Posts tagged with "Texas":

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Dallas gets an architecture and urban design–focused high school

The Dallas Independent School District (DISD) approved plans to create a high school tailored for students interested in pursuing a career in architecture and urban design. In a proposal led by Peter Goldstein, an experienced architect and longtime DISD educator, and architect Lorena Toffer of Hoefer Wysocki Architects, CityLab will establish a four-year program in Downtown Dallas to explore design projects and topics as it pertains to global and local issues. “The idea is to use the city as a classroom, and to create a school where learning extends beyond the walls of the school and into the community itself,” Goldstein said.

The program, slated to begin in fall 2017, comes at a time where the Dallas community is actively vocal in a number of issues, from rapid transit expansion to historic preservation. Such a dialogue is ripe for students to explore and contribute at a very early stage in their professional development. “Dallas is a thriving, dynamic city that is growing at a very rapid pace; it is an ideal place for students to examine the nature and characteristics of urban life, and to become part of the process as our city continues to grow and evolve,” Goldstein said.

The school has and will continue to be built on collaborations between educators and members of the design industry. Students will see this impact within their studio-focused curriculum, from early conceptual development of ideas to dealing with various client and consultants groups. Goldstein explained, “The idea is to give students the opportunity to work side-by-side with design professionals and industry experts as they explore real-world problems and challenges, while developing a multidisciplinary understanding of the natural world, the built environment, and the social and economic systems of the city.”

More information on CityLab, as well as the team instrumental in creating the program, can be found on the “CityLab HS” Facebook page.

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Dallas AIA chapter announces 2016 Built Design Awards

Out of 46 submissions, the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has selected four projects to receive its 2016 Built Design Awards. This year’s recipients were selected by a jury composed of internationally renowned architects Matthew Kreilich, AIA, design principal and partner at Snow KreilichArchitects in Minneapolis; David Lewis, AIA, a founding principal at LTL Architects in New York; and Sebastian Schmaling, AIA, founding principal at Johnsen Schmaling Architects in Milwaukee. The final award recipients were selected based on each project’s unique response to its cultural, social, environmental, programmatic, and contextual challenges. “The 46 entries submitted for Design Awards this year were commended for their quality and representation by the jury,” said Michael Friebele, associate AIA, 2016 AIA Design Awards chair and senior associate at FTA Design Studio. “The six awarded projects were recognized as not only the best in design, but also for their unique range of program and context, a direct reflection of the expertise behind our jury this year. We are pleased to honor and celebrate the recipients and their contribution to the elevation of design in our community.” The jury also recognized two additional projects with citation awards.

1. Fire Station No. 27, Perkins+Will (Dallas)

Fire Station 27 was designed to re-establish a proper civic presence and foster a strong connection to the surrounding community that is often lacking in this building type. Responding to a compact site, Fire Station 27 was the City of Dallas’s first multistory station in over one hundred years. It consists of 23,600 square feet with two levels above grade and one level of parking below grade with capacity for 15 personnel per shift.

Jurors commended the project’s success as an urban infill building, as well as its strong organizing concept and celebratory story wall.

2. Prospect House, Max Levy Architect (Dripping Springs)

At this rural wedding and event center, celebrations are accommodated inside, outside, and on a big screened-in breezeway. Above the main hall is a huge wind vane whose mast extends down into the room and supports a 12-foot-diameter ring that turns with the breezes, connecting festivities inside with the world outside.

Jurors celebrated the thoughtful, restrained design, its elemental quality, and the overall modesty and simplicity of the project.

3. Hilti North America Headquarters, Gensler (Plano)

In the new Hilti North America Headquarters, the client’s top priority was celebrating the culmination of Hilti’s people and products. Not only was the entire office built exclusively with Hilti construction tools, over 26,000 modified Hilti products were woven into the architecture of the space—all intended to generate and showcase a pride in the product and the people who design, create, and market it.

Jurors praised the project’s clear concept, clean detailing, and the creation of shared spaces that foster interaction and collaboration.

4. Houndstooth Coffee and Jettison Cocktail Bar, OFFICIAL (Dallas)

The design for Houndstooth Coffee and Jettison Cocktail Bar was driven by the building’s dual function as a bar and a coffee shop and their shared connection. The design centers on an elemental concept of day to night, with Houndstooth filling the larger, sunlit space, and Jettison occupying the intimate back corner. High ceilings create openness in the coffee shop and a “floating” wood-clad volume, referred to as the cloud, serves as the central focal point, drawing the eye up while balancing the space and concealing the mechanical system. Jettison Cocktail Bar takes the inverse of the cloud design with a lowered ceiling and a central void looking into the painted gold trusses that have the character of a chandelier.

