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Site View of Modular Housing Proposa
Site View of Modular Housing Proposal

Jury of Experts Shortlists CURPR Design Proposal for International Housing Award

August 1, 2022

A jury of leading architects has shortlisted a CURPR design proposal for an international housing award. The Second Annual Modular Home International Competition, sponsored by Buildner, asked participants to submit innovative design proposals for modular housing sites across the globe. Modular systems offer flexible, efficient, and sustainable solutions to the contemporary housing crisis.

CURPR’s proposal, developed in collaboration with landscape architect Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, Founding Partner of LABOR Studio, is located in the Rio Grande Valley, a transborder region that lies in the floodplain of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo River adjacent to the Mexican State of Tamaulipas. The region is home to more than 2,000 colonias–informal, unincorporated settlements that flood regularly and lack civil infrastructure such as sewer systems, paved roads, and potable water. In Texas, 400,000 people live in colonias. Many are migrant workers from Northern Mexico who come for seasonal agricultural jobs. The CURPR submission imagines a farming cooperative that extends modular efficiencies beyond housing to the entire site, unitizing the subdivision of land, utilities, flood control, and food production. 

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LABOR Studio


Proposed Streetscape Improvements along Weslaco's Texas Boulevard
Weslaco City Commission Unanimously Approves New Comprehensive Plan

Weslaco City Commission Unanimously Approves New Comprehensive Plan

July 5, 2022

The Weslaco City Commission unanimously approved CURPR’s 2022 update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. The new document, which establishes a framework for community decision-making through the year 2045, represents sixteen months of collaboration between Weslaco city leaders, UTSA faculty, and Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, Founding Partner of LABOR Studio. Weslaco’s 2022 Comprehensive Plan redefines the City of Weslaco’s growth calculus, expanding the community motto, “City on the Grow,” to include infill, redevelopment, and retrofit strategies. The 2022 Plan prioritizes three critical policy areas: 

Land use planning: The Plan seeks to densify existing neighborhoods with targeted infill development on vacant parcels, especially along transportation corridors and neighborhood seams. It also provides guidelines to revise Subdivision Regulations–promoting integrated street networks, multifamily housing, integrated stormwater management, and park access.

Historic preservation: The 2022 Plan maximizes local cultural, physical, and environmental character while safeguarding against residential displacement and loss of historic fabric. This involves reestablishing Downtown as a destination with a submission to the National Register of Historic Places.

Integrated Stormwater Management: The 2022 Plan leverages Weslaco’s already-significant investment in flood control infrastructure by proposing an integrated recreational trail and park network that leverages drainage ditches, irrigation canals, and regional detention facilities. 

Texas Tech CoA
Texas Tech CoA

Ian Caine Debates Political Geography at Texas Tech CoA

April 8, 2022

Ian Caine participated in the Texas Tech College of Architecture’s student-run debate series, CoA Dialogues. Amazingly, this student-run series has been up-and-running for over a decade. This year’s theme is Future Societies, featuring discussions on Equity, Environment, Histories, and Political Geography.

Professor Caine and Texas Tech faculty Danie Vaughn had a wide-ranging conversation on the topic of Political Geography, probing the relationships between urban development, capital, ecology, rhetoric, policy and of course design. Topics included Walmart, Stormwater, Elon Musk, Houston, West Texas, and the Rio Grande Delta. Excellent questions and comments from a small but highly engaged group of students. Thank you to Dr. Jeffrey Nesbit, Grace Shanks, and Texas Tech for the invitation!

Studio Visit to Estero Llano Grande State Park
Studio Visit to Estero Llano Grande State Park

UTSA Students Visit Rio Grande Valley to Study Modular Housing 

November 1, 2021

Graduate students from the School of Architecture + Planning travelled to Weslaco, Texas with Associate Professor Ian Caine to examine modular housing in a regional context. The fall 2021 studio, part of a semester-long transdisciplinary collaboration with University of Arkansas landscape faculty Gabriel Diaz Montemayor, is examining modular housing across regional, metropolitan, neighborhood, and building scales. During the trip, UTSA students met with city officials and visited mobile home parks, wetlands, flood plains, levees, and bird blinds. Students will submit their final studio results to the Annual International Architecture Modular Home Competition in May 2022.

The studio curriculum builds on an actual community design effort that Caine, Diaz Montemayor, and CURPR researchers are leading in the City of Weslaco, Texas, a city of 41,000. Weslaco is located in Hidalgo County, one of three counties in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, a transborder region is located in the floodplain of the Rio Grande River and adjacent to the Mexican State of Tamaulipas.


