Architecture and the City and the Post Carbon World

Dr. Taylor: President Powell, members of the society, friends and colleagues, how wonderful that you have brought your intelligence and your curiosity to a topic of such extraordinary interest to all of us in our fields and, in fact, a topic that I believe we need to work together to make of broader interest to all the members of American society, in fact, to our role as global citizens, as well.

We've taken too much for granted.  Life has been too easy.  Clearly the changes in the economy right now are changing that perspective.  But nonetheless, it's time for us to step up and take a much bigger responsibility for what's happening to our world.

When Dean Steiner, new Dean Steiner, old Dean Steiner, the great Dean Steiner gave me my topic I said, Oh, my goodness. That is larger than Texas to talk about, architecture, the city and the world post carbon, which I have reinterpreted and written down here as the world after peak oil. What I'm going to do is use this time to touch a little bit on architecture, my impressions of what Texas architecture is about, having come here over the last three decades or so. I'm still a bit of a foreigner to your country, which is characterized, I think, by a wonderful sense of hospitality and welcome, by a sense of buoyancy, which one could call boastfulness or pride and also by oil.  That is well-being and a generosity with which to share it.

When we come to cities, it's a slightly different mixed story.  Texas cities are new.  They without question have a vibrancy and tend to be auto dominated but increasingly are finding aspects of the public realm that make them very welcome and give them an identity, San Antonio having led the way on that long ago.  They do still share a tendency to sprawl, which is something that we really need to address.

texas triangle













Fritz mentioned this, the Texas Triangle.  When I think about post peak oil and when I think how the world needs to change and evolve in response to the extraordinary environmental and demographic pressures we're facing, I think of the Texas Triangle. Access, that is, mobility, both in the sense of being able to move easily from place to place but also in the sense of being able to move upward within society and take advantage of the opportunity to advance yourself and your family. Clearly, it's about efficiency.  Efficiency of capital as well as efficiency of all of the tangible assets.  It's about aiming at a competitive vitality that is of lasting value for all of our residents and it is, as we will discuss and many people, I think, will touch on today, really thinking on a regional basis. I'm going to touch on all these things.  I'm going to take us on a short trip around the world to put it in a larger context, come back to the United States and then offer a few closing comments.

Texas architecture is often big; it boasts of success, it bears the style of its time of design since things are so new. Like downtown Dallas where our firm was privileged to participate in design of the towers.  We're moving forward, though.  If you move from downtown to midtown, post-modern gives way to the future.  Thirty years later we see the incredible forms of things that we can now build.  That doesn't necessary mean we should build them.  But things that have a mixed use, family-oriented quality even as they're expressed in very slick architecture.

When I was in school and through my early years of practice, we were always extremely impressed by the way Texas chose to express its civic architecture.  Here, as in Dallas City Hall or in one of my firm's favorites, probably a more boastful building, but nonetheless a proud statement of Texas' contributions at the LBJ Library.

I think Texas architecture will find new heights in Foster's Winspear Opera House, where the entry features the dramatic ribbed glass panels of the McDermott Performance Hall - this is just one example of a very urban, very pedestrian-friendly arts district that's being planned. None however, are likely to rise to the heights of that of the master, Lou Kahn, whose Kimball Museum is such a brilliant statement not about architecture itself but about volume, space and the use of light and the control of that light.  This is clearly one of those pictures that lives in our imaginations as we think about the role that architecture plays for society.

Texas cities are kind of another matter, a little perplexing to somebody who grew up in a little town in Iowa and now lives in New York City and Philadelphia.  Most have established their character really from the mid-20th century onward. The large centers cities are multi-centered, like Dallas and Houston.  Dallas downtown, where both Victory Park and the Arts District are clearly revitalizing. In Houston, which is famous for not having zoning, took multi-centeredness to a new dimension back in the 1980s and where that really remarkable developer, Gerry Hines explored so many paths to excellence, including alternative town centers.

