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"Word Challenge" to Inspire Creativity in the Design of Social Public Spaces

Monday, September 25, 2017
Joshua Clements | City Planner

Altoona, Wisconsin. The City of Altoona is pleased to announce a Word Challenge inviting people to propose a new word intended to serve as the English translation of the Danish word "hygge". City leaders have used hygge to describe the feeling that the new River Prairie Park is designed to embody. However, hygge is word without direct translation, so the City is asking the public for creative ideas.

Hygge, pronounced hue-guh or hoo-gah, approximates as "feeling or quality of coziness, comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or wellbeing." There are similar words in other Northern European languages, including Norwegian and German.

The Word Challenge was publicly announced on August 22 at the ribbon cutting of the Prairie Event Center in River Prairie. Submissions are due September 25th. A panel will select finalists, and the winner will be determined by an online public voting process. The winning submission will be announced on October 25th. Authors can be from anywhere in the world. Submissions are accepted by email as well as online form:

"Our aim is to elevate the dialogue around the design of attractive, high-performing, and well-loved public spaces. This word challenge is an excellent opportunity to engage the public in a creative enterprise" shares Joshua Clements, Altoona City Planner. "The settlers of this area came from several cultures, without a single dominant influence. We're becoming a more diverse population that highly values inclusion, and selecting an existing word doesn't feel quite right. We would risk leaving out all the rest. Since there isn't an English word that nicely describes this feeling or concept, we thought it would be fun to ask the community to develop one."

This new word will be utilized by the City of Altoona for outreach and engagement efforts. "We've utilized placemaking concepts and terminology in the design of River Prairie for many years" shares Mike Golat, Altoona City Administrator. "Hygge is one of the concepts we've used internally to describe how a space should feel. It's sitting by a campfire, making smores with your friends and family, enjoying your favorite beverage and music. It's that space where you meet your friends that makes you feel cheerful, festive, and social."

Altoona has begun to promote River Prairie Park, a 23-acre space with a diverse array of features, including a natural playground, canoe launch, multiple pavilions, playing fields, 3-mile bicycle trail loop, water features, splash pad, tree house, public art and performance amphitheater. The park is located along the picturesque Eau Claire River. "We designed this park as our front porch, a place where all people are welcome and can gather in small groups or come together in shared events and celebrations" adds Golat. "The public has really responded positively with exciting new businesses and housing developments in this mixed-use district." River Prairie Park will be unveiled in a public event on September 30th.

"Our vision is that this new word will become recognized and associated with its intended meaning- reinforcing a culture of public space that is convivial, cozy and promotes positive sociability" adds Clements.

The Chippewa Valley has many great public spaces, and Altoona is making its mark.

About the City of Altoona

The City of Altoona, population 7,345, is located in the beautiful Chippewa Valley in Western Wisconsin, and is the 4th fastest growing City in the State. The City is focused on providing excellent quality of life, and elevating the quality and access of public space is key to this mission. 


August 22: Submission platform is live >>
August 22:
Public announcement of Word Challenge at the River Prairie Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
September 25: Submission deadline
September 30: Finalists announced at Party at the Prairie event in River Prairie
September 30 - October 16: Public voting is open
October 25: Winning entry announced
October 26: Mayoral Proclamation at City Council meeting


Word Challenge on-line submission >>
Word Challenge Request for Proposals >>