Contributed by:
Andrew Barnes
AIA

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Dallas Festival of Ideas

With a multi-faceted approach, organizers create a holistic picture of urban revitalization.

Dallas is a city which loves BIG ideas. It is apparent in the landmarks we create, the plans we adopt, and the way we see ourselves in the world. The Dallas Festival of Ideas, which took place this past weekend was designed to "help shape the city of the future by igniting, uniting and energizing the people of Dallas through the power of ideas." It recognized the enormous energy and potential that Dallas possesses as it is moving towards the future. It sought to capitalize upon that by providing the spark of motivation, to facilitate the beginning of new efforts aimed at improving our city. 

At the kick-off event, attendees were presented with five (big) ideas that can help draw the city together to create a more united, innovative, and connected city.I appreciated the multi-faceted approach the organizers took with preparing the content for the festival. Architects can at times, become pre-occupied with architectural or planning propositions as the solution to many of the city's problems. The reality is that no one approach will bring about the full desired effect. It is through many approaches and varied avenues that the city can be knit back together and become a truly vibrant place. I very much enjoyed learning of ways that digital technologies and connectivity can foster increased investment by citizens and clearer communication between citizens and government, how creating a supportive infrastructure for teaching can drastically improve education, how a simple book festival can bring together disparate elements of a community. 

Below is a summary of the major ideas and results from the smaller panel discussion sessions. 

The Physical City
Move away from old "hub-and-spoke" conception of city organization. Innovation increases when people are clustered. Leverage the large amount of un-developed or underdeveloped land in and around dallas' urban core to create a vibrant technology community.

The Cultural City
Create a Dallas Book Festival! This has had resounding success in many cities across the country. Don't try to tackle political or humanitarian issues, just use it to bring people together.

The Innovative City
Healthy cities have a robust digital life. Communication between city and residents can be facilitated by apps, websites. Residents need ways to communicate effectively with the City. Create a "Chief Digital Officer" for Dallas.

The Political City
Take the force of racism more seriously. Address the factors that perpetuate our current segregation and marginalization of minorities, specifically African Americans.

The Educated City
We need to understand teaching. We treat it as a private act, teachers are left isolated in their classrooms. They spend all their time grading. We need to recognize teaching as a public good and create an infrastructure to support teachers (ex: lesson banks, the study of different teaching methods, visit other teachers teaching). Japan is an example of a country with a developed infrastructure for teaching.
 

In closing, Bishop TD Jakes perhaps put it best: "There are too many smart people in this city to not be able to fix things." All it takes is people rallying behind a common cause. The organizers of this festival intend to make this an annual event, so look out for next year's festival of ideas. Hopefully then we will be able to look back at the progress we've made in the meantime.