Submissions open for Dry Futures Ideas Competition

California—and much of the Western United States—is currently in the midst of a severe and unprecedented water crisis. After four consecutive years of exceptional drought, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order earlier this year intended to limit water usage and preserve the few resources that remain. But many worry that the measures amount to “too little, too late.” And the stakes couldn’t be higher: not only is California the most populous state in the country, it is by far the largest agricultural producer. Built on centuries of questionable riparian practices and infrastructure, this agro-industrial behemoth not only consumes the majority of the state’s dwindling water reserves, but amounts to a significant chunk of the national and international economy.

According to many experts, the drought in California correlates to both unsustainable human practices and the larger product of unsustainable human activity: climate change. It is simply irresponsible to imagine that a solution will magically appear off the coasts or in the clouds or anywhere else. California is on the verge of collapse. And for millions around the world—from Syria to Brazil—drought is already a determining factor in everyday life, creating conflict and reorganizing social relations.

While the practice of architecture may have not traditionally taken the primary role in determining how water is used, today, we no longer have a choice. Water is not only a fundamental precondition for dwelling, but the manner in which we choose to build (or not) is pivotal to the future viability of entire regions of the world. Water may very well end up being the determining issue of the next century. Yet, increasingly, it feels that the discourse of the “smart city” has overtaken all considerations of the future of architecture. How will ecological crises and technological advancement cohabitate the same future?

Archinect is launching a new competition oriented around the unfolding drought crisis in California. We believe architects possess a remarkable set of tools and skills that uniquely establish the capacity to adapt to a problem that is both multifaceted and enormous. We are looking for the imaginative, the pragmatic, the idealist, and the dystopian. The competition will comprise two categories: Speculative—proposals that involve technologies that are not yet available and/or imagine alternative realities or futures; and Pragmatic—proposals that exist within the realm of possibility and could be actually implemented within current economic and technological conditions.

The jury is comprised of: Allison Arieff, editorial director of Spur; Charles Anderson, founder/principal of Werk; Colleen Tuite and Ian Quate, cofounders of GRNASFCK, Geoff Manaugh, writer, BLDGBLOG; Hadley and Peter Arnold, cofounders/directors of the Arid Lands Institute; Jay Famiglietti, senior water cycle scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Water Initiative; and Peter Zellner, Principal and Design Lead, AECOM Los Angeles.

The submission deadline is Tuesday, September 1, 2015.

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