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    PHOTO BY: Hargreaves Associates, Courtesy Page

By 2050, demographers tell us that Texas will have experienced a radical transformation in its population, in almost every important characteristic. For starters, there will likely be twice as many of us as there were in 2010. If that isn’t mind-boggling enough, consider that, as a whole, we will be far more ethnically diverse and quite a bit older, and that three-fourths of our soaring population will live in our cities.

So, the Texas we think we know is quickly disappearing. This isn’t my opinion; it’s what the data tell us is going to happen — it is, in fact, already happening. It’s not a question of whether we want this or not, or of whether it’s going to be good or bad for our state. It just is.
My question is not, “Who will Texans be?” — we already know: We will be so numerous that we may have surpassed California in total population. According to the 2014 book, “Changing Texas,” we will be predominantly Hispanic: The 2050 breakdown is expected to be 55 percent Hispanic, 22 percent white, 9 percent black, and 14 percent other (at 2000 – 2010 net migration levels). We will be mostly urban, as I’ve said. We will be considerably older, with as many as one-fourth over 65 years of age, compared to about 12 percent today. And finally, based on the studies available, it is likely that we will be poorer and less educated than we are today.

My question to all of you is, “Who will we be as architects?” The opportunity is coming our way to be a visible, creative, irrepressible force for good, provided we have looked up from the pressing duties of our project work to see that this new world is arriving.

Will we be relevant?

The coming demand for planning and design expertise will be unprecedented. The critical needs within our growing communities will also be unprecedented. Those most affected by these growing needs will be the least able to access or pay for this expertise.
This radically increased population will strain our aged and inadequate infrastructure, our municipal services, and our housing. It is time now to plan and advocate for more efficient energy and transportation systems. Towns and cities must begin to prepare for exploding demand on city utilities and services. We must begin to envision and develop more creative, robust, and resilient solutions to a woefully insufficient housing supply in the face of this inevitable density. We must energize our community design efforts with a genuine sense of urgency. As architects, we are able to imagine, and so we can design for, an even more wonderful and vibrant Texas than we have today, but we must get about that work now.

Our state is changing, undeniably. The demographic studies have been done and continue to be updated. It is clear these changes are coming, and that daunting challenges are coming with them. Whether, and how, we respond to these imminent challenges will define who we are as a profession, whom we serve, and — in the end — whether we matter.

D. Michael Hellinghausen, AIA, is a principal and COO of OMNIPLAN in Dallas, and the 2019 TxA president.

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