By: Eddie Abeyta, AIA, and Sean Stevenson, Assoc. AIA
From the Jury:
This project uses architectural thinking, not just to produce a design, but also to organize a didactic program. This organization creates a legacy project that seriously considers how to have a positive impact on the community.
Although individuals are mostly measured by the material items that they acquire during their lifetime, the truly impactful ones are measured by the legacy they leave behind. Dean White was the 260th wealthiest person in the United States before his passing. His life touched and impacted countless individuals in Northern Indiana and beyond. His entrepreneurism reshaped perceptions of the region, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year to Merrillville, a town of 35,000.
After Dean’s passing, the design team was tasked with re-envisioning his legacy in physical form on a site whose history was deeply personal to the White family. The challenges in place are quite outstanding. Crime, an erosion of identity and culture, and poor health are serious issues that beleaguer the community of Merrillville. Through sophisticated integration of ecology and history, public and private spaces, innovative performance-based design, and advanced environmental systems, the project seeks to resolve these outstanding issues affecting the community by creating a new, profitable philanthropic model that mirrors Dean White’s community-centric and entrepreneurial ideals. The result is a continued legacy manifested through architectural form and space intrinsically tied to the ecology of the region.