More Accolades for Writers Block With AIA Smart Growth Award

Matthew Hersh

The Princeton Writers Block, the outdoor garden that combined literature with architecture, has again proven that good planning can go a long way

Placed in a vacant lot that will one day be the home to luxury housing on Paul Robeson Place, the garden, which was on display throughout the summer and fall of 2004, has been awarded the American Institute of Architects New Jersey chapter's Smart Growth Award for Creative Initiative.

The category, as it turns out, was created specifically for the Writers Block.

"It's rewarding," said Kevin Wilkes, MacLean Street resident, principal of the Belle Meade-based Princeton Design Guild, and managing partner of Wilkes & Kluck Architects. "It's really a part of our goal to get Quark Park up and running."

Quark Park was the stalled sequel to Writers Block that would have fused the architectural process with scientific and mathematical concepts. That project, announced in March of this year, stalled when it became clear that the appropriate monies could not be rased. Writers Block cost upwards of $150,000 (out of pocket for the organizers), and fund-raising efforts for the sequel were not successful largely due to, Mr. Wilkes said, to poor planning.

In November 2004, Writers Block was awarded the "Honor Award for Built Project" by the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The award validated an experimental endeavor in urban planning, and despite the financial loss, it encouraged organizers to try again.

Mr. Wilkes said Quark Park is still in the fund-raising process, adding that he and his Writers Block co-organizer Peter Soderman are planning a winter fund-raiser. No potential locations have been lined up yet.

In this most recent award, Writers Block was presented to the AIA as a template for a strategy to make use of temporarily vacant land in town. "We pitched it with the idea that a development project often gets stalled halfway through its realization.

"There are many towns in New Jersey that have a large parcel of land downtown that is temporarily vacant. Something along the lines [of Writers Block] could be used to showcase the talents of the residents in town."

The New Jersey Office of Smart Growth, which sponsors the award with the AIA, was "excited" about the idea, Mr. Wilkes said, largely because of the project's applicability to different town settings

"Our idea for Writers Block was mainly Princeton-specific," Mr. Wilkes said, adding that the community response to the garden was what encouraged organizers to sell the idea as a method of smart growth.

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