Jurors appreciated the elegant yet playful interiors, the creative use of light, and the duality of the distinct spaces.

Projects receiving Juror Citations are:

5. House at Rainbo Lake, Max Levy Architect (Henderson County)

Located in a swampy forest along a lake, this weekend retreat houses an extended family of sportsmen and nature enthusiasts. Each room is a separate building, and a screened in porch connects each building. Color is instrumental to this design, and coloration of exterior materials merges with the site.

6. Twin Gables, FAR + DANG (Dallas)

Set within a transitioning East Dallas neighborhood, this project bridges the traditional forms of the existing surrounding homes with a modern, high-density prototype. These duplex units embrace the length of the property and are designed around visual connections to a series of carefully composed outdoor spaces.

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No two projects from Austin-based Miró Rivera Architects look alike

As Austin has become the hippest city in Texas (to the excitement of millennials everywhere), its architectural scene has also become the liveliest, with Miró Rivera Architects, the Texas Society of Architects architecture firm of the year for 2016, as one of its shining stars. The practice began when Juan Miró—born in Barcelona and educated in Madrid—was working for New York City firm Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects, and was dispatched to Austin to oversee construction of an opulent villa commissioned by personal computer magnate Michael Dell. When the Dell House was completed in 1997, Miró realized he preferred the sunny Hill Country—with its passably Mediterranean climate—to Manhattan. Much like another émigré, the Viennese architect, Rudolf Schindler, who was sent to Los Angeles in 1920 by his boss, Frank Lloyd Wright, to keep tabs on a then-under-construction mansion for oil-heiress Aline Barnsdall, Miró decided to go out on his own afterward using the connections from the Dell House to get commissions (and crucially at first, also to get a steady teaching gig at the UT School of Architecture). Three years later, he was able to coax his Puertorriqueño brother-in-law, and fellow Gwathmey Siegel alum, architect Miguel Rivera, to join him and the firm was officially established in 2000.

As would be expected from a firm begun by transplants with such sophisticated pedigrees, the approach is decidedly cosmopolitan. This contrasts in an interesting way with the typical emphasis on formal regionalism espoused by the best-known modern architects in Texas, like O’Neil Ford and his spiritual descendants, Lake|Flato. These regionalists take inspiration from pre-industrial, rural buildings and tend to use specific local materials like limestone and brick. Miró Rivera’s projects, with their markedly varied, but always starkly modern appearances, appear almost to be the work of multiple firms, much like the multi-faceted Eero Saarinen. According to Rivera, the firm seeks to create an architectural vocabulary or iconography drawing from a variety of sources specific to the requirements of each commission. In this way, each project gets its own identity, but through the same analytic process, and through this dialectical exercise, the local becomes cosmopolitan.

Chinmaya Mission Austin, Texas

An educational center and worship space for a Hindu spiritual organization is an unusual program for central Texas—not known for accommodating a large South Asian immigrant population. Although strict budget constraints precluded the traditional stone temple the clients initially hoped for, the architects were able to devise a vocabulary of forms that could be built of inexpensive materials, but still recall typical Indian architectural typologies specific to the school and temple. Simple strategies, like alternating the colors of the metal roof panels and building a stone precinct wall of limestone slabs that could be individually sponsored as part of the fundraising effort, combined pragmatism and poetry.

Pedestrian Bridge Lake Austin, Texas

This bridge connects the main house on a property facing Lake Austin to a separate guesthouse. Its structure is made of several 80-foot-long, 5-inch diameter welded steel tubes that arc gracefully over a watery inlet separating the two buildings. The deck and sides of the bridge are made of half-inch steel rebar wrapped around the tubes. These common elements combined in an unexpected way evoke wetland plants growing on the site and transform what could be an intrusive element into a symbiotic, almost invisible link.

