Whether act of God or a superior force, our society responds to and prepares for Force-Majeure scenarios on many different scales. It has become increasingly obvious in the past year that disasters, both natural and human-made, exacerbate inequities in our society by unequally limiting access to healthcare, green spaces, fresh food, transportation, and education for our most vulnerable populations. Strengthening our communities allows us to be more resilient in the face of future Force Majeure scenarios. How can we as design professionals help support and provide care for the most vulnerable groups of people in our society? AIA Austin's DesignVoice Committee, in partnership with AIA Austin COTE, propose Force-Majeure, a design competition that addresses contemporary issues that are impacting our lives.

This edition of the Force Majeure Design Idea Competition challenged teams to identify an issue local to them that one of three selected principles of the Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Equitable Communities; Design for Water; or Design for Well-being might ameliorate and propose a solution that embodies the chosen principle. The designs submitted will not only propose solutions to concrete issues but also explore the relationship between global crises and smaller, actionable local design interventions.  DOWNLOAD THE CONCEPT BRIEF for further details.

FIRST PRIZE Taylor’s Path: A Journey Through Austin’s Pedestrian Realm
Team: Kevin Howard, Nicole Joslin, Uttara Ramakrishnan, Tho Tran

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Principle: Design for Equitable Communities

Statement of Specific Local Issue: Austin is positioned to make historic investments in creating a more affordable and connected community. These investments have the power to either reconcile systemic underinvestment in historically marginalized communities or continue to perpetuate spatial and social injustices within our built environment. The public space between buildings and roads - the pedestrian realm - is largely where these injustices play out day-to-day. Inadequate public access networks in an auto-dependent environment leads to disproportionately poorer life outcomes for those who rely on sidewalk connectivity and public transportation to navigate our city. Today, the pedestrian realm in Austin is regulated by outdated standards and procedures that contradict the public’s current vision for our community to be a beacon of sustainability, social equity, and economic opportunity. One of the most divisive issues facing our community, today, is the dichotomy between what Austin’s urban environment will look like in 20 years following today’s public realm design policies versus the vision Imagine Austin had set out for a compact and connected community. This disparity stands to widen with Austin’s current $7.1B+ investment in transit networks and the $350M+ investment in affordable housing development if current design policies go unchanged.

Jury Statement: This project, far-and-away, provided the best place- and data-based rationale for a tangible design and policy solution with impact across a variety of resilience indicators - from urban heat island and racial justice and equity, to public health, and more.

HONORABLE MENTION Expiration Date of Temporary
Team: Merve Osal, Sami Yilmaz

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Principle: Design for Well-being

Statement of Specific Local Issue: It is the expiration of the time spent in temporary living spaces of people who have left their homes for natural or unnatural reasons. It is a study of reflection, research and proposal on unhealthy building envelopes and private open spaces to improve the lives of people living in long-term temporary living spaces, such as tent cities. Everyone deserves to live in a healthy home.

Jury Statement: The Expiration Date of Temporary project submittal addresses the problem that temporary emergency housing is not temporary at all, with a creative prefabricated design solution that utilizes empty spaces as a community gathering and vernacular wall units reflect the place. The solution meets the problem statement and then generated discussions about how we would have liked the submittal to address policies related to “temporary” housing in addition to design. 



Conceptual Design of Post-Epidemic x Public Housing in Hong Kong
Team: He Haonan, Liang Qiaofei

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Principle: Design for Well-being

Statement of Specific Local Issue: The high density of living population and the shortage of living space in Hong Kong contradict the social distance required by infectious diseases

Jury Statement: This is a very compelling design with a great deal of thought put to solving two pressing problems. We recommend further thought into the social and equity implications of needed versus necessary space. 

Green Lung
Team: Qing Wang, Bo Wang

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Principle: Design for Well-being

Statement of Specific Local Issue: Lack of vitality in the waterfront communities of Austin

Jury Statement: This project provided a deep dive into the urban design of a long-time East Austin industrial site but could have done more to grapple with some key issues both unique to the site as well as to Austin's redevelopment future in general. The jury would have liked to have seen more articulation of the health benefits of developing with green space and water access as a core tenet; more about how equity considerations were integrated into the proposal; and, more about how the existing land uses of the dog's head would transition into innovative future uses.

Out of Sight: Sustainable Dance School and Emergency Social Housing
Team: Luan Fontes, Maria Izabel

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Principle: Design for Well-being

Statement of Specific Local Issue: Lack of decent housing and access to culture

Jury Statement: The design and combination of uses was compelling and well executed. More information connecting the two needs/problems to solve would have been helpful.



Katie Coyne
Environmental Director, City of Austin

Katie Coyne serves as the City of Austin Environmental Officer and Assistant Director of the Watershed Protection Department. She has distinguished herself as a visionary leader in the fields of urban ecology, resilience, sustainability, and social equity. She joined the City from Asakura Robinson, a planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm, where she led the Urban Ecology Studio. Her award-winning practice spanned planning and design disciplines and incorporated resilient design, landscape ecology, plant, health, and climate science, systems thinking, equity-driven process, and other bodies of knowledge with project work on parks, conservation areas, urban landscapes, neighborhood and small area plans, and green infrastructure design. Katie’s combination of education and experience in ecology, planning, and design translates to a deep understanding of how economic, cultural, social, and ecological goals must be balanced across scales for a resilient and equitable future.

Susan McDowell
CEO, Lifeworks

Susan McDowell is the CEO of LifeWorks, an Austin-based organization devoted to fearless advocacy for youth and young adults on their journeys to lives they love and stable futures for themselves and their families. She served on the founding team of LifeWorks in 1998, when four organizations merged with a vision of creating a network of caring individuals and a continuum of services and opportunities to assist youth who have experienced homelessness, foster care, trauma and poverty achieve their dreams. Since founding the organization, it has grown to serve more than 3,000 families annually through multiple locations, more than 20 services, 200 employees and countless volunteers. In the campaign to End Youth Homelessness, Susan helped bring together numerous nonprofits, business, and public agencies to develop Austin’s Coordinated Plan to End Youth Homelessness. Since October of 2018, this plan has resulted in 1034 youth transitioning from literal homelessness to permanent housing. Susan has received numerous recognitions, including the Ernst and Young Central Texas Social Entrepreneur of the Year and the 2020 Austin Chamber of Commerce Austin CEO of the Year award. She participates in numerous civic organizations and regional health and human service planning initiatives, including the Texas Alliance for Child and Family Services. She is a frequent speaker on issues ranging from youth homelessness to organization leadership.
McDowell holds a B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University and the University of Texas at Austin, respectively.

Stephanie Perrone
Technical Project Manager, Austin Energy Green Building

Stephanie Perrone is a contracted Technical Project Manager for the Austin Energy Green Building Program. In her role, she manages project reporting for the residential team and oversees special projects including assisting with rating updates to align with the City of Austin Climate Equity Plan and resilience efforts, administration of an eLearning platform, and assisting with outreach efforts. Before Austin Energy Green Building, she administered HUD-funded infrastructure projects throughout the State of Texas for communities impacted by natural disasters at GrantWorks. Her career also includes two positions she held at Foundation Communities, an affordable housing agency in Austin. Her central roles were developing their nationally recognized green operations program, collaboratively developing their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, leading the agency’s COVID-19 task force, and managing central facility operations. 
Mrs. Perrone holds a Master of Science in Sustainable Design from The University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s in architecture from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. 

Click here to view the past winners.