One of the exciting things I see going on, though, is it continues on a trend that San Antonio started, reclaiming the rivers and river beds as a very strong theme for Texas open space. I'll dwell on this for just a moment.  I'm very proud of one of my partners from the San Francisco office was a part of the team that created this rather brilliant section that transforms San Antonio and defined for the city a reputation that extends outside of Texas and really, a reputation for the decades - the Riverwalk.  Its liveliness has only grown over time.  Of course, it has taken a toll on the life of the surface downtown streets.

Now, I'm sorry to say, one can't really talk about cities or about Texas without bringing up oil and America's love with the car.  So it's the consumption of oil, as well as its production that we're addressing here. It's great to see the change that is coming.  Beginning in 1983 with the implementation of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit which brings together the 13 cities within the Dallas/Fort Worth area, providing 44 kilometers of transit system carrying, I think the latest statistics were 58,000 or so people every weekday and with more extensions to come.  And yet it continues to be the case that we drive more miles on fewer highways.  And with the growth that Fritz is referring to, how will we handle this in  times to come?

In Texas one also has to talk about the genius of becoming an inland port.  The logistic centers around Dallas and Fort Worth clearly speak to the ways in which goods, freight are moved efficiently. We're not just talking about moving people when we talk about transportation and the resources it consumes, but moving freight as well.  There's clearly a message here that others can learn from.

There was a missed opportunity which may come around again that I had the privilege to be a part of many years ago.  As a young professional I had the opportunity to be the design leader for architecture for the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project, which was fixing up train stations between Washington and Boston, where the incredible romance of the railroad that once was, was able to come back again and AMTRAK played a strong role.  Not a European quality role yet, but a strong role in connecting the major cities of the northeast corridor.

I came to Texas, I must say, not knowing what I was getting into.  It seemed like a no-brainer: Dallas to Houston, Houston to San Antonio, back up to Austin and all around.  The Texas Triangle in an earlier definition seemed like a fabulous idea.  It's flat.  There's lots of land.  How easy could it be to have a railroad do this? However, it was proposed by the private sector, not a dollar of public money was intended to go into it at this point.  The idea was killed by a few very powerful people who flew airplanes who perceived that the trains, rather than being part of a competitive advantage strategy, would actually be a competition that might delve into and hurt airline traffic.  So I'm happy to see that that intrastate oligarchy is being replaced by new thinking about new sets of connection for Texas.

Before we focus more on architecture in the city and Texas, let's take a quick look at what's happening on the scale of the world. Fritz has already mentioned several of these things.  I'll give you some graphics to support it. Census Bureau originally projected that this would happen sometime in 2007.  It crept a little forward and happened in the beginning of the year 2008.  The first time that the blue line, the urban line, and the green line, the rural line, crossed - the rural population and the urban population for the first time were equal to each other.  As we have seen, that difference will continue to grow over the years ahead.  It happened when the world reached a population of 6.6 billion.

rural to urban

This is a rapid increase in the percentage of people living in cities.  You see in 1800 across the world it was very few.  By 2030 it will be 60 percent or so.  And projections are that that will continue to climb.

In 1950 there was only one city that had a population of more than 10 million.  In 2015 there will be 21.  The number of urban areas with populations between 5 and 10 million ‑ that's essentially Dallas and Houston if you think of them as metropolitan areas ‑ will grow from 7 to 37, although the big growth will be mostly in developing countries.  In fact, as much as we have heard about the mega-cities, much of the growth will be in the second and third-tier cities which can better accommodate the incoming populations.

There's a reason for this which has to do with the broad definition of sustainability, economy, social advancement and environmental responsibility.  Urban-based economic activities are 50 percent of the gross domestic product for all countries.  And in urbanized countries that percentage is more than two-thirds, more than three-quarters and increasing.  So the cities indeed are the places of opportunity.

Here in agrarian America, it is becoming ever more clear that we need to understand the role that cities play in our economy just as the Europeans have understood very early and others are coming to understand, as well.  It's a competitive world out there. This reminds us of how competitive places around the world are, how hard cities are working to make a good, strong life for their individual people and yet we are all tied together and need to work on it together.

