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Defining the Great Desert City – Part Four

Defining the Great Desert City – Part Four

Scott Jarson was asked to present his ideas on what makes a Great Desert City. This week, in honor of Earth Day, azarchitecture has posted the full version of this presentation. Here’s the final installment:

The end is near.

We have been through a BRUTAL time.  Recovery from the Great Recession is beginning.  As brutal as it was,  here is the silver lining:  No-one has the the money to return to the old growth model…yet. But they want to!

Governments do not have the budgets to underwrite the new infrastructure to support significant new desert development. But they will find it soon because our tax base relies on it (remember the “addiction” in part one?).

Soon, very soon, and with blinding speed, we are poised as a Community to once again stoke the fires of Suburban Sprawl.   We must engage in this conversation now, because if we don’t, we will find ourselves with yet another outer ring of development that lasts a decade and pushes further and further out.

We are now at the crossroads of a unique opportunity: We can fight this sprawl from within – using a subversive approach.  Support development in the core; shop and eat local,  buy and lease “ in-town”.  Use your feet and cars and dollars to demand Inner development first!

The last Recession drew a line under new projects, stopping may bold and invigorating ideas and projects dead in their tracks.  As we ease back into normalcy, let’s change that line to a circle… The core of redevelopment can and should come with small to medium In-fill projects with a wide array of use and form.  The future for us is within this core.  Core urbanism saves the desert and creates the Great Desert City.   Density is our savior.  We have the existing infrastructure in place.  It’s where the projects will be.

Make the “City” the place to be. It already is.  Our client base LOVES the natural beauty of the higher desert elevations.  But they want the fabric of the urban core.  The next exodus is in, not out.  Look at simple success stories like LGO, Camelback and Central, and soon 44th Corridor, 16th and Bethany Home Road.: our clients want more of these areas.  They want to walk and bike to them. They want to live and work in them. It becomes a genuinely “connected” experience.

The Future is now- Define our Future

Our Opportunity? Dream a little. Define the place we live in.  I’d encourage you designed and architects out there to draw like hell, just create ideas and concepts.  Think out of the box and share the ideas.  People love to dream.  Yes, right now a Developer client may only dream of building under $150/SF, but in the case of small development, their clients, the Buyers, might sway them. Let’s have some big thinking.  We used to have an environment that would support this to some degree financially.  It’s not there and we have to think big…FOR FREE and that’s why we are here.  We cannot wait for a client to green light our creativity.

Our Opportunity? Define our materiality – include roofs and roadways.  Lasting “desert” materials.  A “desert” palette, and we know what it is… Steel, concrete, rammed earth adobe, glass.  We have no authentic regionalism, make authentic Architecture and materials our signature. Let’s demand and adapt and incorporate new materials that are cutting edge appropriate to our place.

Consider another alternative that does not rely on materiality.  We build here with Stucco and tile, okay, maybe we acknowledge that and think about what’s handled easily by the trades and then use it artfully…  It’s been explored before, successfully, to create the beginnings of a signature desert community.   Think of the work of Bennie Gonzales.

We are very close to having the “break through” moment.  It’s our time to seize the direction of our Valley.  How?

Our Opportunity? Define our sense of place – demand design for the region.  Shade, increasing density. increased efficiency, We need to explore the landscape more.  Call for and demand designs created for heat and Sun.  Those of us that are “follically challenged” are forced to wear a hat in the sun.  Just like I need to wear a hat in the summer to protect my head,  the same should go for how we protect the spaces we inhabit here.

Our Opportunity? Define the message – Professionals and consumers alike need to hone our skills to communicate desire for systems that designs which increase overall profit, lower costs and create efficiency.   We can become more adept at communicating the value of quality and design.  We need to become the voice that breaks the habit of building like it’s 1965, when power was cheap and  infrastructure new and limitless, the pinnacle of suburban planning.

Builders and developers will want to continue this same suburban path. Let them take that model elsewhere. We may have to turn a blind eye to what happens outside of the core in order to create the Great Desert City.  We can, and should focus our collective energy on where we can have the most impact.  If we are successful, consumer demand will alter this thinking over time will pressure a change to the suburban model.  Focus on the Urban Core, the rest will follow.

What makes a Great Desert City?
Are there any Great Desert Cities?

In thinking about this I have come to the conclusion that we may well be THE Great Desert City after all.

What we have is very unique.  Yes, we squander it, yes we miss opportunity.  But I know that change can come rapidly.  If you think of it, most of the more interesting buildings in this town seem to happen in roughly five year cycles. We are at the very beginning of the next five year cycle. This time let’s get ahead of it and be part of the voice that demands promotes the change.

So in five short years, we can collectively build a base, sway opinion, and define a good portion of what will influence, greatly influence, the outcome of our future.  The very fact that you are reading this defines you as a leader, a participant in our potential for community rebirth.  Collectively, your vision, your talent, your ideas and as much as anything, you voice defines THE Great Desert City.

Join me in becoming a part of it.  Thank you.