Downtown San Antonio
Image: Cropped from ZeChief | Creative Commons 4.0

Ian Caine Discusses San Antonio’s Rapid Urban Growth with the New York Times

October 5, 2021

One of fastest growing and oldest cities in the United States, San Antonio faces continuous pressure to embrace economic development while preserving culture. The City expects to add one million residents by 2040, yet faces a severe shortage of affordable housing. Ian Caine recently discussed these issues with the New York Times:

San Antonio has a wonderfully preserved historic downtown, an historic building stock and the River Walk, and that’s the image the city projects to the world,” said Ian Caine, the director of the Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “And then on the other hand, it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., famously bicultural and minority-majority, and one of the most segregated and poor cities in the U.S.

As San Antonio moves forward, it’s trying to make sense of these competing histories,” he added.

Much of San Antonio’s recent growth was catalyzed by the Decade of Downtown, a 2010 initiative championed by former Mayor Julián Castro. As the City heads into a new decade, it must confront multiple challenges that come with development, including issues of affordable housing, gentrification, gridlock, and aquifer protection.

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CURPR researchers discuss the future with residents and city officials in Weslaco, Texas

June 30, 2021

During the month of June, CURPR facilitated three public focus groups in Weslaco, Texas to discuss the critical topics of downtown revitalization, housing, and parks & recreation. These focus groups–which ran in both physical and virtual format–gave residents and city officials a chance to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing their community. The feedback will allow CURPR to put local opinions into action while updating the City’s Comprehensive Plan. CURPR researchers will continue developing the plan over the summer, present preliminary ideas to the community in the fall, and submit a final updated comprehensive plan in January 2022. Weslaco is a city of 42,000 in the Rio Grande Valley, adjacent to the Mexican State of Tamaulipas. The city is part of the fast-growing McAllen–Edinburg–Mission metropolitan area.

Image: Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture

Ian Caine discusses ways to confront rapid urban growth in unincorporated communities at the ACSA National Conference

March 24, 2021

Ian Caine attended the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture’s 109th Annual Meeting to discuss a recent urban planning effort in Comfort, Texas. Comfort, like 90% of its neighbors in the Texas Hill Country, does not have a municipal government. The Texas Hill Country region is home to three of the ten fastest growing large counties in the United States, yet the widespread lack of urban planning and environmental regulation today threatens the local quality of air, water, and land. Comfort Vision 2050 offers a plan tailored to the realities of life in an unincorporated community, providing a list of 75 Strategic Initiatives that are small-scale, diverse, and possible to achieve without the benefit of municipal government. The research highlights the need to develop regional planning strategies that can address the needs of unincorporated communities, which after all need urban planning for all the same reasons that cities do: to prevent the fragmentation of local ecologies, maintain critical infrastructures, ensure access to housing, preserve physical and cultural history, attract and keep good jobs, expand critical services, facilitate civic discourse, and ensure timely decision-making.

Image: American Planning Association Texas

CURPR Researchers honored for grassroots planning effort

October 14, 2020

UTSA’s Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research has been recognized for helping a small Texas community make big plans for its future. The Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association last week presented the plan—titled “Comfort Vision 2050”—with the Grassroots Initiative Award, one of just 15 Planning Achievement Awards for the year 2020. The Grassroots Initiative Award specifically honors an effort “that illustrates how a neighborhood, community group or other local nongovernmental entity utilized the planning process to address a specific need or issue within the community.”

Ian Caine led the planning team, which included William Dupont, professor of architecture; Corey Sparks, associate professor of demography; researcher Bill Barker; and Matthew Jackson and Thomas Tunstall of UTSA’s Institute for Economic Development. Additionally, student researchers Elizabeth Striedel, Ivan Ventura and Diego Sanchez made critical contributions to the drawings and field documentation. Thank you to the Comfort Area Foundation and National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders for initiating the process and to the UTSA team for all of the work. Most importantly, congratulations to the residents of Comfort for making such an important investment in your community’s future! (UTSA Today)

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San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg launches the R&D League with officials from UTSA, USAA, and the Southwest Research Institute.

CURPR helps emerging R&D League advance data-driven policy

February 1, 2020

CURPR is proud to participate in the newly formed R&D League, an applied research consortium launched by the City of San Antonio’s Office of Innovation. Participants include UTSA, Southwest Research Institute, and USAA. By leveraging expertise from academia, industry, and government, the R&D League will help City policy-makers advance data-driven, equitable decisions on behalf of its citizens. Ian Caine will work with colleagues from computer science, urban planning, real estate and public health to develop a project titled the Neighborhood Empowerment Zones Impacts Estimator, one of six initial R&D League research efforts. Developed in collaboration with the City's Neighborhood and Housing Services Department, this effort builds an interactive tool to collect data, map trends, and evaluate the impact of affordable housing subsidies.

