Stamford’s Mill River Park has yet to leave the drawing board, but it’s already winning awards. The design for the park’s “Porch” canopy received a 2010 Design Award from the Connecticut Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The award was for the “Unbuilt Design” category.

“What [the award] means to us is that we’ve reached a goal, which is for all the architecture in the park to be art,” said Milton Puryear, executive director of the Mill River Collaborative, which is overseeing the park, and attendant greenway, reconstruction project. Puryear has said he hopes for a spring ground breaking.

Gray Organschi Architecture, a New Haven firm, submitted the winning design for the juried competition. The firm’s vision consists of an overhead canopy running parallel to the riverwalk. It’s interwoven pattern is meant to suggest the interconnectedness of the city and the river.

The innovative use of material -- the canopy is fashioned from wood -- and eye-catching visual effect are exactly what MRC wanted for the park’s structural elements, said Puryear.

“At this stage, we’re not trying to put sculpture in there,” he said, adding that the canopy will complement the park’s landscape. “We wanted something with an enduring quality that holds your eye. Something that helps you discover new aspects and perspectives, that elevates the experience and gives beauty.”

So far, MRC has raised $3 million for the park’s renovation. That includes a recent $500,000 grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund. That support will be used for ecologically enhancing rain gardens and piping.