Unbuilt Design Awards Seeks to Engage Public in City Dialogue


Things are changing in Dallas. Critical to this trajectory is public discourse and the exchange of ideas between the people who inhabit the buildings and spaces of Dallas and those who design, finance, approve, and implement them.

As a member of our local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and last year’s chair of the AIA Dallas Design Awards, I invite you to help further the dialogue about important issues in our changing city during our Unbuilt Design Awards and exhibition opening April 28. Go here for more info and to RSVP.

We started a revolution last year in how to approach the Unbuilt Design Awards.


As the city grapples with design challenges such as population growth, suburban sprawl, water availability, carbon emissions, and downtown vitality, we knew that providing a platform that enabled conversation between people in our community and design professionals was crucial. We knew that if architects shared their position on issues and design solutions publicly instead of to themselves, the public could become more engaged in the design of our city’s future.

The public could begin to affect positive change by asking questions and giving opinions, evolving market expectations that drive new and better places and products. Putting a mechanism in place to enable this crucial conversation between user and designer would allow for, in short, better outcomes for all.

“Future thinking now” describes the way we approach contemporary issues at HKS, and it reflects the belief that exploiting constraints can lead to new ideas.

This kind of thinking can often be evident in Unbuilt Design Award entries, where the project focus might be provided by a competition brief or even imagined by the design team, with the opportunity to explore ideas of an esoteric or philosophical bent.

Such is the case with Land_scraper, 2009 Unbuilt Design Honor Award winner from HKS. Land_scraper is a provocation on the discontinuity between downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum that identifies the restraint of I-345 and reconciles connection of the city in a different way than the current AIA Dallas-endorsed study on tearing down the elevated roadway.


Another project, The Next Generation, by HKS LINE, won a 2012 Unbuilt Design Award for a progressive approach to increasing energy performance through renovation of a 1960s government building in Los Angeles. A reality relating to the 2030 Challenge – which seeks to elicit 100 percent carbon-neutral buildings by the year 2030 — is that most buildings that will be in use in 2030 are already built — so an understanding and strategy to retrofit existing building stock is paramount to our professional design response to climate change.

The Next Generation provided a means to study and sharpen our abilities through performance-driven processes, using generative design and systems thinking to provide more contextually responsive buildings—something we have developed and implemented as part of the team on current HKS projects such as the new LA Rams Stadium and SFO Terminal 1, a collaboration with Woods Bagot and Arup.

Supporting our effort to elevate the quality of design performed by Dallas architects, the AIA Dallas Design Awards committee consistently attracts renowned Design Awards jurors.

This year, worth the price of admission alone will be the opportunity to hear from our jury and see the work of Mary Ann Ray, Jacob Brillhart, and Adam Marcus — three smart practitioners and educators who embody the spirit of progressive thinking and quality design. This year also will feature a Critic’s Choice Award, juried by Dallas Morning News’ architecture critic Mark Lamster, D Magazine Arts Editor Peter Simek, arts writer Lauren Smart, and Modern Luxury Interiors Texas Editor-in-Chief Rhonda Reinhart. We also invite the public to vote for the People’s Choice Award while at the event, so please join us for conversation, celebration, and the opportunity to make your voice heard at the 2016 AIA Dallas Unbuilt Design Awards.

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R E A D   N E X T

Heath May is Director of HKS Laboratory for INtensive Exploration. An architect with 11 years of professional experience including commercial, hospitality, sports and healthcare, he is currently focus(...)