NEW DESIGN CENTER AT UH RECYCLES THE PAST
TO PREPARE STUDENTS FOR THE FUTURE
Burdette Keeland Jr. Design and Exploration Center Turns Innovation
HOUSTON, Sept. 12, 2007—It’s been a print shop, an
auto shop and a band annex. This fall, the building adjacent to
the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture
reinvents itself once again to become an emblem of innovation and
The Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Center is opening
its doors to a new semester and a new generation of students with
a reception from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 20.
“This center will further extend our students’ ability
to make their ideas real,” said Joe Mashburn, dean of the
college. “It’s an extension of what we do in the college—make
The walls in the entryway are yellow, prompting an affectionate
chuckle from friends and colleagues of Burdette Keeland Jr., the
man known for his clashing yellow tie. The late Keeland Jr. was
a beloved professor, architect and mentor, whose association with
the university and the College of Architecture spanned more than
“This facility is dedicated to our students’ exploration
of design, an especially appropriate purpose for a building named
for Professor Keeland, himself a gifted designer,” said Geoff
Brune, associate professor and designer of the Keeland Center.
The Keeland Center will house The Graduate Design/Build Studio
and the latest equipment to accommodate digital fabrication projects
for architecture and industrial design students. Digital Fabrication
refers to objects and prototypes designed and generated on computers
using 3-D software and specialized equipment. This process is attractive
for the accuracy and quality of its components and the conservation
of time and materials. Students will have convenient access to this
important tool of their professions, giving them valuable experience
as they compete in the industry.
“Digital fabrication is changing both the process of design
as well as the methods used to produce designs,” Mashburn
said. “Students should be introduced to these evolving technologies.”
The building also will feature the only sloped, green roof in the
city. Green roofs are vegetation-covered roofs on buildings that
create a living, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly
alternative to traditional roofs. Green roofs help reduce flooding,
clean the air, reduce the expenditure of energy and reduce the ‘heat
island’ of the urban core and surrounding large developments.
Native plants and flowers, such as Gulf Muhly, Butterfly Weed and
Mexican Feather Grass, will top the Keeland green roof.
“This is the culmination of a lot of work by students and
faculty who planted native plants in a mock-up of the Keeland roof
in late-May of 2005,” said Charles Tapley, adjunct professor
architecture. “They wanted see which plants would survive
and thrive in Houston’s weather. We believe this will be the
only sloped, green roof on any academic building in the state and
has the potential to create a lot of interest.”
The project received a Certificate of Recognition from Keep Houston
Beautiful, an organization that promotes the protection of the environment
through recycling, litter reduction and beautification efforts.
The roof will sit on the southern side of the building, the warmer
side of the facility and the place where the air conditioning system
will be installed. Temperature readings taken at various times will
determine how the green roof is helping to conserve energy and reduce
The construction project is a lesson in recycling. The building,
one of the first built on the university campus, once was used as
an auto shop to teach a trade to returning World War II veterans.
It served as a print shop at one time, and, most recently, as the
annex for the UH band. While many areas in Houston are demolishing
older architecture, UH is recycling, renewing and reusing.
“The design articulates principals of careful planning and
energy conservation, including development of ventilated workshop
spaces, extensive use of natural light, installation of ‘green’
products and a planted roof-scape,” Brune said. “The
details reveal the ‘construction’ of the architecture,
while providing a functional, clean and safe working environment
for students and faculty.”
The project began with a generous gift from the Harvey R. Houck
Jr. and Patricia W. Houck Foundation, and relied on donated materials
and labor from area construction firms and other individuals. W.S.
Bellows served as contractor for the project, while Brune donated
For more information on the UH Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture
and the Burdette Keeland, Jr. Design Exploration Center, visit www.arch.uh.edu/home/index.html.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research
and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers
and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate,
civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university
in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and
service with more than 35,000 students.
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