LifeWorks Austin, Texas

This headquarters was built for a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk children and families reorient their lives through educational programs and counseling. The architects physically suggested the organization’s mission by orienting it outward and opening it up to the neighborhood. The building is aligned to the edge of its site along a curving street with parking set to the rear. A continuous, three-story colonnade runs along this front-facing elevation. Its columns are slightly askew, an oblique reference to the organization’s clients, who come seeking support and assistance.Another design element doing double duty is the mix of three different exterior cladding materials, which alludes to the organization’s three cornerstones: counseling, education, and youth development.

Circuit of the Americas Del Valle, Texas

The 1,500-acre Circuit of the Americas, just outside Austin, is the first purpose-built Formula 1 racing facility in the United States. For this project, the architects were commissioned to design a 9,000-seat main grandstand, a 27-acre Grand Plaza, a central greenspace with a 14,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, and a 251-foot-tall observation tower. (A specialist German firm designed the super curvy track itself.) Naturally, the team looked to cars and auto culture for formal design cues. This is perhaps most clearly expressed in the band of sinuous red pipes shrouding the observation tower, the most prominent element on the site. According to Rivera, the idea for them came from watching the endless taillights of cars in the evening commute on the notoriously crowded Austin freeways winding their way through the city.

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Dallas Holocaust Museum inches toward construction

In late October, the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum announced a series of steps to push a proposed new museum building into reality. With over two-thirds of funding secured, the museum launched a “Building a Foundation of Hope” capital campaign to raise the final portion of the $61 million budget needed to start construction.

The 50,000-square-foot structure will be built in Dallas’s West End neighborhood near Houston Street and the DART Rail corridor along Pacific Avenue. The property, which currently serves as a parking lot, will be transformed into a public building that will accommodate more than 200,000 visitors per year and nearly quadruple the amount of exhibition space that the museum currently boasts within its existing facility. “We are limited in the number of visitors we can see at one time, and many schools and thousands of students are not able to visit as their class sizes are too large for our current museum,” said Frank Risch who serves as the campaign co-chair for the new museum. “We have been forced to move many of our events to other venues.” The museum, awarded an Unbuilt Design Award by AIA Dallas in 2015, will take two years to complete from the start of construction.

The building, designed by Omniplan Architects, will serve as a vessel for remembering the Holocaust and its victims and will also extend the dialogue to human rights in modern America. “We need a place that allows us to have a discussion about what human rights, diversity, and respect for others mean for our city today,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings during the announcement of the capital campaign. Permanent exhibitions, under the direction of Michael Berenbaum, who served as the project director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., will feature engaging galleries and content as well as expanded resources and archives. The designers seek to engage the public in a manner that creates individual experiences, allowing one to connect with the museum in a very personal way.

Beyond the physical and metric constraints that drove the concept, the Holocaust Museum will fulfill a message that has been understated in the community, especially in the context of recent attacks. “At a time when Texas leads the nation in the number of active hate groups, and the Dallas community is still healing from the July 7 attack on local law enforcement officers, the most violent and hateful act against law enforcement officers since 9/11, we believe the mission of the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum is more important than ever,” said museum president and CEO Mary Pat Higgins.

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“Military-inspired” design and decor defines this Texas hotel

The army may seem like an unlikely inspiration for a hotel, but it was the jumping-off point for Cavalry Court, a “military-inspired” 141-room motor court hotel, in College Station, Texas. Designer Rottet Studio chose corrugated metal and vintage brick to form a Spartan palette, while details, such as pool cabanas resembling field tents, complete the kitschy theme. Due to its proximity to Texas A&M University, the hotel features 6,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space to accommodate meetings, weddings, and receptions. Appropriately, guest rooms and suites have been dubbed “barracks” and “officers’ quarters” (but are sans soldier-style bunk beds), and “gourmet Texas cuisine” is served at the Canteen Bar & Grill. “Like the motor courts of yesteryear, Cavalry Court’s aesthetic coupled with Texas A&M cadet history uniquely captures the true essence of College Station, of Texas, and embraces a bit of Americana,” Valencia Group president Doyle Graham Jr. said in a statement.

Cavalry Court is near part of Houston-based developer Midway and Valencia Group’s 60-acre Century Square, a mixed-use development adjacent to the A&M campus. The George, a more upscale boutique hotel, will be located next door.

