San Francisco's 25-acre Union Square may someday boast an elegant "designed in Buffalo" look, as the result of a major international competition won by a University at Buffalo team.
The School of Architecture and Planning group headed by Rose Mendez and Michael Tunkey won the $4,000 San Francisco Prize. There also is a strong likelihood the UB plan will be adopted by San Francisco to guide redesign of the central square.
More than 300 competitors submitted designs, in the "Toward a More Perfect Union" contest. Judges described the UB effort as an "elegant, unfolding urban napkin" that includes an indoor-outdoor market, a bandstand, a skating rink and other uses.
Ms. Mendez, a UB lecturer and principle in F.M Design of Buffalo, and Tunkey, an undergraduate planning student and intern at Cannon Design of Grand Island, led a team of UB students and Cannon designers and interns that also included Elaine Chow, Gregory Fischer and Joseph Wang.
The team studied the square, now a walled space above sidewalk level and atop an underground parking garage, and recommended that its patchwork of surface uses be replaced by a single plane unfolding like a piece of origami, Japanese paper art.
The prize jury said the highly abstract proposal "would give designers a chance to work with neighborhood groups, the city and citizens of San Francisco to find the appropriate materials and details to turn this brilliant idea into a beautiful square."
Other UB architectural faculty members termed the prize "one of the most coveted awards in architecture," but Ms. Mendez viewed it as a first step.
"We are definitely going after the contract," she said.