Articles tagged as: College of Architecture
Texas A&M University professors are knee deep in research about rising waters. They’re uncovering vital information to help protect lives, property and the natural environment of coastal dwellers. Their latest project is looking at flood risks in 100-year flood plains near the coast.
Urban planning professors Samuel Brody and Michael Lindell and Assistant Marine Sciences Professor Wesley Highfield are part of the Institute for Sustainable Coastal Communities. It is an initiative between the College of Architecture’s Hazard Reduction Recovery Center at Texas A&M University and faculty at Texas A&M University at Galveston.
Institute researchers can help prepare coastal communities to absorb, adapt and respond to disturbances such as hazardous events, hurricanes, coastal storms and flooding. They are in the second year of a two-year $313,000 National Science Foundation grant to investigate the accuracy of the 100-year flood plain measurement.
The safety zone
Brody, who is director for the institute and principal investigator on the NSF grant, says many people believe significant environmental damage and the loss of life and property from recent Gulf coast hurricanes is confined to the 100-year flood plain, but their research is proving otherwise.
“The floodplain designation may be an inaccurate predictor of loss,” Brody said. “Our research findings about the 100-year flood plain will provide policy makers and localities with improved criteria for assessing flood risk in low-lying coastal areas and protecting themselves against loss of property and lives.”
Safety in the eye of the beholder
Brody says misperceptions of safety afforded by the 100-year designation have left property owners unaware of flood risk and made it more difficult for decision makers to ensure that community development occurs in a resilient manner.
The research team is analyzing the following data samples in Texas and Florida coastal communities:
- Insured property damage records
- Proximity of damage claims to 100-year flood plain
- Impact of development patterns upon flooding in Gulf of Mexico coastal counties
- Household survey information about flooding in and out of the floodplain; flooding experiences; risk
perceptions; flood insurance purchases; emergency preparedness actions and the effectiveness and cost of flood mitigation and preparedness actions.
“Collecting data about different aspects of people’s flood insurance purchase will help us better understand why people fail to protect against flood losses and, in some cases, discontinue their flood insurance policies years after first purchasing it,” Lindell said.
After gathering the data researchers layered information into a Geographic Information System to better understand characteristics of flood losses in relation to delineated flood zones.
Preliminary research findings challenge perceptions that living outside 100-year flood plains will ensure safety from storms. “From 1999 to 2009, flood losses along the Gulf of Mexico, totaled more than $20.3 billion,” Brody said. “Up to half of insured flood claims in the Houston-Galveston region were located outside the 100-year flood plain.”
“There is a reduction in the cost of damage a quarter of a mile outside the floodplain,” said Highfield. “But, it still left an average repair cost of $25,000 per property.”
Safety near urban sprawl
Brody said sprawling, low intensity development with four to 21 percent impermeable surfaces like parking lots significantly increased losses from flooding in study areas. He confirmed that flood damage was reduced, where natural environments are embedded in developed areas.
The Institute for Sustainable Coastal Communities provides coastal communities public participation and education opportunities, web-based sustainable information and graduate and undergraduate education materials. For more information about the ISCC go to www.tamug.edu/iscc
About 12 Impacts of the 12th Man: 12 Impacts of the 12th Man is an ongoing series throughout the year highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional impacts, visit http://12thman.tamu.edu/.
Media contact: Cathy Cashio-Bertrand, Texas &M-Galveston, at (409) 740-4830
Texas A&M University will award its first Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees Friday, Dec. 14.
The recipients, Natalie Pittman and Jose Velasquez, earned their degrees through the Department of Visualization’s fine arts degree program within the College of Architecture, a program that was launched in fall 2011.
Placing more emphasis on visual and performing arts programs has been a priority for Texas A&M in recent years, officials note.
Pittman, who also got her undergraduate degree in environmental design at Texas A&M, says she’s proud to be one of the first two MFA graduates and that the university’s expansion of fine arts studies is a natural extension of its established strengths. “Fine arts are based in research, design and science,” she notes. “This is what we’re already doing at Texas A&M, just under different titles. It is valid to explore these within the context of art.”
The Department of Visualization, also known as the “Viz lab,” was officially created in January 2008 and has offered Aggie students an opportunity to explore how visual images can create understanding, says Tim McLaughlin, professor and Viz department head. “Visual imagery can be used for the purpose of science, medicine, making sense out of big data, creating virtual representation of objects or places in architecture, engineering or entertainment,” he explains.
Many Viz graduates have gone into high-demand and high-paying positions as computer animators, creating the animation for movies such as Pixar’s “Brave” and DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda.”
“Our reputation has primarily been garnered through the exploits of our former students in the entertainment world,” notes McLaughlin, “but we have many other former students working in petroleum exploration, military simulation, marketing, and other areas that don’t carry the same cache as movie and video game making.”
