The Challenge

Sea Ranch Condominiums, Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull, Whitacker - Photo courtesy of Donald Corner

Water scarcity is both the history and the future of the American west. Re-thinking water use, particularly in the face of climate change, will be central to the region’s survival. The work exceeds the grasp of a single discipline, and touches all dimensions of the way people live and work. Sustaining the US West in the face of water scarcity and hydrologic variability brought on by climate change will require strategic architectures, infrastructures, and urbanisms that promote adaptation and resilience. Drylands Design seeks innovation in architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, regional planning, and infrastructure design that addresses water supply, water quality, water access, water treatment, and the water/energy nexus. 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.








Competition Objectives + Priorities
The purpose of Drylands Design is to generate a portfolio of long term design strategies for the arid and semi-arid west’s water-scarce future. Proposals must recognize and address:

The Water-Energy Nexus
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.

Scarcity + Variability
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.

Localized Resources
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.

Social Equity
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.

Thus, Drylands Design seeks responsive, variable, localized, and low-carbon alternatives to energy-intensive, 20th-century centralized water engineering solutions. Drylands Design seeks a portfolio of strategies for the west that actively remediate the environmental sterility, economic monocultures, and cultural lethargy induced by the West’s dependence on an obsolete engineering paradigm. Drylands Design seeks proposals that tactically promote a place-specific built environment of both ecological and cultural vitality.

Site – Beyond the Hundredth Meridian
Drylands Design seeks proposals for the arid and semi-arid regions of the US West, using John Wesley Powell’s historic, and imprecise, designation—the 100th meridian—as its starting line. The 100th meridian, as Powell pointed out in his 1878 Report on the Lands of Arid Region, is the approximate demarcation line corresponding to a radical shift in US hydrology. Simply put, it is, more or less, where humid East ends and the arid West begins. All proposals must be sited in the United States, west of the 100th meridian.

Design proposals may be for a real or speculative project, for one or more real sites, and must be as yet BE unbuilt by Spring 2012. All design proposals must be sited conceptually within three scales: the local, the regional, and the global.

Local Specificity
All design proposals are required to be sited within a specific location in the U.S. arid or semi-arid west. Locally, even hyper-locally, site-specific design is required.

Regional Relevance
All design proposals are required to identify the ‘typicality’ of particular site conditions, and address or speculate on scalability and replicability of design strategies to other comparable sites throughout the west.

Global Context
All design proposals are required to speculate on scalability and replicability to drylands in other parts of the world. If sprawl is arguably the West’s most enduring global export, could intelligent drylands design be its next?

Although this competition is not site specific, a site in Fresno, California may be used for the project if the team desires. Click here for information regarding this site.


Architectural Proposals

With the above water issues in mind, design a building on a specific drylands site in the American West as defined in “Site” above. Architectural proposals may include, but are not limited to:

  • Single Family or Multi Family Dwellings
  • Commercial/Industrial Complexes
  • Mixed Use or Hybrid programs
  • Civic/Educational Buildings
  • Community Design Proposals

    With the above water issues in mind, develop a community design proposal on a specific drylands site or region in the American West as defined in “Site” above. Community design proposals may include, but are not limited to:

  • Civic infrastructures
  • Urban Landscapes
  • Regional Planning