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    Another favorite travel destination, Montreal is exemplary in its ability to cultivate a public streetlife that is enhanced by many privately owned establishments. - photo by Derwin Broughton, AIA, NOMA

As I walked into Bar Dei Teatri, a cozy pub near Piazza Corvetto in Genoa, Italy, I was greeted by a friendly bartender who was chatting with a group of elderly regulars. His wife, sitting behind the cash register, handed me the piadina, a flatbread sandwich, that I had ordered from her husband. I do not speak much Italian, but I could sense that this small space was a hub of social activity and connection for the neighborhood.

This past year during my president-elect visits, I had the privilege of meeting many of you — our members — in similar kinds of social spaces across Texas. In our conversations in places ranging from the rooftop of Grain Theory in Abilene to the corporate boardroom of Texas Regional Bank in Harlingen, I have been exposed to the diverse and unique voices of our state. We have shared our professional and personal stories, our local challenges and opportunities, and our vision for the future of architecture. These types of spaces, often called “third places,” are essential for fostering community well-being, as they provide a platform for interaction, identity, information, and inclusion. They can be churches, cafes, bars, clubs, community centers, libraries, gyms, parks, or even front porches and stoops. They are different for every community and every person, and sadly, not everyone has access to them.

The threat of the loss of these third places is real. Our natural beaches are being eroded; churches are going into foreclosure; public parks are suffering from lack of funding; and public gyms are in competition with franchise health clubs. Our public libraries are reinventing themselves as our society moves into an increasingly digital realm. Local restaurants and pubs are still recovering from the pandemic, while services like Uber Eats and Door Dash have made it very convenient to avoid engagement with a human being. Our face-to-face interactions have been replaced by virtual meetings and social media. 

As architects, we have had to adjust to this new reality as we’ve learned to collaborate with our clients and stakeholders through online platforms and digital tools. We have had to remain agile and innovative in our practice and our profession. Despite this required paradigm shift, we also have the power and the responsibility to create and advocate for third places that promote social cohesion, civic engagement, and cultural diversity. These are pillars of resiliency, which is one of TxA’s strategic priorities. Resiliency is not only about adapting to natural disasters, but also about creating a sense of belonging, trust, and mutual support. By designing places that invite people to connect, share, and learn from each other, we can help build a more resilient and vibrant Texas.

The importance of third places is a vital topic around which we as architects, designers, and emerging professionals can continue to elevate the conversation. I look forward to working with you as we continue to address the unique challenges of our profession continue, build on the legacy of our predecessors, and advance our strategic plan. Each of our strategic priorities — equity, prosperity of the profession, public understanding, resiliency, and professional development — are interconnected and interdependent, and they all rely on our ability to create and sustain meaningful relationships with each other and with our communities. 

Tangential to this is our overarching mission of advocating for the profession. The steps, hallways, cafes, and meeting rooms of the State Capitol have been key areas of pause to interface with our representatives, senators, and affiliated staffers. This year I am challenging each member to get out into your community and to build upon the relationship with your local legislators right in your very own backyards. 2024 shall be a year on — and not seen as a year off — as we utilize our time, resources, and third places to foster stronger connections with elected officials.

Much like the patrons of Bar Dei Teatri are all connected, we are tied together in a web of relationships woven together with places of interface and interaction. I am extremely grateful for the visionary leadership of our past presidents and boards. The foundation has been laid, and it is our challenge to continue the work through thoughtful planning and execution. 

Derwin Broughton, AIA, NOMA, is a vice president at KAI Enterprises in Dallas and the 2024 TxA president.

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