Friday, April 15, 2011

Extremity Bias

I could be completely making up a new word or concept, but not one that is unusual or particular to Dallas. Although, I might suggest it is far more prevalent (but, that just might be my availability bias speaking).

One of my biggest pet peaves is the notion, "omigod, Dallas is so hot! No one will ever [insert walk/bike/dine at cafes]." This is especially grating from a transplanted yankee who moved here precisely because of the weather. I don't think I like hot weather any more than the next person, but I friggin' hate cold, damp weather.

The reality is that Dallas weather is great for at least 6 months out of the year and that cafe culture is a huuuuuge part of Dallas, at least, in the places that have a modicum of walkability. You have assignment. This weekend, go to Lower Greenville, Henderson, Knox-Henderson, McKinney Avenue, Allen & State/Thomas, Main Street, Bishop Arts, and tell me there aren't people and chairs and tables spilling out onto the streets.

I was at the Nodding Donkey a few weekends ago and loved the place. The design of the addition added to the previous restaurant made the old building effectively the back of house. The new front blurs the lines of inside and out while successfully bringing together two of Dallas's favorite things, sports and outdoor drinking. When I was there the crowd was so thick people spilled into the streets. Across the street at TABC, they've begun to line the walls of their building and patio with tables out on the sidewalk. But, nobody wants to be outside in Dallas. The weather sucks.

How many cities have as many 70 degree and sunny days as Dallas does? San Diego? LA under a shroud of smog? The list pretty much begins and ends right there. Yet if it is anything but precisely that we bitch and moan and build a city around climate controlled environment at all times.

If Dallas was built to be in Dallas would we have so much paving, radiating more heat, and creating the dreaded "heat island effect?" Would we have so many mirrored glass buildings reflecting sunlight onto the unshaded sidewalks below amplifying ambient temperatures? Oh, I forgot that reflective glass is supposedly green in the facile world of LEED construction. Would everything be so far apart, thereby abdicating the role of a designer to create micro-climates that are comfortable since we never have to be outside of air conditioning? Can we afford to make those trips as gas prices round $4/gal. and head for $5 despite being already incredibly deflated via a cadre of subsidies?

Go to Vancouver or Copenhagen or Milan. These are some truly dreary cities from a climate standpoint. But you know what, you rarely even think about it because the rest of the city more than makes up for it.