UH's Thomas Colbert Addressing Galveston Bay's Challenges at Rotterdam Biennale

Coastal communities are often relaxing locales with lush natural attributes. At the same time, they face many challenges from both natural and manmade elements.

Thomas Colbert, professor at the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, dedicates his research to discovering ways to protect coastlines and delta regions from severe weather threats and other dangers. This week, he joins a roster of international scholars, designers and architects at the 2014 International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) in the Netherlands.

Colbert is among the speakers at IABR symposium “Urbanized Deltas in Transition.” In his presentation “New Perspectives for the Galveston Bay,” he will address ways to protect the island from hurricane storm surge and other threats. Among his proposed concepts are a coastal gate and levee systems that can serve as functional urban amenities. He also will address the lush wetlands surrounding Galveston Bay and their economic potential as tourist attractions.   

“There is no singular solution to address urban expansion, population growth and climate change with regard to how they impact our coastlines,” Colbert said. “Through thoughtful and optimistic design, we can propose solutions to these issues. The challenges faced by Galveston Bay are similar to those faced in other areas of the world. I look forward to the exchange of ideas that will emerge during this week’s Biennale.”

Colbert’s research interests stem from his Louisiana roots. Having experienced several hurricanes (including Hurricane Katrina) in the Pelican State, he is committed to developing preemptive solutions to protect coastal communities. At UH, Colbert has led students through innovative projects such as creating levee designs that merged coastal protection with urban functionality. He also was among the faculty participants in College of Architecture’s “Three Continents Studio.” The studio partnered UH with Tulane University, University of Buenos Aires and Technical University, Delft for collaborative research addressing opportunities and challenges faced by coastal communities.

Colbert’s participation in IABR follows the college’s premiere of the exhibition “Risky Habit[at]: Dynamic Living on Buffalo Bayou” at the 2014 Venice Biennale. The exhibition details student projects developed during the “Three Continents Studio.”

In addition to his work at UH, Colbert is a researcher for Houston’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center. The center – based at Rice University – advances research and disseminated information related to severe storm impacts and evacuation strategies in the Gulf Coast region.

The Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a variety of disciplines including architecture, space architecture, interior architecture and industrial design. Faculty members include esteemed professionals in the architectural community, as well as award-winning academic veterans. Facilities include studio spaces, the new Materials Research Collaborative, computer labs and the Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Center. To learn more about the college, visit http://www.arch.uh.edu/.