McLaughlin says the expansion of Texas A&M’s arts programs is important because art is the driving force behind technological advancement. “We often think of the fast-changing world as being driven by technological changes and therefore focus much of our academic energy on science, technology, engineering, and math,” he contends. “The reality is that across a broad range of our economy, the drivers of the technological changes are artists. Think of how our capacity to share information is structurally made possible through engineering. Then think again about why we use this capacity to such an overwhelming level and you will realize that imagery and visual experiences fuel the desire to do so.
“When we decided we wanted home theater experiences, it was because of the thrill of seeing what artists had done with imagery,” McLaughlin adds. “When we wanted to communicate the inner workings of the body, we turned to artists to help us create visual representations that both specialists and laymen can understand. As every field of study becomes awash in data, the only way to create meaning from such enormous complexity is through imagery. For Texas A&M to continue to be a leader in the traditional fields on which its reputation has been sown, the capacity to create meaning from discovery and the capacity to discover due to the inspiration of artistry is a must.”
Pittman says she strives to create meaning through her art, specifically within the theme of chronic pain. In January 2011, she was diagnosed with De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, an inflammation of the tendons in the thumb, and has used her art to chronicle her struggles with chronic pain. “My desire through this body of work was to find a way to take that which limited my ability to work and transform it into something creative and beautiful,” she explains.
After graduation, Pittman says she plans to take what she’s learned at Texas A&M and first pursue a professorship, “but I am also looking at work in computer animation in the animation or gaming industry,” she states.
McLaughlin says he’s looking forward to watching the university’s first two MFA graduates walk across the stage at commencement tomorrow because it symbolizes a culmination of the hopes and dreams of many. “A fine arts degree program at Texas A&M is something that generations of students have longed for and never had the opportunity to engage in,” he stresses. “It’s been a goal for many faculty and staff members who have held the belief that this university has the capacity to make a real impact in the larger visually engaged world by producing scholars and professionals who are visual artists. I’m thrilled to be here to congratulate our first graduates to walk across the stage. I’ll be smiling not only for myself and those students but for all those people who have wanted to see it happen.”
When the creators of the new show “American Mansion” on the National Geographic Channel (NatGeo) were looking for a host, they reached out to the agent of former Texas A&M University student David Applebaum, saying they had a really good show, but the 50 potential hosts they’d auditioned so far were all wrong. They wanted a real, working architect ― someone who knows something about mansions.
“Good thing I had that agent,” says Applebaum. “He sent me out on plenty of auditions ― me…short, bald, over 40 and the only one in the room with that description. Everyone else is a 20-something, tall, chiseled model that took a drafting class in high school. In other words, it’s all about eye candy and I’ve never gotten more than a call back.”
But this time, when NatGeo called, “my agent says, ‘I have the perfect guy,’” recalls Applebaum, who graduated from Texas A&M in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental design. In 2010, he was selected as one of the College of Architecture’s “outstanding alumni.”
Applebaum works out of the design studio he founded, David Applebaum Architect, located in Bel Air, Calif. He works with clients mostly on large residential projects, starting in the design phase and continuing throughout the building process.
Known as the “Architect to the Stars,” Applebaum has designed homes for a long list of celebrity clientele, including Frank Sinatra, Rupert Murdoch, Cuba Gooding Jr., Seth Green and Diane Keaton.
With a client list such as this, needless to say, Applebaum has designed some opulent digs.
But even he was awestruck when his first assignment as host of “American Mansion,” premiering on NatGeo on Friday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m. CT, turned out to be Kykuit, The Rockefeller Estate in Westchester County, N.Y.
The four-story, 40-room stone mansion was home to three generations of the Rockefeller family, starting with John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil. The house overlooks the Hudson River and Kykuit means “lookout” in Afrikaans.
“The show is about houses that have stories,” says Applebaum, “and the Rockefeller Estate has a great one. John D. Rockefeller was the richest self-made man ever. His father was a travelling salesman and his mother was an amazing woman who taught him to work hard, be humble and righteous. John gave a percentage of his first paycheck to charity and continued that practice to his death.”
In addition to featuring the home’s spectacular architecture, furnishings and fine art, the premiere episode will tell the dramatic history behind the mansion’s construction. “At the beginning, Rockefeller and his son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., had very different ideas and four different architects, which is a recipe for disaster,” Applebaum explains. “The construction also came about as the mafia was starting in America, so there was murder, arson and kidnapping threats all taking place as the Industrial Revolution was kicking into high gear. The history books only tell a small part of the story and we will tell a bit more.”