Cavalry Court 200 Century Court College Station, TX Tel: 844-313-7337 Developer: Valencia Group

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This “Selfie Wall” explores the limits of personal data privacy

On January 3, 2017, El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico-based AGENCY Architecture took advantage of the selfie phenomenon, transforming a public park with a temporary installation and data privacy experiment dubbed the SELFIE WALL. AGENCY describes its practice as engaging contemporary culture through architecture, urbanism, and advocacy. By uncovering whether photo data remains private, SELFIE WALL aims to address concerns about how personal selfie culture really is. Thanks to metadata, a picture may really be worth a thousand words. According to AGENCY, selfies are a resource for third-party data-crunchers who use facial and pattern recognition software to extract identity and mood. Metadata is embedded in the photo file, social network post protocols, mobile device settings, and user-generated content, jeopardizing every selfie-taker’s individual data privacy. Located in El Paso/Ciudad Juarez (what AGENCY calls a "binational metropolitan region"), SELFIE WALL provided the ideal lighting and visual interest (a perfect selfie stage) to explore these issues. 162 custom-fabricated units and CNC-milled composite aluminum panels were folded to become surfaces for bouncing, scattering, and collecting light. Its rigid, multifaceted structure mimics stage lighting and the photo umbrellas used in portrait photography, film, and vanities. SELFIE WALL allowed for different lighting conditions for day and night, with LED lights providing different color temperatures for nighttime self-portraits. AGENCY is following up the installation, analyzing metadata from SELFIE WALL selfies uploaded to Twitter and Instagram that have an event-specific hashtag.
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SWA’s plan to integrate a mile-long informal market with nearby Houston

Airline Drive in Houston is (unsurprisingly) located a 20-minute drive from George Bush Intercontinental Airport and just short of that from Houston’s city center. Since 2005, the area has been known as the Airline Improvement District (AID), part of a scheme from Harris County to revitalize the four-square-mile area and improve “its desirability for residents, consumers and businesses.”

While the AID has been running for more than a decade, issues such as a lack of centralized water service, poor road and pedestrian infrastructure, and bayou flooding still hamper the area’s development. In fact, 50 percent of the district’s land lies within a floodplain—a problem that impacts water and sewage services as well as housing.

“There is no money dedicated to flood relief coming for another 50 years,” said Kinder Baumgardner, managing principal at Dallas-based landscape architecture, planning, and urban design studio SWA. “As a result, all the major urban development that one would want to do is not going to happen until the flooding is dealt with.”

SWA is in the process of implementing a master plan that will maximize the pre-existing communal infrastructure at the AID with the long-term aim of using revenue generated by the resulting businesses to combat flooding in the future. A key part of this plan involves the five major flea markets that can be found on Airline Drive between Gulf Bank Road and Canino Road. Baumgardner said that on weekends, approximately 50,000 people travel to these markets—dubbed Market Mile—“doubling, if not tripling the vicinity’s population.” Though quiet during the week, he described it as a weekend “festival,” albeit blighted by “unresolved” pedestrian circulation.

To SWA, these flea markets are a potential source of infrastructure capital—if the tax base can be expanded that is. (The district currently generates revenue through a one percent retail sales tax). Baumgardner explained that the studio took two approaches to boost the area.

Rebranding Market Mile would advertise the flea markets to a wider audience. The Harris County-Airline Improvement District Livable Centers Study carried out by SWA in 2009 found that just over half of the visitors frequent the market weekly, 46 percent of visitors stay two to four hours each time, and 41 percent visit other businesses in the area while at the market. And of this demographic, which is 90 percent Hispanic, only two percent either cycle or walk in.

In 2009, Harris County pledged $2.9 million to be spent on pedestrian improvements, a scheme that involved two new, signalized crosswalks on Airline and sidewalks on much-used streets. Harris County, however, does not view sidewalks favorably. The county has a policy of only installing sidewalks on new roads if a city or another source finances it. “It’s an expense that doesn’t have to do with transportation,” Mark Seegers, a spokesman for Harris County commissioner Sylvia Garcia told the Houston Chronicle. “The county does not do sidewalks; it’s not what gets cars from point A to point B.” Subsequently, planned sidewalks from SWA will be financed by Airline Improvement District.

SWA’s logic is that, if more people can come to the popular flea markets, more revenue will be generated due to more businesses being set up as a result of greater demand. SWA’s plan works both ways. If the market can’t come to the people, then the market can come to them through what they call “mobile community infrastructure.”

