College of Architecture Texas A&M University


Previous Issue  

Next Issue

College Home

College Calendar

Aggie Daily

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 Media contact:  
 Phillip Rollfing  

Katrina Response

College of Architecture Mobilizes Academic Response to Katrina



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 disaster preparedness.

“ 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 the college.

“ 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 recovery efforts.

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, and resettlement.

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 construction courses.

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



- The End -

^ Back to top