Applebaum says he’s not only the show’s host, he’s part of the team. “The producer let me re-write much of the script in my own voice, I art-directed all of the animation, I shot B-roll at my office with my son on camera,” he laughs, “and what do you expect from an Ag ― of course, I also carry lights, cameras, booms and sound equipment.”
And he even had to brave weirdly dangerous conditions at the birthplace of John D. Rockefeller. “At Senior’s birthplace, I had to deal with snakes and biting insects. My protector (who is otherwise Clint Eastwood’s bodyguard) asked if I was OK wandering in such conditions. I replied, ‘These are pets in Texas!’ But I won’t spoil what you have to see to appreciate,” he teases.
Applebaum says he’s counting on his fellow Aggies to watch the show and contact NatGeo with positive comments so he can continue on as the only former student hosting a national television show.
“Next we start looking for 19 more mansions with interesting and dramatic stories as we have a commitment for 20 shows a year ― if we get picked up, so please help,” he says. “I have a few in Texas on the roster because I’m hoping to combine the show with a chance to come back home, visit friends and enjoy the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush.”
And at least one professor at Texas A&M has not forgotten Applebaum: Professor of Architecture Rodney Hill has fond memories of his former student and the two continue to maintain contact to this day. “David was in my beginning design class and was one of the most talented students I have encountered,” Hill notes. “His personality is magnetic and his energy level is off the charts. When he was a senior, he became president of the student architects club and I was the faculty sponsor. I asked him to be my teaching assistant in my new beginning design class and he was awesome. We have kept in touch all these years; rarely do we go over two weeks without an email or Facebook conversation.”
Applebaum treasures his roots as a Texan and an Aggie, saying, “The great state of Texas is second to none with a rich history and a story around every corner. Texas made me who I am and Texas A&M helped me become the person I wanted to be.”
Find out more about Applebaum’s debut episode, “American Mansion: Secrets of the Rockefeller Estate” on the NatGeo website.
Media Contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services at Texas A&M University;
(979) 845-5591; firstname.lastname@example.org
Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, “An idea is salvation by imagination.” If that’s true, Texas A&M University Professor of Architecture Rodney Hill is rescuing the minds of his students with innovative teaching methods that are designed to stimulate creativity. Ideas are such a valued commodity in Hill’s classes that students are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before attending lectures.
If the waiting list for Hill’s “Environmental Design 101 C: The Design Process” class is any indication, students are happy to sign the waiver in exchange for a class with no textbooks or tests. “I tell my students to take the money they would have invested in a textbook, take that $100 and put it into a business, something from which they can reap profits,” says Hill.
And many students have done just that, patenting product ideas and launching businesses based on class projects. Patented student innovations have included everything from iPhone accessories to motion-sensor cat food bowls. One student started a business repairing iPhones, CS iPhone Repair, while enrolled in Hill’s class.
Hill, whose freshman class is open to all majors, is known for his unusual neckties and is popular among students for his anything-goes classroom philosophy. His unconventional methods include relaxation and visualization exercises, designed to put students into a creative mindset.
“Most scientists were in their early 20s when they came up with major innovations,” Hill notes. “Essentially, the 101 course is for students to discover themselves, which is what education should be about. Public schools don’t teach creativity, they teach you how to memorize information and regurgitate it on a test, not how to creatively develop ideas.”
Hill’s students participate in innovation challenges, such as the Ideas Challenge, sponsored by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School, as well as a variety of other national and international contests.
Hill says he chose to teach at Texas A&M because it was the only school that would allow him to step outside a rigid outline of topics and set his own curriculum. He says the university was eager to begin new programs that would drive students to the front of their field and evolve their departments into the future.
It’s this forward-thinking that Hill drives into the minds of his students, making them aware of how future trends and theory will affect their career choices. “By 2020, roughly half of the new jobs that will enter the world have yet to be invented,” Hill muses. “By 2030, professions will be dramatically altered due to technology and innovation. I want my students to realize this.”
Hill takes this real-world approach into his lectures, even going so far as to have students participate in a business dinner simulation as part of his Architecture 458 class, “Global Ethics, Culture & Practice,” which explores the cultural aspects of business and how they differ among countries. During the two-and-a-half-hour lesson, Hill instructs students on the proper way to conduct themselves during a business dinner. “I’ve had a couple of students come back to me and say how much that helped because many of their job interviews were over lunch or dinner,” Hill recalls. “It helped calm their nerves to know they learned the necessary tools in my class.”
Accolades have poured in for Hill, including being named “creativity champion” in 2006 by the American Creativity Association. He holds the Eppright University Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence and the Harold L. Adams Interdisciplinary Professorship in Architecture. In 2011, he was selected as one of the top eight professors in the State of Texas to receive the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation Teaching Excellence Award. Campus recognitions include the Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award at Texas A&M, an honor that Hill received based on nominations from students, faculty and deans. Hill has also been selected by the students as a Transfer Camp namesake and twice as a Fish Camp namesake.
