As I made my Texas World Tour last year as president-elect, visiting all of our 18 chapters and sections, I probably met many of you. I learned a great deal from those visits. I am grateful for the wonderful hospitality I encountered everywhere, and the insightful conversations we had — you are truly a passionate Texas Society of Architects.
I have come to think of myself as a messenger this year. And while I am still learning, and discerning, I do intend for us to work toward an understanding of two important changes I see coming our way. My message is for the profession of the near future, and it is two-part — one internal and one external.
Half of the world’s population, naturally, is female. Slightly more than half of the students in architecture school today are women. So why are not half of our firm leaders women? Why is less than one quarter of our TxA membership women? “Where is she?” as they say in the San Antonio chapter.
We must work on our diversity — not only in gender, but in all other aspects as well — in color, ethnicity, age, and talent. The next decade will see the continuing departure of many older professionals and firm leaders. We are greatly indebted to them for stewarding our firms, and our TxA, to this point. We must now begin to reach out, and down, and pull others up into the profession. The health, and even the relevance, of our profession depends upon it. This will be as important as the work we do for the built environment.
The second part of my message concerns our external, planetary environment. The coming decade will challenge us to think differently about what we create, why we create it, and our duty to those affected by our work.
Serious changes are afoot. Our planet’s climate is deteriorating, perhaps irreversibly. We already see extreme weather becoming rather commonplace. Our oceans are rising, warming, and acidifying. Coastal cities around the globe are already being threatened.
Whether we wish to see it or acknowledge it, this changed environment is causing disturbances that our profession will be called upon to deal with, not merely the obvious warmer temperatures and rising sea levels, but others not so obvious to us here in the U.S. Many regions of the world are running out of water, and thus experiencing food scarcity and civil unrest. Many of these people must eventually migrate — they will have no choice. The sad and scary truth is that all species on earth — animal and plant — are already moving toward the north and south poles.
Let us not sit idly by as others step up to deal with, and design for, all of this. Not only does our AIA Code of Ethics require it, but our unique ability to imagine and create the future makes us the most important problem-solvers here. Our profession will soon face choices that will determine whether we are relevant to this future.
These messages may not be ones we want to hear — they challenge who we are, and who we will be. Nevertheless, we must be about the business of bettering ourselves and our profession, and that includes educating ourselves on these difficult and uncomfortable issues.
I grew up in West Texas, surrounded by a large family. We listened to each other, and we valued each other — we each had a unique and valuable contribution to make. The same is true of our profession, and of our TxA. Each of our 18 chapters and sections is utterly unique, with its own valuable perspective, and contribution to make to our great state. And each of us, individually, has something to contribute.
We will listen to each other and value what each of us can offer. We must begin that work of truly understanding each other and the planet we live on.
I look forward to seeing you in Galveston this coming October, but I expect to have many enlightening encounters with you before then. Thank you for this opportunity to serve as president of our Texas Society of Architects.
D. Michael Hellinghausen, AIA, is a principal and COO of OMNIPLAN in Dallas, and the 2019 TxA President.