In the aftermath of the Hurricane
Katrina disaster, the College of Architecture at Texas A&M
University mobilized its intellectual resources to support
national recovery and reconstruction efforts
throughout the U.S. Gulf Coast.
To initiate this effort, the college hosted the two roundtable
discussions examining potential research and educational initiatives
to benefit the Katrina relief effort, as well as the nation's
The Texas A&M College of Architecture is uniquely suited
to help identify problems and develop solutions to the myriad
disaster recovery, reconstruction and mitigation problems related
to this horrific event, and to help the nation gird for future
inevitable catastrophes,” said J. Thomas Regan, dean of
In addition to our Hazard Reduction and Recover Center and their
distinguished faculty, the college can mobilize students and
faculty to contribute in the areas of sustainable development,
urban planning, construction science, historic preservation and
other disciplines related to the built environment and — with
our Visualization Laboratory — the virtual environment,
as well,” Regan noted.
At the “Katrina Roundtable on the Built Environment,” college
faculty and students gathered with other members of the Texas
A&M research community to evaluate and explore research implications
of the Katrina tragedy.
The discussion, facilitated by Lou Tassinary, associate dean
of research for the College of Architecture, began with a brief
overview of New Orleans' history and natural and urban geography,
presented by Mark Clayton, the college's executive associate
dean and native New Orleanian.
Afterward, Walter G. Peacock, director of Texas A&M's Hazard
Reduction and Recovery Center, identified the numerous and disparate
agencies supporting research and scientific investigations into
the causes of the Katrina disaster, the response debacle and
Much of the storm's damage and loss of life could have been avoided,
Peacock said, had officials followed well-known and established
best practices for emergency management. In Katrina’s wake,
he noted, the initial challenges of emergency response are now
being replaced by the challenges of recovery, reconstruction,
Also at the roundtable, George Mann, holder of the Ronald L.
Skaggs professorship in Health Facilities Design, showcased student
concepts for “surge hospitals.” The idea, developed
by Paul K. Carlton, director of the Office of Homeland Security
at the Texas A&M System Health Science Center, involves the
transformation of existing structures, such as hotels, convention
centers or public schools, into fully functional medical facilities
in the event of disasters that overwhelm or incapacitate existing
health care centers.
Another Katrina Roundtable session explored ideas for incorporating
disaster recovery and mitigation initiatives into the classroom
and design studio.
Sal Caserta, an architect from New Orleans, explained the failure
of the New Orleans levee system and subsequent flooding and detailed
the needs of families whose property and livelihoods were claimed
by the storm. Caserta also offered details about proven building
design techniques for hurricane resistant construction and led
discussion of how design and construction students can learn
about these advanced techniques.
Michael Lindell, a faculty fellow with the Hazard Reduction and
Recovery Center, further illustrated construction and land development
strategies for reducing the damage from hurricanes and floods
and volunteered to provide related materials for use in college
Jody Rosenblatt Naderi, assistant professor of Landscape Architecture
and Urban Planning, introduced a vertical evacuation concept,
in which residents in the path of a hurricane can take refuge
in high-rise hotels built to withstand devastating winds and
floodwater. She presented work by students from spring 2005 that
explored vertical evacuation facilities for Key West, Fla. Her
students are also developing the novel concept of "surge
parks," which could be trucked to an evacuation shelter
in the aftermath of an emergency to provide recreational facilities
such as basketball courts, gardens, and walking paths.
Additionally, Pliny Fisk, associate professor of architecture
and nationally renowned expert on sustainable design, talked
about sustainable community development as it relates to hurricane
recovery and reconstruction efforts.
Other topics of exploration, Tassinary said, include:
• Preserving and restoring the historic fabric of architecture
in the affected communities;
Examining potential partnerships between Texas A&M University
and organizations working to build replacement and resettlement
homes for the displaced; and
• Investigating urban planning issues related to the rebuilding
of New Orleans.
Anyone interested in contributing to or participating in the
College of Architecture's ongoing Katrina Roundtables on the
Built Environment is urged to contact Lou Tassinary at (979)
457-9351 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.