The Next America: Back on the Mall for Solar Decathlon 2011

02/24/2011 09:30 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Eric Owen Moss Director, Southern California Institute of Architecture

Solar Decathlon 5, America's vision of a new housing and energy future scheduled for this September, was returned to the Mall in Washington DC Wednesday.

In fact, the exhibition and celebration, produced by American and International student teams designing new, compact housing types powered by alternative energy systems, never actually vacated the Mall site.

The Mall venue, utilized by four previous Solar Decathlon events will now entertain a fifth.

A surprise effort, authored by the Department of Energy in cahoots with the Department of the Interior, to relocate the event to a substantially less prominent location either in Washington or in another city, was reversed Wednesday by those very departments.

The Mall site was reinstated following a loud and carefully orchestrated 6 weeks of pointed and vociferous objections to the proposed relocation of the exhibit, lead by Elisabeth Neigert, Project Manager of the SCI-Arc/Caltech student team.

The twenty student teams issued an emphatic "no" to the changed venue proposition:

No to the removal of the exhibition from the Mall.

No to the prospect of a diminished priority for new housing and new energy proposals in America.

Ms. Neigert, a galvanizer of pro-Mall opinion, soon marshaled a list of additional advocates with a potent advocacy. Senators, Representatives, and various internet and print media sources joined the discourse in support of the alternative energy and new housing prototypes on the Mall.

The Mall, said the students, is the preeminent American venue for our continuing conversation on the primary issues -- social, political, and economic -- that will touch us all.

New energy systems and new housing types, facilitated by the educational re-awakening required for our country to continue to re-invent and re-imagine our lives will be prominently displayed.

Let's keep it that way, the students told us.

Secretary Salazar was listening. Ditto Secretary Chu.

Thank you to the Secretaries, to the Senators and Congressmen, and, most importantly, to the student teams for their advocacy and enduring commitment to a new vision of America's technical future.

President Obama, in his State of the Union remarks, brought to national focus the need to renew our educational capacity in the service of a re-imagined infrastructure, alternative energy production, and novel ways to re-house our population.

Solar Decathlon 5, back to the site it never really left, re-affirms these national goals.

A new vision of the next America on the Mall in September.

We look forward to seeing you then.