Cast Your Vote: AIA Dallas’ Unbuilt and Student Awards

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Entry Healing Rift envisions a series of underground communal pools straddling the Korean DMZ

On May 17, the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects will be holding their annual awards for projects that haven’t been built and/or have been designed by students.  It’s a great way to see projects that for one reason or another (like working on a school project) haven’t been built.

What’s also fun is that the public can vote on their favorite design via a specially setup website. The finalist group showcases 43 designs that come from across the globe (although being the Dallas AIA, 23 come from Texas). Each visit can only clock in one vote. When faced with good architecture, I generally follow the potato chip philosophy … I find it difficult to eat (or choose) just one.

University of Houston’s white-roofed Recreation + Wellness facility

The White Roofs of Texas

Being a big proponent of green architecture and specifically green roofs, I was surprised recently to see Chicago surpass five million square feet of green roofs. With that in mind, you’ll note that the Texas entries from this group are full of white membrane roofs and an overall absence of creative greenery. In contrast, the global projects do a better job incorporating green roofs, terraces and landscaping, with some incorporating green walls and even trees growing through the center of the structures.

The project seen above is called Recreation + Wellness and won’t be built at the University of Houston in Clear Lake, Texas (remember, this is the unbuilt awards). I find it humorous that a space dedicated to physical activities – gym, running, sports facilities – and home to the school’s Department of Exercise and Health Science, would ignore its roof potential. While the interiors are all you’d want, surely a green roof, capable of supporting outdoor exercise activities, should be a no-brainer.

Not to be out-whited, the University of Texas in Richardson had this proposal for a new engineering building. Acres of white roofs next to a multi-story above-ground car park and more surrounding acres of surface parking. The only nod the building’s exterior has to visible energy efficiency are a series of louvers over the central courtyard and on the front elevations. A lack of a green roof for both the building and car park is an opportunity missed, not only for the environmental economic benefits, but also as a laboratory for engineering students.

Neighborhood Center: Hangzhou, China

The concept for this bolder design of a neighborhood center in China combines a series of uses held together by greenery. Adjacent to a kindergarten, this is a community space with a library, playground, open-air plazas for community performances, and various multi-purpose spaces accessed via a series of walkways and bridges.

However, it’s from the air that the pervasiveness of green can be appreciated. A variety of terraces enable outdoor gatherings and performances as well as offering the surrounding high-rises a more complete swath of green to look down upon.

OCT Wuhan Mixed-Use: Wuhan, China

Another Chinese entry is a set of buildings incorporating office, residential, and retail space. But what caught my eye is the main entry plaza and event space. If Dallas ever needs to build s sports arena with design legs, find these guys. Their brief is pure Asian philosophy. They began with a three-dimensional rectangle and removed its center which created a space they called “hidden energy”. Breaking the space in two “revealed the inner energy.”

You can see the inner energy in the form of a lively space for shopping and restaurants bisected by a generous walkway. The halves would contain performance venues, a sports arena and other commercial spaces. While the roof isn’t green, there are numerous outdoor green terraces. All parking would be underground to preserve the large park (foreground of the initial rendering). It would also have sat on top of a high-speed rail station.

Elevating Therapy, Ukraine

This project was to build a facility to serve the needs of disabled children who the brief describes as often being isolated, neglected, and poor. This design strove to build a modern medical and education center reminiscent of a tree house (what child doesn’t like a tree house?).

This project is more than a pretty face. Utilizing various green technologies to insulate, generate power and mitigate storm water runoff, it would have had a $0 energy operating cost. To achieve this, in addition to generating power, the building’s energy efficiencies would use 62 percent less cooling, 27 percent less heating and 40 percent less water usage.

My Lottery House

Droneport: Arlington, Texas

They call this project a droneport. It would be a modern warehouse and distribution center for a drone army of delivery vehicles. To me, this is my lottery home. I’d find a fabulous location in the thick of the city and plant this airborne Hula-Hoop as my private home. But since I’ve not won said lottery, it remains a droneport with what one presumes is a non-stop parade of delivery trucks on the ground. Inside would be staff (or robots) who pick and pack orders before launching a delivery drone from the roof. It seems there’s a reason for the high-flying launch pads. Drones lose 20 percent of their power just getting up in the air. If they’re launched at height, they can travel further on a battery charge.

Whatever, it’s still my house.

Bao 5 and Bao 7 Transit Hub: Hangzhou, China

This proposal is enormous, comprising transportation hubs for nine subway lines, buses, monorail and a future vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft (think Uber’s sky taxis). Surrounding it are a number of residential and commercial buildings (note the line of green-roofed buildings on the left).

Seen from another angle, you can see the vast interconnected spaces that enable travelers to move to their chosen transportation mode within a vibrant and versant environment. As Dallas moves closer to the high-speed rail link to Houston, it must think how it will welcome travelers to the city. Some bunged-up box or something truly transformative and modern that makes Houstonians green with envy?

Transit-oriented development is all the rage in cities with more advanced public transit systems, but inklings can be seen in parts of Dallas. I hope we keep that moving forward.

And the Winner is …

Do you want to see who the winner is? The awards show and party will be on May 17 at Common Desk (2919 Commerce Street in Deep Ellum). Tickets are $30 or $15 for students. You can purchase tickets here. Unfortunately I will be out of town, or wild horses couldn’t keep me away.

If, like me, you can’t attend, remember you can cast a vote for your favorite unbuilt design right up until the day of the awards (Thursday). Even if you can’t decide, visit the site, the few shrunken images required here don’t do justice when viewing these designs full-screen.


Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.


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Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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