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Image: Ian Caine

Ian Caine closes UTSA 50th Anniversary Scholars Speakers Series

December 17, 2019

Ian Caine delivered the final installment of the UTSA 50th Anniversary Scholars Speakers Series, undertaking a broad thought experiment titled What Would a Sustainable San Antonio Look Like?

“When it comes to climate change, cities like San Antonio are both the problem and the solution,” said Caine. “Cities cover less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, yet they produce 60% of the world’s carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. As we consider how San Antonio will respond to the climate crisis, we need to imagine what a sustainable city would look like, how it would work, and mostly importantly who it would serve.”

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Link To Lecture

Ivan Ventura displays his work at the 2019 Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry Showcase. Image: UTSA

Ventura wins Best-In-Show at Undergraduate Research Showcase

April 3, 2019

A panel of UTSA faculty recognized undergraduate B.S. Architecture student Ivan Ventura as a winner in the 2019 Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry Showcase. The Office for Undergraduate Research (OUR) sponsored this event in order to “enhance learning by complementing classroom-based instruction, provide real-life, hands-on experience in student’s field of interest, and offer development of critical and independent thinking, creativity, and problem-solving.”

Ventura exhibited a research project titled "Retrofitting Urban Infrastructure,” which he completed at UTSA’s Center for Urban and Regional Planning under the guidance of Associate Professor Ian Caine. Ventura was one of ten undergraduate researchers honored from a pool of more than 200 participants.

Congratulations to Ivan! Also, thank you to the OUR office for continuing to support undergraduate research at UTSA!

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UTSA students discuss the growth of Las Colinas with urban planners from Irving, TX. Image: Ian Caine

UTSA students Visit DFW to research Edge Cities

March 3, 2019

Fifty years after their emergence, how are Edge Cities performing? What possibilities exist to retrofit, renovate, or reimagine these environments? Could the retrofit of an Edge City like Las Colinas represent the next wave of American suburbia? If so, what would be the formal expression? What would be the program? 

While visiting DFW, UTSA students stayed in Las Colinas and documented five sites across their design studio’s assigned twenty-acre site. The students also met with architects from Gensler, urban planners from Irving and Las Colinas, and visited iconic architectural and urban projects designed by Renzo Piano, I.M. Pei, Rem Koolhaas, Joshua Prince-Ramus, Thom Mayne, Louis Kahn, Tadao Ando, and Sasaki.

Last but not least was an obligatory studio dinner at the legendary Deep Ellum BBQ joint Pecan Lodge!

Image: Shutterstock via Curbed.com

Caine discusses San Antonio growth with reporter from Curbed

October 23, 2018

Ian Caine spoke with a reporter from Curbed.com about the rapid urban growth in San Antonio. The city is adding 66 new residents each day, 25,000 each year, and expects 1.1 million more people by 2040. Caine points out that while San Antonio’s rapid expansion offers tremendous economic and civic opportunities, today significant portions of the city still lack sidewalks and exhibit high rates of poverty and economic segregation. How will San Antonio handle the sudden transformation of its physical character, economic profile, and civic aspirations?

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Image: Society of American Registered Architects (SARA)

UTSA students wins national design award from SARA

October 19, 2018

Recent UTSA graduates Estefania Barajas and Jorden Gomez received a National Design Award of Excellence from the Society of American Registered Architects (SARA). The SARA jury recognized the student project alongside winning entries from national design leaders like NADAAA, Perkins + Will, and Robert A.M. Stern. Barajas and Gomez designed the winning project, titled “Housing a Million,” as undergraduates in Ian Caine and Rahman Azari’s COTE (Committee on Technology and the Environment) studio during the fall semester of 2017. The COTE curriculum, nationally recognition by Architecture 2030, helps students utilize performance metrics to evaluate their design proposals. Congratulations to Stephanie and Jorden!

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Associate Professor Ian Caine, Director of the UTSA Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research.

Ian Caine named Director of Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research

September 1, 2018

Associate Professor Ian Caine is the new Director of the UTSA Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research. The Center, founded by Professor Richard Tangum a decade ago, will continue to provide urban planning services to communities in south Texas. In the coming months, the Center will also rededicate itself to academic research, pursuing new knowledge of the forms, processes, and impacts of metropolitan and megaregional growth. The Center seeks to become a thought leader on the topic of urban expansion, developing new models for San Antonio and Texas that will make a national and international impact.