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E d i t o r ’ s N o t e

Fierce Competition Search for work in Texas intensifies as nationwide recession puts focus on a relative bright spot The effects of the economic downturn are now clearly apparent across the state. The evidence is rendered in less-than-optimistic forecasts as firms cautiously plan for 2010. The recession is brought into sharper relief when compared with the robust business climate enjoyed by design professionals for a decade prior to last year’s fourth quarter. With more downtime than anticipated, many firms are going to greater lengths to keep their troops busy. That may be one reason why TSA received a record number of entries (370) in its 2009 Design Awards program. This edition highlights the 12 projects recognized with Design Awards. The eight unbuilt projects selected for Studio Awards will be featured in the Nov/Dec issue. Another result of the recession is the increased attention on Texas, a relative bright spot in the current economic picture. The competition for institutional and governmental projects in particular has intensified, with out-of-state firms now vying for jobs in places previously not on their radar. “As far as the number of submittals, there’s been a substantial pickup in responses in the last six months compared to last year. We’ve been getting 25 to 30 submittals where we were in the eight-to-nine range when things were going great,” says Dan Kennedy, director of project planning for Texas A&M System’s Facilities Planning and Construction Department. He adds, “We have seen an increase in interest from out-of-state firms, mainly from the Northeast and from the West Coast. And there are a lot of in-state firms I’ve never heard of before.” A news article on p. 17 of this edition further illustrates the lengths to which firms are willing to go to land big contracts, specifically two healthcare projects for Bexar County with a combined budget of $899 million. To select an architect for the projects, both located in San Antonio, an RFQ issued

P r e s e n t a t io n m a t e r i -

Photo courtesy University Health System

als from the University Health System’s recent competition included detailed plans and models. Designs submit ted by seven teams were dis-

in January solicited interest from teams to participate in a “design challenge.” Seven teams were ultimately invited, three for the $778 million University Hospital and four for the $121 million University Health Center–Downtown. There was one extraordinary stipulation, that the client would retain ownership of all the designs and pay stipends ($100,000 for the larger project and $50,000 for the smaller) to the teams who failed to win the commissions. Underscoring this unusual aspect of the competition was the client’s stated objective to choose the best teams rather than the best schemes. In fact, officials with the University Health System (the entity that operates facilities for the Bexar County Hospital District) expect to build both projects based on final designs that may include parts of each of the submittals. A lso significant to this story is the amount of time and effort each of the teams put into their presentations, including detailed plans and models to demonstrate their responses to the functional aspects of the projects. A look at the materials makes it obvious that the expense far exceeded the amount of the stipends, which were divided among the various members of each losing team. And the public had an extended opportunity to view those drawings and models while they were displayed at the Center for Architecture, an exhibit sponsored by the Architecture Foundation of San Antonio. All of those designs, of course, are now publicly owned through the hospital district, which loaned the materials for the display that was scheduled to close on Sept. 2 after a two-month showing. “We wanted to exhibit these so the public could look at the designs and be informed about the future of their health care,” says David Lake, FAIA, the foundation’s president. “I’d hate for all this to be put in a warehouse.” [Lake is also a principal of Lake/Flato Architects, one of the local firms that teamed with Anshen + Allen of San Francisco. That team unsuccessfully competed for both of the projects.] Unfortunately, while the public may exit the exhibit with a broader understanding of options for healthcare facilities, very little information is included that describes how the process unfolded or explains that the contests did not conform to the guidelines outlined in the AIA’s Handbook of Architectural Design Competitions. Lake notes that the timeline in preparing the exhibit did not allow for comprehensive explanatory text. “Ideally, you should be debating the process and the long-term value of the design that the community is getting,” he says. S t e p h e n

S h a r p e

t e x a s

a r c h i t e c t

played at the Center for Architecture in San Antonio in July and August.

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Texas Architect Sept/Oct 2009: Design Awards  

This issue features the 12 projects awarded with the Texas Society of Architects' 2009 Design Awards. Texas Architect, the official publicat...

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