Salon Des Refuses

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Location: Katy, Texas, USA. .

Project Description
A Design Competition seeking Low Impact Design (LID) solutions for a previously conceived suburban master plan for 640 acres of raw land near Katy Texas. Existing adjacent patterns consist of typical suburban sprawl. Competitors were invited to apply LID stormwater principals to what was otherwise intended as a conventional suburban development. The “Base Program” was loosely defined as follows:
- 160 acres reserved for “regional” public schools (One each: Elementary, Middle, High School.)
- 480 acres allocated for 1200 single family homes with sub-reserves for strip retail allocated at two property corners.
- A prior Conceptual Master Plan (“Base Plan”) was provided showing general expectations for school design, street and neighborhood types and anticipated locations for retail.

The “Base Plan“ was simply a representation of the existing pattern of sprawl in the region with the requested addition of gestures aimed at mitigating storm water only. No other environmental mitigations were requested. The developer was seeking to add the LID layer as a means to ‘green up” an otherwise standard sprawl solution. Anticipated elements included the usual suspects of pervious paving, green roofs, water consuming landscaping and constructed wetlands enmeshed in a pattern of isolated boulevards, cul-de-sacs and strip malls.

Recognizing the absurdity of overlaying LID principles on otherwise destructive sprawl, we chose to prepare a polemic proposal that would demonstrate the greater opportunities available with Traditional Neighborhood patterns focusing on Compact Urban Form as an
idealized LID method, not only for stormwater, but as a means to address a much wider collection of problems.

Thus the Project was designed as a “counter-project and offers the following:
- All of the requested housing and appropriately sized schools into one quarter (1/4!) of the proposed real estate
- Entire Program located within what was originally allocated for schools only. •
- Three quarters (3/4) of the site remains in productive agriculture and functional open space
- 800,000 sf of commercial / retail / workplace available for re-localized commercial activity and business creation opportunities.
- Development pattern easily extended to create whole towns surrounded by ag at reasonable transportation spacing.

As a polemic expression, the proposal was designed to resonate with local sentiments regarding traditional values and culturally familiar neighborhood and community icons, even though these things are not always present in the immediate lives of the target audience. Local recollection of small towns is strong, however, and when presented as a still-viable, non-obsolete option we hoped the target audience would take note and raise the bar on local development.

Lessons Learned
While the expected response to the competition was a single layer of storm water related practices, it was our intent to demonstrate to an unsuspecting audience the possibility that Compact Urban Form not only addresses the stormwater issues, but that a host of other environmental questions can be addressed.

Thus we establish Compact Urban Form as a universal Best Management Practice (BMP) Rather than addressing storm water only while leaving all the other negatives of CSD in play, the Proposal makes the claim that the design approach not only produces a
more viable economic response, but can have the added benefi t of reducing VMT, GHG production, decreasing embedded resources and energy per capita and, when coupled with re-localization, can have dramatic effect on environmental issues that re much
more far reaching.

When looking at externals such as the negatives of industrial agriculture, the “1500 mile salad”, the massive commute pattern evident in the immediate area of the Project site, the compact form of the proposal, coupled with the embedded economic and functional advantages can be readily compared on on environmental and social basis by event he uninitiated.

For the polemic argument to be successful, the revolutionary aspects of the proposal must be encased in a cloak of familiarity such that the audience, who does not consist of trained professionals and may, at best, include seasoned developers/ planners with a
predilection for sprawl, can access the useful elements before they are turned off.
For this reason certain design elements are minimized. We avoided extensive representation of green roofs, extreme walkability, regional transit elopements and other things that would distract from the discussion about town form.
Additionally all architecture was expressed in familiar terms based on existing traditional neighborhoods and towns in the region.

Thus the town plan is restrained and familiar, similar to historic towns only fully populated end energized. Streets are tree lined and familiar as a way to cause skeptic to pause, just prior to rejection, and note that there is something attractive about all this, particularly when compared, side by side, to the likely sprawl examples.

Transect Zone(s): T2 rural, T3 sub-urban, T4 general, T5 center.
Status: <Unknown>
Project or Plan's Scale: Region
Land area (in acres): 640
Total built area (in sq. ft.):
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Project team designers: Dreiling Terrones Architecture, Crabtree Group, Inc.
Project team developers: Texas Coastal Watershed Program & Texas Sea Grant, HBL Architects

Previous site status:

Starting/Ending date of construction/implementation: -