In its golden era of the late 1800s, Galveston was the largest city in Texas, and one of the busiest ports in the United States. Galveston is also known for having been the first Texas city with gas lighting, and again the first to have electric lighting. It had the first post office and the first telephone. It had the first bakery, and the first opera house. It had the first naval base, the first medical school, and the first Roman Catholic Cathedral. Galveston was an international city and, in many ways, the true heart of Texas.
And then, on September 8, 1900, Galveston was battered by what still stands as the deadliest natural disaster to strike this country, known 100 years later as the Great Storm. The city made valiant efforts to rebuild, including constructing a seawall and raising the grade of the island in places, but it never fully regained its former prominence and prosperity.
The Great Storm of 1900 is likely not the last catastrophic storm we’ll see — in Galveston, or in Texas, as evidenced by Hurricanes Ike, Harvey, and others. In Texas today, we find ourselves facing a number of extraordinary, stormlike transformations that will take place over the next few decades — not only in weather and climate, but in population, age, and demographics, as well as technology and construction — transformations that will lead to opportunities for, as well as the need for, our profession.
Recognizing these impending changes, we have developed a theme for the Texas Society of Architects 80th Annual Conference & Design Expo: Immersion. In Galveston, on October 24–26, we will have the opportunity to break from our demanding schedules and immerse ourselves in design, the technical aspects of practice, and opportunities for inspiration. For a moment, we can join our conference community and absorb the local environment. We can take time to contemplate our remarkable profession — its many facets, its diversity of practitioners, and its ever-expanding and fascinating body of work. We can reflect on where we’ve been, as individuals and as a profession, and think seriously about where we’re headed. We can open our ears, eyes, and minds.
In Galveston, we will consider all of this through the lenses of knowledge, resilience, and inclusion.
Knowledge: Whether we are seasoned practitioners or emerging professionals, we must continually educate ourselves in this rapidly changing world to remain technically competent, to be challenged by new ideas, and to be inspired by the work of others. We learn mostly from each other, both inside the profession and from those outside it. This year’s conference promises a wide array of opportunities to do so, through a lineup of keynotes, tours, continuing education sessions, the Expo floor, and much more.
Resilience: Architects have both the opportunity and the challenge to prepare society for an assortment of coming influences: disruptive technologies, new materials, energy and climate challenges, and more. Population growth and accelerating urbanization will drive unprecedented demand for expanded, resilient infrastructure and city fabric, as well as increased demand for finite global resources. Our relevance and our value as a profession will depend upon whether we respond to these challenges and begin to lead.
Inclusion: The future of our profession will require all of us, working together, to embrace our indispensable role in the built environment. We will need all the skills and talents we can assemble, and we must therefore expand access into and within the profession. Collaborative opportunities will multiply across an increasing number of professions and disciplines, at an accelerating pace. Today’s practice leaders must share knowledge and insight with, provide opportunity for, and actively engage emerging professionals.
Our 2019 Conference is the perfect place to begin moving forward with all three of these imperatives. Join us in Galveston as we immerse ourselves in this new world of possibility.
D. Michael Hellinghausen, AIA, is a principal and COO of OMNIPLAN in Dallas, and the 2019 TxA president.