2014 Design Conference: Borderlands

Architecture Tours and Learning Opportunities
31 January – 2 February
Austin, Texas


Our Third Annual Design Conference: Borderlands took place in Austin on January 31–February 2, 2014. You can see the full schedule of events below. To read more about what happened and to see photos from the conference, check out the following reports:

Reflections | Design Conference 2014

BLOG | DesCon 2014 Held in Austin



Texas is often described as a country unto itself. If it were, it would have the 14th largest economy in the world by GDP (ahead of South Korea and the Netherlands). In the national rankings, our economy sits between those of California and New York. We are second (again behind California) in population, at just over 26,000,000, and if current trends continue, we will be the largest state by the middle of the century. Architecture here provides enormous opportunities, and we have a culture of building and construction unlike any other place in the world. But we are surrounded by other states and share a border with a sovereign nation — these are a unique set of places with their own vibrant cultures and environments. They form our "Borderlands."   

During our Third Annual Design Conference, we will explore and discuss the architecture of these borderlands with prominent architects who live in those places and have prospered creating distinctive responses to their unique environments. Join us for three wonderful days in Austin, where we will hear from a world-class group of speakers, tour inspiring buildings, and enjoy fellowship with our peers.



Keynoters for our 2014 Design Conference include:

  • Marlon Blackwell, FAIA

    Marlon Blackwell Architect (Fayetteville, Ark.)
  • Rand Elliott, FAIA

    Elliott + Associates Architects (Oklahoma City)
  • Victor Legorreta

    Legorreta + Legorreta (Mexico City)
  • Victor Trahan, FAIA

    Trahan Architects (New Orleans)



Friday, January 31

2:00 PM   Rio Grande Ballroom: Rand Elliott, FAIA, presentation – 1.5 LUH
3:30 PM   Break
4:00 PM   Tour of Lake Austin Home by Lake|Flato – 1.5 LUH HSW
6:00 PM   Reception at Liz Welch Tirrell Residence
7:30 PM   Dinner at Torchy’s Tacos (1311 S. First St.)
9:00 PM   Bus returns to Marriot Austin Downtown/Convention Center

Saturday, February 1

9:30 AM    Rio Grande Ballroom: Victor Legorreta presentation – 1.5 LUH
11:00 AM  Break
11:30 AM  Rio Grande Ballroom: Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, presentation – 1.5 LUH HSW
1:00 PM    Lunch at Marriot Austin Downtown/Convention Center
2:30 PM   Tour of The University of Texas at Austin East Campus – 2 LUH HSW
5:30 PM    Dinner at Threadgill’s (301 W. Riverside Dr.)
7:30 PM    Bus returns to Marriot Austin Downtown/Convention Center

Sunday, February 2

10:00 AM  Guadalupe Room: Victor Trahan, FAIA, presentation – 1.5 LUH



Marriot Austin Downtown/Convention Center
300 E. 4th Street
Austin, TX 78701



All events take place at the Marriot Austin Downtown/Convention Center, 300 E. 4th St., Austin, Texas, 78702. All tours will depart from and return to this location. Those who are not staying at the Marriot may valet at the hotel for $16+ tax, or self-park for $9 for 3 hours, $16 for 6 hours, or $23 for 6+ hours. There is also more affordable city parking available at 379 Red River St., and at the Austin Convention Center, 600 E. 4th St.


Read a wrap-up of our 2013 Design Conference: Collections, held in Dallas on Feb. 22-24. 

Article Resources

Talk About It

About 3 years ago: Andrew Gary Hawkins

Is there any news on the registration opening for this event?

About 3 years ago: Monica Cavazos Mendez

Hi Andrew,

Registration will open next week.

About 3 years ago: Anonymous

I am one of several practicing architecture in Laredo, Texas, the nexus of the NAFTA Corridor, at the center of the largest land port in the US, and the only truly bi-cultural grey zone in the country. We who have practiced here on this international border know all its intricacies and potential, and know more about this border and the "borderlands" that has now become the Texas AIA's muse for the "design conference". Please tell me which speaker in your conference can speak with any erudition about the Texas- Mexican border. You muse about this area of the world, but do not look to learn from the architects who have contributed the most.

About 3 years ago: Anonymous

The Texas-Mexico border, spanning 1,954 miles from the Texas-New Mexican border to the Gulf of Mexico, is the only truly bi-cultural border in the country. Both cultures meld together forming a cultural grey zone, which is an important topic because if it is not understood. The Borderlands conference could have shed light on eronious ideas that have lead to misinformed decision making for the area.

I am surprised that a Texas border architect representing the Tex-Mex border is not on the list of keynote speakers for this conference. I am skeptical that any of the speakers can comment with real understanding on the intricacies and potential of the Tex-Mex border because it takes a person who lives and works on the border "and who has prospered creating distinctive responses to their unique environments" to truly be able to speak about it.

Laredo, Texas, as an example of a bi-cultural borderland metropolis, is at the nexus of the north-south NAFTA Corridor and the largest land port of the US. It was established more than 20 years before the American Declaration of Independence was signed. For architects in Laredo, the border region has been their muse for a very long time. Yet border region architects have often been overlooked due to some perceived bias about the border. Border architects look at Texas Architect magazine and see this area sorely underrepresented. An architect from the Texas-Mexico border could have contributed profound insight into that Texas border region, and could have made the Borderlands conference far more successful.

About 3 years ago: Robert Bennett


Thank you for your comments and insight. The title "Borderlands" relates to all of the states and countries that border Texas, not just the US-Mexico border. The title was selected to reflect the large geographic entity that is Texas and the number of other entities that neighbor us. It’s an inclusive term that covers four states and one country, all of which border Texas, and was not intended to be a discussion of any one of those entities and their relationship to Texas.

We hope this helps somewhat. Texas is an extremely large state that includes a huge, huge array of regions and identities. What we hoped to accomplish with "Borderlands" was not the definitive analysis of any one region or any one border, but rather a sample of the architectural and cultural cross-pollination that's made possible by Texas's expansive reach.

Also, you expressed concern that the area is underrepresented in the pages of Texas Architect. We definitely agree, and our editorial staff has been working to address this: the current issue (Jan/Feb 2014) has three articles focused on the border: a photo essay by Victoria Sambunaris depicting the climate and effects of trade along the border; a feature on the Paisano Green Community, El Paso's first net zero, LEED Platinum certified low-income senior housing community, and an online article by Stephen Fox on the most recent Lower Rio Grande Valley AIA Tour. In addition, our publications committee, which helps steer the magazine, is pleased to welcome a new member from McAllen this year: Sam Garcia, AIA.

Thank you,

Robert Bennett, Convention and Membership

About 3 years ago: Al Loya AIA

I'm disappointed that TSA would have a conference titled Borderlands and the speakers are not from Texas, with the exception of Lake-Flato. As well as ignoring the real border of Texas along Mexico....El Paso, Laredo, etc.

IMO not worth attending.

About 3 years ago: Dean Tidwell AIA

I am coming into this conversation late, but I just learned of this and went to register and learned I missed the 15th cutoff date to register since today is the 30th.

The topic spans 3 days (over Superbowl weekend at that), the $600 dollar price for the time seems excessive, since most AIA members I would believe are saving up to attend the annual convention.

Nonetheless, I will not be attending, but ponder what if I just got in my car and drove in a huge circle around Texas for three days and took a zillion photos and made a scrapbook, would I have the essence of the "borderlands"? - enjoy Dean

BTW- I have attended Marlon Blackwells FAIA lectures before (2012) and they are worth the time! He and his wife really do embrace the best of the profession.