Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program
Over the last 25 years, the population in Northwest Arkansas has more than doubled, creating opportunities and challenges in planning and design. The program seeks to preserve a sense of place by encouraging quality design of public spaces, while complementing the rich architectural history of the region’s urban fabric.
Designing for People
By identifying top design professionals, the program will fund projects developed with a clear understanding of how people use and experience public space in the intersection of life, space and buildings. Designing places and spaces for people can: support children’s ability to learn; provide a platform for local arts and culture to flourish; help keep a community physically active and mentally stimulated; spur economic development and; help us live in harmony with the environment.
Strengthen Public Life: Create opportunities for people to spend quality time in public – moving or staying, alone or with others
Elevate Standards of Sustainability and Resilience: Adhere to standards of sustainability, elevate ambitions and demonstrate relation of resilience to people and place
Celebrate Local Cultures and Place: Enhance and respond to local social history and cultures as well as climate and geography
Build Regional Capacity: Raise local ambitions and build knowledge and skills among design community and public
What's unique about Northwest Arkansas?>
The founders of the Walton Family Foundation, Sam and Helen Walton, made Northwest Arkansas their home, and today, their children and grandchildren are dedicated to continuing a legacy of giving and building opportunity in the region.
Northwest Arkansas is ranked again and again as one of the best places to live in the country. It's nestled in the Ozark Mountains, a prime location and climate for recreation, and it is home to several Fortune 500 companies, the University of Arkansas and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The population has increased 58% since 2010, and opportunity abounds for visitors and residents alike. The Design Excellence Program will help preserve the region’s sense of place as the area continues to flourish and enhance the public spaces that define life in Northwest Arkansas.How does the Design Excellence Program work?>
The application process for design professionals opens when the Design Excellence Selection Committee determines there is a need for specific design backgrounds, to replace firms that have been awarded projects or replace firms whose five-year term has expired. The Design Excellence Selection Committee, which is comprised of industry experts and Walton Family Foundation representatives, will review qualifications and invite select design firms to join the program.
Design professionals will be able to participate in the Design Excellence Program for up to five years, or until they are selected for a project. Selection does not guarantee an interview for a project, nor does it guarantee that a project will ultimately be approved.
Through the Design Excellence Program, the foundation regularly partners with local municipalities and nonprofit organizations by offering financial support for all aspects of design.
Projects are typically selected through:
- A direct invitation from the Walton Family Foundation to apply for the program based on the organization’s potential to enhance the foundation’s efforts in the arts, education, entrepreneurship or preserving the region’s sense of place
- An open call for applications that complement the Walton Family Foundation’s efforts to support a specific area of design such as developing green spaces or enhancing urban design
As projects are determined, the Selection Committee will review the project’s unique design needs and choose a core group of design professionals who may be a good fit for the project. This core group will be presented to the grantee for consideration and final approval. Final decisions on the design professional and design outcome will be made by the grantee. Learn more about how to apply.How many design firms have been chosen for participation?>
Since its launch in 2015, more than 50 architecture and landscape architecture firms have been admitted into the Design Excellence Program. See the full list of selected firms.How can I contact someone to learn more about the Design Excellence Program?>
To ask a question or to be added to our mailing list to be notified when application periods open, please email us.Projects selected to date are: