The Leading with Landscape II: The Houston Transformation conference explored how ambitious, large-scale landscape-architectural projects are taking the lead in shaping the nation’s 4th largest city. Held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Brown Auditorium on March 11, 2016, the conference brought together some of the leading thinkers and landscape architects who presented nationally significant projects. To learn more about the conference: http://tclf.org/sites/default/files/microsites/houston2016/index.html
Moderator, Chapter Two: Looking Forward
Frederick Steiner, FASLA, FAAR, Dean, School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin
Oil & Water
According to the Regional Plan Association, most of the nation’s future population and economic growth is expected to occur in eleven megaregions, that is, large networks of metropolitan regions. Houston is the only city to fall into two megaregions—the Texas Triangle and the Gulf Coast—and with an abundance of oil and water in both, the city faces considerable opportunities and significant challenges ahead.
While the presence of oil typically brings wealth and economic strength to a region, the detrimental impacts of the environmental costs associated with extracting it from the ground and the boom and bust cycles caused by its ever-fluctuating prices can be equally taxing. Water, too, poses its own problems—overabundances cause flooding while shortages leave large areas drought-stricken for long periods of time. Poor land-use and design decisions only serve to further exacerbate these issues.
It is imperative, therefore, that we view the challenges Houston will undoubtedly face in the future through the lens of the landscape with particular attention and analysis given to every scale from the site to the megaregion. This forward-thinking and advantageous approach is exemplified by two projects—the Sustainable Sites Initiative and the Hill Country Studio—briefly examined during this presentation.