excellence Program in 2015 to address potential planning challenges associated with this growth and to promote the highest level of design in the development of future public buildings and spaces. Since then, a Gehl report shows the program has helped balance authenticity with world-class design; created places for community connection; expanded access to arts and culture; exhibited the highest standards of sustainable design; elevated the profile of the region; and revitalized local economies.

The Design Excellence Program selects professionals and projects based on four key principles: a commitment to strengthening public life; elevating standards of sustainability and resilience; celebrating local cultures and place; and building regional capacity. It is designed to accommodate nationally recognized, multi-disciplinary firms; smaller specialty firms; and young designers who may not yet be discovered. If selected, designers can participate for up to five years, or until they are chosen for a project. The program currently includes nearly 50 architecture and landscape architecture firms from 14 states, Canada and Denmark.

To date, the Design Excellence Program has supported 15 projects across the region’s five largest cities, including Thaden School, a 2020 Arkansas Chapter of American Institute of Architects Design Award recipient; TheatreSquared, 2020 American Architecture Awardee; and Railyard Park, an urban space that has received national acclaim from Arch Daily, Design Boom, Dezeen and Metropolis. For a full list of projects, visit

About the Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.