Jan. 31, 2012
Galveston Island is overdue for Hurricane protection, said two of the 12 UH architecture students who helped propose a new levee system that would span from Freeport to High Island and would include a new visitor center attached to a national recreation park.
Students from UH and other Texas universities have researched and developed a levee system under the direction of Thomas Colbert of UH’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and in association with Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evaluation from Disasters Center.
The new levee would not only provide a safer alternative to Galveston’s outdated sea wall, but looks to attract more jobs while preserving a national park designed to protect the area’s ecosystem for the future generations, Colbert said.
“Enclosing the north side of Galveston to complete the levee system started by the seawall 100 years ago is necessary to attract economic development and growth to this historic and important economic center,” Colbert said. “People are not going to be attracted to build there if it’s not safe and it’s been repeatedly flooded.”
Cristhian Bisso, a fourth-year architecture student, visited Galveston and found an empty parking lot across the strand where his vision of landscapes, shops and even a theater would help create an attractive atmosphere for the visitor center.
“Levee systems are seen as something like an eye sore,” he said. “I wanted to create a very live-beat area around the levee system. This issue could be a great investment for the city — very beneficial.”
Projects of this caliber are presented to fourth- and fifth-year architecture students who are well-prepared to face serious challenges and offer different possible solutions, Colbert said.
Fourth-year student Mel Fuentes spent hours researching Galveston’s history and conducting site analysis and said this project has been a vital part of his educational process.
“It’s beneficial for us as architecture students to understand the reality of Galveston,” Fuentes said. “This is a new phase of growing, and it’s important for us to understand what’s happening in the real world of architecture.”
The Galveston levees project took three-and-a-half months to prepare and is the first project that Fuentes has been a part of that is being seriously considered.
“I personally hope that all the difficult politics and budgetary issues will be set aside so that this wonderful historic part of (the) Texas coast can be preserved for future generations,” Colbert said.