Dallas is home to a high concentration of structures by world-renowned architects. With some of the most iconic architecture per square mile of any American city, Dallas boasts designs by six Pritzker Prize Laureates, all within close distance to the up and coming Arts District. From Norman Foster’s Opera House to Thom Mayne’s Museum of Nature and Science, these projects are emblematic of a larger city-wide design culture.
The total amount of water on our planet has, theoretically, stayed the same since earth's formation. It's possible that the glass of water you drank earlier contains particles that once ran down the Ganges River, passed through the digestive system of a dinosaur, or even cooled a nuclear reactor. Of course, before it quenched your thirst, this water evaporated and fell as rain millions of times. Water can be polluted or misused, but never created or destroyed. According to a UNESCO study, it is estimated that the Earth contains about 1386 million cubic kilometers of water. However, 97.5% of this amount is saline water and only 2.5% is fresh water. Of this fresh water, most (68.7%) takes the form of permanent ice and snow in Antarctica, the Arctic, and in mountainous regions. Another 29.9% exists as groundwater. Ultimately, only 0.26% of the total amount of fresh water on Earth is available in lakes, reservoirs, and watersheds, where it is easily accessible for the world's economic and vital needs. With the population steadily increasing, especially in urban areas, several countries have already had severe problems with providing the necessary amount of drinking water to their populations.
Flooding is a significant problem for buildings all around the world, including architectural treasures like the Farnsworth House that have been plagued by the issue time and time again. In particular, one-third of the entire continental U.S. are at risk of flooding this spring, especially the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and Deep South. Last April, deadly floods decimated parts of Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Iran as well, resulting in a low estimate of 1,000 deaths while tens of thousands more were displaced. While architecture cannot solve or even fully protect from the most deadly floods, it is possible – and necessary – to take several protective measures that could mitigate damage and consequently save lives.
Few cities have a growing design culture like Austin, Texas. Ranked as one of the best places to live in the United States, the city is experiencing a building boom in recent years. With a wide variety of residential styles, architects are continuing a legacy of modernist design. With an emphasis on craft and detailing, these new homes use simple geometry and forms as they open up to hills, lakes and the urban fabric.
In a predominately urban world that constantly has to deal with complex problems such as waste generation, water scarcity, natural disasters, air pollution, and even the spread of disease, it is impossible to ignore the impact of human activity on the environment. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and it is urgent that we find ways to slow down the process, at the very least. Toward this end, our production, consumption, and construction habits will have to change, or climate change and environmental degradation will continue to diminish the quality and duration of our lives and that of future generations.
Although they seem intangible and distant, these various energy inefficiencies and waste issues are much closer than we can imagine, present in the buildings we use on a daily basis. As architects, this problem is further amplified as we deal daily with design decisions and material specifications. In other words, our decisions really do have a global impact. How can we use design to create a healthier future for our world?