A fleet of retail and food trucks would be able to extend the services of Market Mile to those who don’t have access to it. Taking advantage of regulations (or lack thereof) found outside the city of Houston, such trucks could set up chairs and canopies, becoming a permanent location if they find success in a particular area, Baumgardner explained.

In the future, these trucks could provide more than just goods. SWA’s survey found that just over 30 percent of the AID population had an education no higher than ninth grade. Baumgardner went on to say how the trucks could provide educational facilities too, thus attracting more than just shoppers to the mobile market.

Additionally, 57 percent of people said they would take part in health awareness programs if given the opportunity to do so. Meanwhile, 43 percent said they would participate in job training and finance and business development programs.

“There’s a food truck culture that’s sweeping the country, especially in Houston,” said Baumgardner who added he met someone who already has a bookmobile in the area– perhaps a sign that the project is slowly taking off. Baumgardner concluded: “We want this district to have all the things that a livable center should be planning toward, but we also wanted to look at how a project could get going, even at a limited scale.”

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Texas Rangers unveil HKS as the architecture firm behind their new Arlington, Texas ballpark

Dallas-based architecture firm HKS has been chosen to design a new ballpark for the Texas Rangers baseball team in Arlington, Texas. The stadium will be constructed as a public-private partnership between the team and the City of Arlington: It will serve as the Rangers' home field and as a multipurpose arena for high school, college, and international sports. As the design phase wraps up, images and information from a press release reveal that the field will offer a retractable roof for shading and climate control purposes and will be interwoven with the adjacent Texas Live! entertainment district that is currently in development. Costs so far are estimated at $1 billion with the City of Arlington's contribution limited to $500 million. The Rangers' current home, Globe Life Park, which is also in Arlington, is owned by the team on a 30-year lease from the city. This is due to end in 2024, but as per a new agreement between the Rangers and Arlington, their partnership for the new arena will continue until 2054. 22 years ago, HKS was the architect of record when the Rangers first moved into Globe Park in 1994. “For us, the new Texas Rangers Ballpark development is very special. It carries its own rich identity based on a combination of tradition, heritage, character and ambition that will ultimately represent itself as the premier destination in North Texas,” said Bryan Trubey, HKS executive vice president and principal designer on the project, in a press release. “We are delighted to be part of this exciting new development that will impact not only the Texas Rangers and their fans, but the city of Arlington and the entire region for many years to come.” Meanwhile, Rangers Executive Vice President of Business Operations Rob Matwick added: “HKS’ vision for this new facility will incorporate all of the features that will make this venue the best in Major League Baseball. We look forward to working with them to achieve that result.”
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Inside the just-launched plan to save the Astrodome

The disused-but-beloved Houston Astrodome may have finally found its savior.

In early October, the commissioners of Harris County approved a $105 million proposal to reconfigure the aging Astrodome for events and concerts. Plans call for the floor of the vacant stadium to be raised so approximately 1,400 parking spaces can be built underneath.

Designed by two firms—Hermon Lloyd & W. B. Morgan, and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson—in the mid-1960s, the 18-story Astrodome was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. When it opened, it was the U.S.’s first enclosed and air-conditioned multipurpose stadium and boasted the largest clear span dome ever built. Before it shuttered in 2000, the Astrodome served as home field for the Houston Astros, the Houston Oilers, and the University of Houston Cougars. It reopened briefly in 2005 to accommodate New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Legacy aside, the Astrodome’s age and size present distinct financial challenges to adaptive reuse. Maintenance costs run to $170,000 annually, but tearing down the structure would cost $30 million. The just-approved proposal is all taxpayer funded:property taxes, hotel tax, and parking revenue will each contribute to a third of the cost, while 10 percent of the funds will go toward finding an architect and engineer to design the renovation. Once (if) the plan is complete, revenue from parking will be plowed back into the venue to make the project financially viable.

If the architect and engineer’s design ends up costing more than $105 million, however, the county will not cover the shortfall—local government will employ other, to-be-determined financing methods. Taxpayers defeated a measure to resurrect the stadium in 2013 over cost concerns, so it’s too soon to tell if this latest plan will bring the Astrodome back.

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An ice-based system cools this Texas performing arts center

Keeping your cool onstage is no mean feat, but one that students and performers at the Marshall Family Performing Arts Center needn’t worry about, thanks to the implementation of the ice cooling system that Manhattan firm Weiss/Manfredi oversaw. The $26.5 million center, part of the Greenhill School in Addison, Texas, opened this past February. Page designed and installed the system, which involves storing ice and using it in conjunction with an air-cooled chiller as ice melts throughout the day, cold water is pumped through cooling coils in an air-handling unit.

“The system—even in a place like Texas—makes sense,” said Michael Manfredi, partner alongside Marion Weiss at the firm. “At night, when the outside temperature drops, the system can be replenished.” Weiss noted that the production of ice at night is more cost effective due to energy prices being lower at that time. “It’s a hybrid in some ways,” she said.

Thermal regulation for the performing arts center, which includes an expansive triple-height lobby, a 2,600-square-foot studio theater, a 2,500-square-foot rehearsal space, and a 21,000-square-foot proscenium theater, requires careful planning. Each space has its own schedule and has to be calibrated, with adjustments made in advance. “The building is designed with a high level of flexibility,” said Manfredi. “Each space can experience surges of 200 to 300 people at a time, and then just 20 at another.”

Weiss explained that “in performance spaces such as the proscenium theater, thermal ducts are located at lower levels so that they can be insulated by the earth and emerge around people's feet. Here, air is released very slowly so as to avoid noise pollution during production.” The proscenium theater seats 600 people: 450 at orchestra level and 150 in the balcony. Underneath these seats, an under-slab air plenum and diffuser grilles form a displacement ventilation system,which releases cool air as needed. Meanwhile, multicolored upholstery creates the illusion of a full venue, even when crowd numbers are low, ensuring that the performers never break a sweat.

Resources — Ice Cooling System: Mechanical Electrical Plumbing and Fire Protection: Page Resources: Glazing System: YKK AP Glass Supplier: Viracon Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates Acoustical/Audio-Visual Consultant: Jaffe Holden Lighting Designer: Tillotson Design Associates Civil Engineer / Landscape: Pacheco Koch Consulting Engineers

Theatre Consultant: Fisher Dachs Associates

Associate Architect: Page

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One landscape architect’s plan to fuse Dallas–Fort Worth’s waterways with urban growth

In March 2013, Kevin Sloan, founder of Dallas-based landscape architecture and urban planning firm Kevin Sloan Studio, attended a lecture at the Dallas Museum of Art at which professor Kenneth Frampton, of Columbia University, recited a phrase that had been illicitly written in the 1980s on a rendering of a 1950s utopian city displayed at the New York Museum of Modern Art:

There are no cities anymore.

We are incapable of making cities anymore.

The machine is incapable of making cities anymore.

We’ll have to get used to living in the jungle.

Sloan is working on the Branch Waters Network. The concept is to make use of the waterway system in Dallas–Fort Worth (DFW) as a guideline for a new metropolitan urbanism. Back in 2013, he recognized Frampton’s use of the word “jungle” as more than just a metaphor (although DFW is one of the largest cities in the United States for the trapping, banding, and study of urban wildcats). He interpreted it as a hint that the landscape and waterways could dovetail into the urban framework of a city.

Sloan wants to make use of DFW’s “water branches,” which span approximately 65 miles east to west and 45 miles north to south. He has outlined more than 300 potential miles of waterway that are primed for development. Sloan points out that more than 90 percent of natural drainage ways in Dallas County are currently intact and untapped. So far, his plan has been well received: According to Sloan, a current Dallas council member called it the “most sustainable concept he’s yet seen for the Dallas Trinity River.”

Successful examples of his water branch concept in practice can be seen at Turtle Creek Parkway, White Rock Lake, and the ongoing Trinity River Project. Part of city planner George Kessler’s 1911 “City Plan for Dallas,” the seven-mile-long Turtle Creek Parkway is, in Sloan’s eyes, “a 100-year demonstration that nature can attract density in accordance with the edges of shaded and serene waterway.

“What is astonishing is that, in Texas, luxury and the good life are typically imagined to unfold on an expansive ranch or noble estate,” continued Sloan. “Turtle Creek Parkway produced high-rise apartments and condominiums, as early as the 1960s, that gathered along the edge and are supported by nodes and enclaves of shopping and residential neighborhoods such as the Park Cities.”

For his Branch Waters Network concept to work, Sloan argues that Americans’ preconceptions of planning and notions of “nature” need to be challenged. He advocates replacing the “cultural preference for an Anglican landscape of irrigated turf grass, clipped hedge, and parterres—where all live like squires on a patch of England” with a “re-wilding nature project along the waterways and attendant areas. The forest is out one door. The avenue and the culture of the city are out the other.”

“Whether ‘nature’ means living on a golf course, along a river, or in the mountainous environs of, say, Boulder, Colorado, one can draw a straight line between environments of natural beauty and economic value,” he continued.

Sloan also calls for an alternative to Daniel Burnham’s “Make no little plans.” “What is a plausible strategy to guide an orderly restructuring of millions of acres of unplanned growth?” Sloan asked.

He and his studio have seen two projects realized that align with the Branch Waters concept. Located in Addison, north of Dallas, spring-fed Vitruvian Park—which occupies 17 acres, as part of an 112-acre master plan, also done by Sloan—lies on Farmers Branch Creek. So far, during its eight-year existence, the project has been what many consider a success, establishing a dense, urban pocket without the daunting qualities of a downtown center.

Another project, the Dallas Urban Reserve, is also doing well. A stone’s throw away from White Rock Creek Trail, the 10.5-acre modern housing development made use of a site that was used for years as an illegal dumping ground. The site slopes asymmetrically to allow stormwater to enter a system of repetitive filtration beds, planted with bald cypress, pond cypress, and horsetail reeds. Only three of the original 50 housing lots that went up are still available, and, in 2011, the project won the ASLA Award of Excellence.

However, Sloan wants the Branch Waters Network to go further. “By using the entire waterway network as a natural attraction to form density, transit, and linkages, perhaps the anxiety and opposition to conventional planning, regulatory devices, and legislative actions can be circumvented,” he said. 

“The possibilities of the Branch Waters Network challenge architecture conventions. Chance operation replaces totalizing planning concepts and designs. In lieu of regulating plans and inflexible determinism, urbanism becomes a game, and the game is to aggregate along the branches.”

This article was part of our Oct. 12 issue which focused on how water is shaping today’s landscape architecture and urbanism. Communities face deluges and droughts—for some, the stakes can be survival itself, but others see opportunities for decadence. To explore these stories from around the U.S. and the world, click here.

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Texas planners envision a county-wide “grid” to provide clean water during droughts

In and around Waco, Texas, public officials are working to create a county-wide “water grid” that would enable various water suppliers to work together to conserve and share water during droughts.

According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, McLennan County, Texas, has launched a study to determine the best way to make sure water is available to the residents of Waco and the surrounding region by pooling the resources of various suppliers.

County judge Scott Felton, an advocate for sustainable water planning and conservation, is leading the effort. Last year, Felton brought together the McLennan County Water Resources Group to help communities plan for shortages of clean water and the advent of contaminated water. The group secured a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to help fund the study.

Others working with McLennan County on the study include cities in the region, water supply corporations, the Brazos River Authority, a groundwater conservation district, and local residents and businesses.

Felton told the Waco Tribune-Herald that good planning is necessary to make sure water is available when it’s needed.

“Ultimately, the idea is not to waste water,” he told the newspaper. “This grant allows us to customize a plan specific for our county and our different water districts on how we can better utilize… water and how to conserve water to be prepared for those very dry seasons like we’ve seen recently.”

Even though the Greater Waco region’s water supply is more plentiful than some areas in Texas, Felton warns that communities need to become less dependent on groundwater from the shrinking Trinity Aquifer, which extends across central and northeastern Texas.

“What’s constant in this county is that our groundwater is going down, whether it’s raining or dry,” he said.

Tom Ray, water resources coordinator with Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam in Waco, the lead consultant on the study, told the Waco Tribune-Herald that the Trinity Aquifer is expected to drop between 250 and 450 feet by 2040. That’s as much as 19 feet a year in the Hewitt and Bellmead areas, which are expected to see the biggest drops.

County and city leaders say they envision a network of pipelines that could connect water users around the county and allow them to share water as needed. The final cost of that pipeline network is still under study.

The completed plan will establish a process for monitoring short-and long-term water availability, predict the probability for future droughts, evaluate the risks and impacts of drought, and prioritize mitigation actions.

Other ideas under study, according to the planners, include reclaiming more treated water from a regional sewer plant, making use of extensive water rights that the city has held in the Brazos River since 1914 (but does not use), and making more use of the Bluebonnet Water System, which draws water from Lake Belton.