I tried to think of a way ‑ and this actually comes from work from the Rockefeller Foundation ‑ of making this tangible.  What does that growth mean?  So if we say that between now and 2050, mid-21st century, two-and-a-half more billion people will live in cities.  Let's just say they're going to live in cities of one million each.  Metropolitan area of San Antonio is about 1.9, so half of San Antonio. We will need to build 2,500 additional cities in 43 years.  And 2,500 additional cities in 2,236 weeks means that there is the equivalent of a new city every week for the next 43 years, a city half the size of San Antonio.  Is this possible?  How can we do it?  And how can we still make it a human and equitable experience?  These are extraordinary challenges.

It is this growth and urbanization that's putting enormous pressures on already limited resources.  The demographics are shifting rapidly.  Some countries are young.  Some countries are older.  Birthrate is down in Europe.  When you go to any place in the Middle East it's extraordinary how young the population is. Everyone needs a well-trained and well-educated work force in order to be competitive.  We need to change the way that resources are consumed.  And we need to take the attitude of being responsible to future generations in a way we haven't done.

urban explosion

This comes together.  And it's the advocacy that I frequently make in what is nothing less than a leadership agenda that we really need to embrace, which has to do with resources, understanding competitive advantage, supporting the interaction among demographic groups, economically, racially, ethnically and in all forms, but nonetheless remembering that it is also place based.  Rather than becoming like everyone else, each city in the world has a responsibility to define its identity based on its economy and its special resources if we are to succeed around the planet.

To me, Shanghai, New York, Los Angeles, they're actually very, very similar.  You can take a picture of the lower east side of New York a hundred years earlier and you can see all the same characteristics in the street.  The incredible energy of people determined to make a better life.

So coming back home, I'm going to talk about the United States for a few moments.  What I chose to pull out for you this morning basically comes from work the Brookings Institution has been doing in a series of publications, the most interesting of which is called, Metro Nation.

In this report, the Brookings is making the argument that it is time for the United States to move to an urban agenda.  You'll see why as I go through the next few slides.  They took the 100 largest metro areas in the United States ranked by the number of jobs and came to the following interesting finding.

us- metro nation

These hundred metropolitan areas are 12 percent of the land area and 65 percent of the population and in fact, 75 percent of the economy.  In addition to this, it's 78 percent of the knowledge workers, 81 percent of the new patents, research and development and 95 percent of transit ridership, which is a synonym of an odd metric, but one that loosely, I think correlates with the idea of a compact and walkable urbanism that promotes energy efficiency. So there are real values and we need to understand the reality of this.

marketing and service sectors

That isn't, as I said earlier, to say that all cities need to be alike.  These are a couple of maps from the Brookings report that shows how the successful cities across the country are specializing in services, in manufacturing and other things that have to do with their own work force and with their very specific opportunity. Bob Yaro and America 2050 have also looked at those cities and have grouped them into regional clusters of which the Texas Triangle is one. Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Houston - a remarkable zone of activity.

100 largest metro areas

In case you're wondering where Texas places in the 100 metropolitan areas,  it places surprisingly high.  Dallas/Fort Worth has 2.9 million jobs and 5.8 million population with a gross domestic product of 300 million.  It's fifth.  Houston, including Sugar Land and Baytown, is ninth.  San Antonio is 35th.  Austin/Round Rock is 39th. So there's very great opportunity here in terms of the economy and work force for Texas to continue to survive and thrive as we face the challenges of bringing another 100 to 140 million ‑ I assume Steve is going to tell us a little more about that ‑ additional people into the United States.

prosperity drivers for metros

This is Brookings' diagram of the assets that lead to prosperity.  And it really sets up the next few comments that I would like to make.  Innovation, human capital and infrastructure are the key ingredients to prosperity for America's metropolitan areas, as for metropolitan areas around the world.  And that needs to have our focus as designers and as leaders.

Now back to the Texas Triangle.  I'm going to just pull forward some examples from the work that we and others have done to illustrate how five key initiatives might translate to the Texas Triangle and to Texas: infrastructure investment, compact development with walkable communities, first quality public realm, education and energy policy.

