Competition Report


Peter MacKeith
Dean and Professor of Architecture
Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design
University of Arkansas

The Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, a visionary building initiative undertaken by the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, is now at an exciting moment in its progress towards design and construction, bringing a spotlight to Arkansas, its timber industries and its future in wood product research and development.

The project, made possible by a generous lead gift from John Ed and Isabel Anthony, leading Arkansas citizens in its timber industry and its creative culture, with matching funds from the University of Arkansas and its Chancellor, Dr. Joseph Steinmetz, and supplemented by equipment funding from Governor Asa Hutchinson and the Office of the Governor of Arkansas, will be a center for materials and products research and development, with particular focus on Arkansas-sourced timber and wood, to the greater good of the Arkansas environment and economy.

The project builds upon the rapid and productive commitment of the Fay Jones School and the University of Arkansas to the emerging innovative timber economy – to the reemergence, it could be said, of “a forest-centered culture” more generally – as evidenced through the teaching, research and service work of the School’s faculty and students, and the demonstrations of University leadership in its campus design and construction approaches and new buildings.

The Request for Qualifications for the project, released in October, 2019, in accordance with university procurement guidelines, generated an extraordinary 69 submittals from architecture design practices from across the state, the nation and the world, including many of the world’s leading practices. The review of those submittals led to the identification of six superb finalists to be considered fully for the commission.

On the basis of external funding provided by the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities and the United States Forest Services, specifically in support of innovative timber design and construction on university campuses, these six finalists were invited to submit conceptual designs for the project in a limited competition, ahead of the formal interviews mandated by the procurement process. The six practices were advised, encouraged and instructed to research and identify an appropriate Arkansas architecture practice partner to accompany their submission and to move forward with as a team, should their candidacy be recommended to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees for approval.

Following the competition deadline of January 31, an internationally recognized team of qualified external evaluators provided the University’s Anthony Timberlands Center building project committee with a deep, insightful review of the conceptual designs, and contributed to the University committee’s final recommendation of the primary candidate architecture and design team to the Board of Trustees. This Competition Report presents the six conceptual proposals, together with the assessments and recommendations of the external evaluation team, as determined during their deliberations on February 1 and 2. The conceptual designs were presented to the University and local community in a public exhibition format during the week beginning February 3, 2020, and principals of the six invited practices made public presentations to the School, University and state community on February 5 and 6, in addition to the required procurement interviews with the building project committee.

This highly deliberative and exploratory process has led ultimately to the identification of an architectural design team, and the recommendation of that team to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees for their meeting on March 18-19, 2020. The Fay Jones School and the University of Arkansas will look forward to initiating this important project immediately upon the Board’s decision.

Full acknowledgements are listed on the final pages of this report, but here and now, allow me to offer gratitude to the six finalist practices’ principals and staff for their intense, dedicated efforts, to the students, staff and faculty of the Fay Jones School who have contributed to this project and the larger “timber project,” to the United States Forest Service and the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, and to Governor Hutchinson, Chancellor Steinmetz and John Ed and Isabel Anthony for their vision and belief in the ambitions and value of the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation.