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Press Release: WMA takes first place in international design awards for UNC-Greensboro pedestrian underpass | Wagner Murray Architects | Blog
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Press Release: WMA takes first place in international design awards for UNC-Greensboro pedestrian underpass

Posted September 25, 2016 by Wagner Murray Team


Wagner Murray Architects, P.A., a boutique commercial architecture practice in Charlotte, N.C., took top honors in the Collaboration of Design + Art (CODA) Awards, an annual international competition that judges design projects on their successful integration of commissioned art into interior, architectural or public spaces.

The winning project, a 200-foot pedestrian underpass that connects the UNC-Greensboro campus with a footpath beneath three active railroad lines, won in the Institutional category. The CODA jury considered 400 projects from 29 countries in 10 categories.  Projects were judged on the extent of collaboration between craftsman to integrate commissioned artwork into the design project, and the influence of that artwork on the overall design.

The underpass boasts a vaulted ceiling with ribbons of cast concrete painted in navy and gold, the university’s colors.  In selecting the project for the top prize, one juror stated, “Stunning.  One does not normally think of tunnels as optimistic places, but this one is a bright, vibrant weave of color and panels of light.”

Creative manipulation of light was a theme among the winning projects. Taking first place in the Public Spaces category was an oculus design in student activity center at the University of Texas at Austin, a feature that floods the space with natural light and a programmed LED light show.  A riotous neon light installation gracing a landmark New York City hotel won in the Hospitality category.

The mission of the CODA Awards, now in its fourth year, is to recognize those building architecture and interior design projects that promote happiness, well-being and beauty. For Wagner Murray Architects and their team, solving the practical problem of constructing an unimpeded pedestrian thoroughfare while also creating a delightful visual context, is a practiced part of the firm’s design philosophy.

“Our goal was to create a safe, welcoming and convenient access for students coming to and from campus, while also helping the university achieve their vision of an iconic gateway feature,” said David Wagner, the project’s principal architect.  “That we were able to integrate a pedestrian access point with a heavily-trafficked railroad right-of-way, and elevate it with engaging design elements, has allowed a corridor previously unapproachable to people on foot to become a destination and a gathering place for the university community.”

The accolades the project earned for collaboration were also not without merit, having required the project team to orchestrate re-routing utility lines and scheduling concrete pours weeks in advance with railroad operators.  The tunnel is the anchor project of a multi-year neighborhood vision plan that will include future campus building construction, as well as connections to the neighboring Glenwood community.

The $10 million project was completed in 2014.  New Atlantic Contracting of Winston-Salem was project contractors.  The underpass was previously recognized with a Best Small Project award by Engineering News-Record Southeast.

More information about the Collaboration of Design + Art, the Wagner Murray Architects project brief, and the other 2016 CODA Award winners is available at


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