Design Competition: Rethink Water Use in the Face of Climate Change

Drylands Design, a new ideas competition sponsored by the California Architectural Foundation in partnership with the Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University and AIACC Academy for Emerging Professionals and created in honor of architect William Turnbull, is seeking submissions for “retrofitting the American West.” The goal of the program is to “re-think” water use in the West in the face of climate change and create a set of “long-term strategies” for the arid and semi-arid western states. This challenge exceeds the “grasp of a single discipline” and will require “strategic architectures, infrastructures, and urbanisms that promote adaptation and resilience.”

Drylands Design seeks innovative submissions from landscape architects, architects, urban designers, planners, and infrastructure designers who can examine issues related to water supply, quality, treatment, and access, along with the connections between water and energy. “Drylands Design seeks integrative proposals from multidisciplinary design teams that anticipate science and policy perspectives as necessary dimensions of intelligent design response, and exploit beauty as an instrument of resilience and adaptation.”

A few components the competition organizers sees as important:

  • Examining all aspects of water use in the face of climate change: “The relationship between water, energy use, and heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions is intertwined and self-limiting. Uncoupling water’s capture, treatment, distribution, and use from energy-intensive delivery systems is critical to a new western drylands design.”
  • Designing for weather changes: “The twin effects of climate change on the American west’s hydrologic cycle are expected to be scarcity (prolonged drought periods and diminished snowpack) and variability (increased intensity of flood events). Design for variability will replace engineering for stationarity.”
  • Including viable green infrastructure systems: “Rain water, storm water and single-use municipal supplies, currently treated as waste or flood hazard, form the largest ‘undeveloped’ sector of western water. Converting local liabilities to assets will offset dependence on carbon-intensive imports.”
  • Creating water use systems that benefit all: “Recognizing that no built environment achieves true vitality without social equity, Drylands Design seeks proposals that actively benefit low- and middle-income communities, urban and rural. More specifically, Drylands Design seeks proposals that promote an active and participatory civic engagement by citizen-users.”

Design proposals may be for real or conceptual projects in one or more real sites but must be unbuilt as of spring 2012. Proposals must be considered at the global, regional and local scales, but sited within a specific location in the U.S. arid or semi-arid west. While the design concepts must be focused on very local issues, they must also be replicable. Both student and professional teams are allowed.

A high-profile jury including Shannon Nichol, ASLA, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol; Greg Otto, Buro Happold Engineers; and Enrique Norten, Ten_Arquitectos, among others, will review submissions. No information was found on the Web site about award amounts.

Learn more and register by November 15.

Image credit: Wastewater Reclamation Plant. Coachella Valley, California  / Coachella Water District

One thought on “Design Competition: Rethink Water Use in the Face of Climate Change

  1. Urban Choreography 07/25/2011 / 1:58 pm

    There is potentially nothing more important than how we deal with water in urban design and here in Africa there is a paramount need to implement as much new thinking as possible about it – Wether we can actually apply Western first world thinking and ideas here is another question which has yet to be answered.

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