[Photo by Corie Spruill / www.moabphotographer.com]

Look around you. At this very moment, you are likely surrounded by a built environment. That could be your home, a local business or on Main Street. For a large majority of our lives, we are immersed in architecture, even those of us who spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors. Buildings are more than just a means for shelter, they are a stage for our lives. Thus, the question “Why is design important?” is relevant to each of us.

That’s why I will be helping to compile regular columns here in the Moab Sun News focusing on design to increase our collective knowledge and grow curiosity about the principles of design, architecture and art in our region.

Quality architecture and design progresses with time and pushes communities and societies to be healthier, more efficient, and more enjoyable for their inhabitants. As our own community continues to grow, we have an opportunity (and arguably a responsibility) to take design seriously and ensure that our architecture is reflective of our time and culture.

I believe there are three concepts in particular that we should be focusing on fostering in new construction and renovations:

Aesthetics. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a beautiful aesthetic is relative to location. The design of a building in the snowy, cold climate of Park City requires a different roof slope and exterior material finish than what we need in the high desert climate of Moab. Do the colors, material and form fit into their location? I believe that red desert colored stone, metal and stucco with deep overhangs and low roof slopes fit in well here. They blend in with the landscape and they stand up to strong wind and the beating sun. On the same hand, a low slope roof doesn’t waste valuable interior space in order to shed heavy snow that we only get sporadically.

Context. “Vernacular” architecture responds specifically to the history of its location. For example, using dry-stacked regionally quarried stone could reference the Indigenous buildings that are scattered throughout Bears Ears and Canyonlands. In my opinion, responding to modern societal context is equally important. In contemporary neighborhoods, privacy is just as critical as fostering community interaction. For example, large porches and green space can distance your home from the road for seclusion but can double as front yard communal areas to enjoy with friends and family.

Sustainability. Conversations about renewable energy, reducing water use and reusing waste are common today, particularly in Moab. There are a handful of affordable but consequential ways you can incorporate these concepts into your existing home or your future home design. Even small efforts like replacing all of the lightbulbs in your home with LEDs or installing low flow shower and faucet heads add up. More drastically, considering installing solar panels, a gray water system for landscape irrigation or starting a garden for using your compost can have even larger long-term impacts on the environment and your utility bills.

Moab is a resilient, intelligent, and nuanced community that cherishes our natural surroundings; I believe our buildings should reflect that. I challenge you to join in on the conversation and develop your own opinion! As you are driving around town, take notice of the development underway around you. Ask these questions: Is this building responding to the context of their neighborhood? Is it elevating the aesthetic of its surroundings? Is it incorporating sustainable technology? Is it responsive to our Moab culture?

You have the ability to impart some of these ideas to your own home and future projects. You also have the ability to take notice and speak up at city and county planning commission and council meetings as new construction is in the planning phases.

Voice your opinion. Demand quality design. Insist that sustainable technology is incorporated.

Come spring 2021, I will be helping to provide monthly in-person speaking events so you can dive in deeper and be a part of the conversation. Stay tuned for more information on the “Wine & Design” series!

Courtney Kizer is the owner of the local design firm, Architectural Squared. A^2 is focused on providing thoughtful design for the Moab regional community.