After launching a contest asking architecture firms to show off their most innovative designs for no less than a self-sustaining microcosm the size of a city block, the city of Dallas and their partner Re:Vision Dallas received hundreds of creations from 26 countries.
The goal for the block is to help Dallas "be at the forefront of design, sustainability, and vibrancy of cities," said Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert in his announcement speech.
The concept is the first of its kind in the world.
A jury has narrowed the field to three finalists and will now focus on answering the question: which fantasy-novel eco-architecture breakthrough would we like in our backyard?
The first entry, Greeways Xero Energy, was submitted by David Baker and Partners Architects of San Francisco, Calif., and looks something like the proposed convention hotel, only far more interesting and cool.
The company's summary said that they took into account surrounding architecture and environment while developing their submission, and it shows. The building's best feature is that it would blend with Dallas architecture, while still going a few steps further and not letting the viewer forget that it produces its own energy and food.
The building would have a rainwater collection system, solar panels, public orchards, community gardens, private planter boxes, a ground level courtyard for agricultural and public open space, a tower with open air terraces, townhouses on a spiraling podium base, and micro-retail facing the green way.
The architects also plan to make the structure bike and pedestrian friendly by creating routes that will integrate into the greater city of Dallas and decrease reliance on cars.
Further harmonizing it with its surroundings, developers hope to connect it with neighboring areas such as the farmer’s market and the Trinity River.
A danger with designing the first sustainable block in the world is that few people want to live in what looks like a giant solar power plant, despite its array of eco-friendly amenities. The David Baker design balances sustainability and sophistication.
The top three finalists will receive a consultation with Central Dallas CDC, and construction would begin in fall of 2010, depending on the economy.
Holly LaFon has written and worked for various local publications including D Magazine and Examiner.