For the first, infrastructure, I'd like to talk about Singapore.  Singapore is an island of 4 million people.  As we just saw, that's smaller than the Dallas metropolitan area, Dallas/Fort Worth or the Houston metropolitan area.  But with style of leadership and their commitment to move a country forward in a matter of four decades, they have made huge advancements and have taken great advantage of investment in infrastructure, as well as in human capital. Singapore doesn't just build an airport.  Singapore builds an airport that is a gateway to the world.  We had the opportunity to work with them in doing this project which is called Terminal Three. It's very close to the downtown, a ten-minute ride.  Singapore is a degree off the equator, so we proposed to them that we ought to be able to light all of the public spaces of the terminal with natural light from seven o'clock in the morning till seven o'clock at night by a series of flaps that open and close actuated by nothing more complicated than the same kind of light sensors that turn on street lights at night.

The Singapore government, not exactly trusting crazy architects but willing to invest in something that was cutting edge, built a full-size bay of this terminal ‑ it's about the size of the Grand Ballroom here but twice as tall ‑ on site as a mock-up and operated it for a year to find out whether our projections about light coming into the space would work.  Indeed, they did.  And indeed, Singapore has opened, to the pride of its citizens, a striking new airport which will continue to advance Singapore's role as a very small country in a very large world. We're trying to do this in New York with the station to honor Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  We hope it might happen now with the economic stimulus package.

Denver is doing it in a way that I think has great relationship to the things that you've initiated in your transit systems in both Dallas and Houston.  Denver's 22 regional communities voted to tax themselves, not believing that there would be new-start money coming from the federal government in order to create a commuter rail system, a light rail system and to center it on their historic Union Station in a mixed-use, very attractive urban neighborhood.  It's a tremendous vision.  And Mary Margaret Jones and I are working to help them implement it.

Compact development and walkable communities - this comes in all scales.  I can't help but bring something from New York because I see that Dallas is beginning to come to terms with the idea of living at density and in high-rise, as well.  This was a project on 9.8 industrial acres where we were able to put together 5 million square feet of development, most of it residential development, but to devote half the site to open space animated by lots of activities in the public realm. Density does not mean covering every square foot.  It means balancing building footprints with wonderful open space that makes it a terrific place to live.  That's happening elsewhere.

One example that I'd like to call to people's attention is Stockholm.  Stockholm is quite an amazing city.  To be a city of a million actually gives you very interesting opportunities. In Stockholm the entire energy for the city is 80 percent renewable ‑ from renewable sources. You've seen those wonderful wind turbines out in the water.  Wind turbines, folks, are coming closer into cities now.  They are very compatible neighbors and they are something that we should all be thinking about. In addition, the City of Stockholm has 75 percent of its trips to the downtown, not just to work, but to the downtown, on public transit.  Its new infill communities are living up to this overall standard and carrying it forward. And you, as a resident in Hammersby Village in Stockholm, are required to separate your garbage into four categories, organics, combustibles.  They are vacuum-tubed away, collected at a central control point and then delivered either for composting or for burning for energy. This is the way that this particular culture and community achieves that extraordinary use of renewable energy.  It's something to be emulated.

First quality public realm.  You all are working on this here and Chicago Millennium Park, I think, is the most extraordinary example of it right now. Designers talk about the idea of creating spaces that truly bring everybody together that don't belong to the few who live nearby, that welcome a broad range of immigrant, refugee, moderate income, poor together with those who classically have enjoyed the benefits of both our open space and city beautiful open space.  Millennium Park is the great example of this. It's quite extraordinary to see this place absolutely overrun from Memorial Day until sometime in the fall.  In addition to which, it's spurred incredible residential development through the south loop and contributed to great increase in value in these properties immediately adjoining it.  A very important aspect of our futures.

