2012 Drylands Design Conference: Retrofitting the West: Adaptation by Design

ALI Drylands Design Conference, Retrofitting the West: Adaptation by Design

Nowhere are the opportunities for global leadership in water-smart design greater than in the US West. Shifts in the economy, demographics, and climate are requiring westerners to rethink the centralized, energy-intensive water systems of the 20th century. What do design professions have to contribute, and how can they be more effective?

This conference re-examines the built environment of the arid and semi-arid west as a vast field of opportunities for water-smart design innovation at a range of scales, from building systems to infrastructure and landscape spaces.

The conference frames and debates a portfolio of design strategies generated in response to the challenges set forth in the Drylands Design Competition; explores the shifts in policy, practice, and pedagogy they suggest; and attempts to place regional solutions in global context.

An overview of the program is below. Scroll down for a downloadable pdf of the complete program.


Norman Millar, Dean, Woodbury School of Architecture and Regent, California Architectural Foundation


Opening Remarks

Hadley + Peter Arnold, Co-directors, Arid Lands Institute
Retrofitting the West: Framing the Problems


Session 1: Hydrologic Commonwealth

Western water has been designed to cross topographic and political boundaries and flow toward concentrations of power. A reallocated hydrologic cycle will require distributed water systems and a reassertion of hydrography as a basic unit of planning and governance. 

What boundaries—disciplinary, jurisdictional, economic, topographic—might be redrawn for a resilient and equitable hydrologic future?

Keynote Speaker:
Wiliam DeBuys, PhD, author, "A Great Aridness"
Powell's Legacy:  A discussion of both Powell's legacy and the impacts climate change pose to creating a more durable future in the American West.

Water, Power, + Cultural Identity:  Design Case Studies + Panel Discussion
Moderator: Jamie Workman, author, Heart of Dryness

Design Case Studies:
“A Commonwealth Approach.” by Laurel McSherry, FAAR, ASLA, Virginia Tech and Rob Holmes, ASLA 
“Off the Reservation.” Meghan Storm, Candidate, Master’s of Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

Jamie Workman
William de Buys
Miguel Luna, Executive Director, Urban Semillas 
Rob Holmes, ASLA
Laurel McSherry, FAAR ASLA
Michael Pinto, AIA
Meghan Storm, University of Pennsylvania


Session 2: The Design of Adaptation

What do current climate models suggest for the future of Western water?
An assessment from 30,000 feet of western surface and groundwater resources relative to population growth; agriculatural production; power generation; eco systems; and urban development. 

JT Raeger, UC Irvine  
Impacts on Western Water Supply 

The Deindustrialization of Western Water:  Design Case Studies + Panel Discussion
Moderator: Stephanie Pincetl, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Design Case Study:
"Retrofitting Silver Lake Reservoir." Rob Lamb, AIA, AICP

Panel Discussion:  Living infrastructures. Soft infrastructures. Adaptive infrastructures. Insurgent infrastructures.
To what extent can small-scale distributed systems capture local waters—storm, grey, recycled? With what plausible results, quantitative and qualitative? At what cost? On what time frame? Distributed power generation is enjoying a robust exploration at a variety of scales across the West, in urban and rural settings. What are the principles that can (or cannot) be applied to distributed water? What is the role of design in shaping a distributed water future?

Stephanie Pincetl, PhD, UCLA IoES
Rob Lamb, AIA
Terri Hogue, CE, UCLA IoES
Stuart Magruder, AIA
Shivaji Deshmukh, P.E.
Mia Lehrer, FASLA
Madelyn Glickfeld, UCLA IoES


InterSession: Water’s Utilities

“Sacred Waters, Mystic Rivers, and Primordial Seas: Water as Reflection of the Human Soul.” Barry Taylor, Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary and Art Center College of Design


Session 3: Integrated Frameworks for Water, Energy, and Design

Water, energy, and climate are deeply entwined but rarely integrated into the policies that govern design of the built environment.
Where are the opportunities for integration?
What are the legislative barriers and policy blockades?

Paul Bunje, PhD, Managing Director, LA Regional Collaborative 
Water, Energy, and Climate: Prospects for Integrating Policy 

Beyond LID: Hydrologic Urbanism Design Case Study + Panel Discussion
Moderator: Paul Bunje

Using recent design research on a case study site—the City of Burbank, CA-- panelists will debate competing methods for how cities might account for water, energy, and greenhouse gas inventories, paradigms of “compliance,” and opportunities that may shape the future of hydrologically-intelligent urban design for drylands. How cities account for water, energy and greenhouse gas inventories helps shape (or delay) water-smart urban design for drylands. Does recent design research in Burbank, CA offer a model for aligning economic development, climate mitigation and water supply objectives? If so, how do you incentivize the approach? What are the costs? Risks? Potential benefits?

Design Case Study:
"Burbank as Case Study." Peter Arnold, Arid Lands Institute

Paul Bunje, PhD
Peter Arnold, Arid Lands Institute
Mark Gangi, AIA
Walker Wells, MRCP, AICP
Monica Gilchrist, ICLEI
Deborah Weintraub, Bureau of Engineering, City of LA
Emily Gabel-Luddy, FASLA


Session 4: Water Systems and Public Architectures

Water and its absence have driven the technologies and poetics of public architectures in drylands for thousands of years—except in our own era. How might the logics and poetics of water re-combine to shape not only the architectural object but public experience?

Speaker: Katherine Rinne, Architect and Historian, California College of the Arts
Gravity-Fed City

Recovering A Grammar of Drylands Design: Design Case Studies 4 + Panel Discussion
Moderator: Michael Lehrer, FAIA

In contemporary design, internal technologies (water-conserving fixtures and appliances) and external systems (water policy and engineering) have caused the design of water systems to evaporate from the architectural lexicon. Water is now more often a design accessory than building-integrated driver of architectural form or public experience. What are the architectural potentials of water systems as shapers of place? How are performative roofscapes, distributive wall packages, permable foundation systems opportunities for rethinging architectural form in drylands?

Design Case Studies: 
"Reinvesting the Line.": Gini Lee, PhD, University of Melbourne and Brooke Madill 
"A Colorful Walk: Salt Pool Exploration."  Ye Hua, Janet Yank Kiyai, and Jessica Kostosky, candidates, Masters of Landscape Architecture, USC Alex Robinson, advisor.

Frank Escher, AIA
Ye Hua, USC
Janet Yank Kiyai, USC
Jessica Kostosky, USC
Gini Lee, University of Melbourne
Brooke Madil, University of Melbourne
Mary-Ann Ray, SCI-Arc 
Deborah Richmond, AIA
Katherine Rinne, CCA
Alex Robinson, USC 


Concluding Remarks:

Ila Berman, CCA Director and CAF Regent
​Drylands Tactics



March 22 March 24, 2012
Arid Lands Institute
Woodbury University, 7500 N Glenoaks Blvd
Burbank, CA, 91504