NSF SUS Grant 2019

The overarching goal of the Future Cities, Livable Futures: Toward a Sustainable Model for Urban-Watershed Systems conference was to bring together cross-disciplinary experts to step out of their disciplinary roles and be part of a cross-disciplinary, holistic exploration of urban watershed systems involving the different representatives of governmental and non-governmental agencies, engineers, designers, developers and community members to collectively explore how to create sustainable futures in cities and communities that exist along urban watersheds.

The conference provided a great platform to introduce cross-disciplinary dialogues around sustainable urban-watershed management and explore best practices to explain and better understand the different factors that interact to form an urban-watershed system. As the human population continues growing, cities across the globe need to address the challenges and opportunities of urban watersheds via a systems approach that integrates cross-sectoral perspectives of science, engineering, design, planning and policy making while incorporating input from citizens along the watershed.

The public conference was held at the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA) at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) on August 16-17, 2019. The first day was the conference (144 attendees, 11 speakers, 3 panels with a total of 16 panelists) and the second day was an invited workshop (for 35 participants representing multiple disciplines).

A professional graphic facilitator was constantly translating the conversation into graphic boards which reflected the complexities of the discussions. On Friday, four boards were produced reflecting the speakers and each of the panel discussions (Water and Flooding, Nature and Real Estate, Watershed Urbanism). On Saturday, the workshop participants went through a process called “Identifying Vantage Points” to identify the Tasks, Logistics, Tactics, Strategy, Policy, Culture and Philosophy associated with Watershed Urbanism. They also developed an updated set of goals for the future development of Watershed Urbanism:


  • To collectively unpack and build the concept of Watershed Urbanism


  • To generate a common lexicon around the watershed urbanism discourse.
  • To collaboratively investigate and build an understanding of watershed urbanism with a cross-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder group.
  • To engage with the Trinity River Watershed as a touchpoint for building a broader model of Watershed Urbanism.

The results of the conference included:

  • A Professional Graphic Facilitator created a live visual representation of the conference topics and how they interconnected. These have been displayed in the UTA CAPPA building since the event.
  • The conference visuals and outcomes will be featured in an exhibition on “Water and Human Settlements” that Parr was invited to curate as part of the European Cultural Center’s exhibitions that are held in conjunction with the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. This international exhibition occurs every two years with approximately 600,000 international visitors. The exhibition was to be installed in May 2020 and run through the end of November 2020, but has now been delayed to 2021.
  • The UNESCO head office in Paris will be using the visuals to be incorporated into the Water and Human Settlements report.
  • The data from the conference contributed to the UTA “Water and Human Settlements” fall 2019 architecture studios to further their research on water issues in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area. There were a series of 4 architecture studios that addressed the issues of Watershed Urbanism. Approximately 60 undergraduate and graduate architecture students were able to research and learn about issues of watershed urbanism. The results were projects that addressed the future of the DFW region along the Trinity River Watershed.
  • The Trinity Park Conservancy has created a group of industry and governmental leaders from the DFW area to address watershed urbanism in the region. Dean Parr is a member of this group.
  • The University of Texas at Arlington leads the Regional Centre of Expertise North Texas. We are part of the United Nations University (UNU) Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS). The 2019 Future Cities; Livable Futures event received an award from the Global RCE Service Centre for the “Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Project” competition. According to the Global RCE Service Centre, the event was awarded as follows:
    • “Acknowledged Flagship Project for its role in contributing to SDG 15: Life on Land. This award is given annually to RCEs that have made outstanding contributions to address local sustainable development challenges in their regions.”
  • Information and results from the conference shared publicly through the Future Cities website.