Education.  Columbia University is building its new campus, not a campus of gravitas and bricks and mortar but rather, a campus of glass and open space that will welcome everyone in the Harlem community to share, to feel that they can be a part of this education, either as a visitor, as a guest or as a person coming to learn. When we look at the crisis right now ‑ and I say this now as a dean ‑ if you don't have anything else to do with your money you can give it to Fritz so that more people can come to school or you can send it up the road to Philadelphia to the University of Pennsylvania. If there was ever a time when we all, who have had the benefit of such extraordinary educations, need to give back so that others can have the opportunity to advance in their education, this is it. While the endowments go down we still need to open our doors and bring the best people in.

Energy.  I don't have time to go into this in detail here. It is amazing to me how quickly the consuming public has adapted to green buildings.  Back in the mid-70s Ian McCard and others knew all of the things we know today about what we needed to do to conserve resources.  But it wasn't a popular idea.  It hadn't met its place in the market yet.

When we find ourselves going to meet a client more often than not now he's saying to us, I want a green building; I want a building that goes beyond the scoring system and LEED; I want something that I can be proud of; I want something because I know it's going to have more value in the marketplace if I make it green.


If you look at this slide closely you'll see that new buildings are a very small part of what we need to do in order to really achieve the kind of after peak oil, post carbon emissions world that we're targeted to.  We have to think about city form.  We have to think about retrofitting existing buildings.  We have to think about how we travel, how we live, how frequently we get in the car.  There are many, many pieces in addition - and I think there's every reason to be optimistic about this - to exploring the opportunity for new and renewable sources of energy.  Between supply and demand we can do this if we put our hearts and souls into it.

Coming back to Texas on a quick wrap-up here, the Urban Land Institute, which is a research and education institution that serves the real estate community in all of its aspects has been trying to focus in on this very issue and say, What is it that we can do about this, How can we move just beyond the individual buildings to something larger? We came up with a formulation called CLUE which is that we would like to see the issues of climate change and energy production and consumption tied together explicitly with land use.  As we move forward to create an urban agenda for America through the Transportation Bill, through the Economic Recovery Act, through new sources of energy it's important that we tie these things together and not think of them as separate and individual activities.

What does that mean?  It means we need to understand and help make the case for the benefits of being green.  We need to understand that investment in infrastructure is just that.  It's an investment.  It's aimed at a return.  It's not just widening the highways and fixing the intersections.  It's thinking about the value capture and the additional benefits that could be gained for every dollar we put into a transportation project.

Existing buildings.  As I said earlier, we focused on how to deal with new ones.  We haven't yet advanced as much as the Europeans have in thinking about how we retrofit existing buildings.  The cost of demolishing is taking things away.  It always removes the heart of things that are part of our culture, our history and our legacy.  We need to put this back on the list in a bigger way.

Edge development.  We talk a lot about the return to center city, the filling in of the suburbs.  In fact, in the open spaces of America where land is cheap there will continue to be edge development.  It does not have to be sprawl.  We can think smart about what our edge cities are like, serve them with transit, not just to encourage their growth but to tie them more completely in the metropolitan areas.

Infill development.  Yes, come back and live in the city; be a part of history in the  most effective and walkable communities.  Mixing land uses meaning mixing uses and economics, including affordable housing in neighborhoods where everybody can come together and build community and dealing with the regulations that hamper us from doing this. Much as we love our state DOTs, they always require the lanes too wide, too many lanes, too high speed travel.  And we need to think very differently if we're to move forward and face the challenge.

J.C. Nichols from Kansas City was one of the founding members of the Urban Land Institute.  In fact, I'm trying to figure out what those guys did in 1936 because it was in the middle of the Depression and I don't think there was a whole lot of development going on. But apparently, one of the things they did was they got in their cars and they drove around and they looked at each others' projects.  And they as land owners from the heart of America, said things like, "An intelligent city plan thinks impartially for all parts of the city at the same time."  Now, think city plan, think metropolitan plan, think Texas Triangle Plan.  And let's not forget the greater needs of tomorrow in the press of today.  That's what I hope we'll do. I look forward to hearing the other speakers today.  Thank you very much.

speaker taylor Speaker Marilyn Taylor, Dean, University of Pennsylvania School of Design. Photo by member John Gullett.