Hill’s own creative vision can be seen on the campus of Texas A&M and beyond, in wood carvings and sculptures. A mural depicting the history of Texas A&M, created by Hill and his wife, Susan, is displayed in the Memorial Student Center (MSC). The six, 8-by-3-foot walnut panels were unveiled in 1976. And his 13-foot-high sculpture, cast in bronze and carved from walnut, stands in front of the engineering building at Texas A&M’s Qatar campus and depicts the scientific advances of the Arab world. Other sculptures related to the university include the Texas A&M and Qatar University maces, The Twelfth Man Foundation Shield, Silver Taps and Muster bronze sculptures, the walnut Muster Ceremonial Table, the Ceremonial Key for the Bush Presidential Library, carved pecan sculptures in the Corps Center, and the Sterling Evans Library Obelisk for Learning.
When it comes to the creative aspirations of his students, Hill’s expectations are high and as a result, he says the students usually meet and surpass those expectations. Their final grades depend on innovation and how well they develop their ideas into a viable business.
“Everybody has some creative abilities,” Hill says. “We’re just exposing the genius that previous education has blocked. The goal is to help the students to discover their potential and become comfortable and competent in dealing with accelerating change.”
Media Contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services at Texas A&M University;
(979) 845-5591; email@example.com
The design of high-tech and efficient health care facilities that promote the delivery of modern medicine is being explored at Texas A&M University. George J. Mann, professor of architecture, his colleagues and their students are dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of patients by probing ways to improve the design of hospitals and clinics across the globe.
Mann, whose teaching career at Texas A&M enters its 46th year this September, says a forward-thinking philosophy in health care facility design is a “must” in this ever-changing industry. “We can’t practice 21st-century medicine in 19th-century buildings,” he says. “Health care is continually evolving, and architecture-for-health must adapt to the new environment and the new demands this brings.”
Texas A&M’s health facilities design focus attracts students from all over the world and Mann believes it’s because the department takes a real-world approach to the study of design, engaging students in actual case study projects with clients who have real needs, sites and requirements.
Since coming to Texas A&M in 1966, Mann has educated a new generation of architects who specialize in designing smart, cutting-edge health care facilities that nurture patient recovery while facilitating the numerous and ever-changing demands of modern medicine. Today, Mann’s former students staff health care design studios, and are counted among the principals of the world’s leading architecture firms.
Founder of the Architecture-for-Health studios at Texas A&M, Mann has led students in the design of more than 700 health care-related research and design projects throughout the world, including rural hospitals in Tanzania and the Sudan, an eye hospital in China, and facilities in locales across the U.S., including a clinic in San Antonio that provides affordable health care for the under and uninsured. The studios are offered as part of the graduate and undergraduate degree curricula by the Department of Architecture.
Mann, the first holder of the Skaggs-Sprague Endowed Chair of Health Facilities Design at Texas A&M, was recently named director of the International Union of Architects Public Health Group, an organization of architects from 40 nations around the world who are devoted to research in the area of improved health care buildings and environments.
Joining Mann in his mission to improve health care environments are his colleagues in the Center for Health Systems & Design (CHSD), a collaboration between the Texas A&M College of Architecture and The Texas A&M Health Science Center that promotes research, innovation and communication in health facility planning and design.
Mardelle Shepley, professor of architecture and director of the CHSD, joins Mann and several dozen faculty members from a variety of disciplines as CHSD fellows. Shepley says the CHSD fellows serve a three-prong mission: research, service and teaching. As a research center, the CHSD is primarily involved in the creation of new knowledge that benefits health facility designers and health care providers. CHSD faculty champion evidence-based design, or design informed by research.
The topics of research among faculty fellows include, for example, the effects of stress on patient health and the design of healing environments for such patients as infants, children and the elderly. “We are also conducting research in active living,” says Shepley. “Active living design is an approach to building environments that are designed to promote healthy activity, such as walking.”
Health design students often work with real-world clients and practicing architects on design projects ranging from children’s hospitals to assisted living facilities. For example, “graduate students in industrial engineering and architecture recently teamed up to design a new baby incubator,” Shepley notes.
Suyong Jim, a graduate student in architecture, created a preliminary design for a new children’s hospital in Richmond, Va. as a final study project for a Dallas-based architecture firm. The Children’s Hospital of Richmond will be built on the Virginia Commonwealth University medical campus from a final design by HKS Inc.
For her part, Shepley focuses on intensive care for children and babies, and “how to modify the environments for parents to be around their babies as much as possible.” Shepley studies whether such modifications improve the young patients’ health and well-being.
Like Mann, most of the other CHSD faculty fellows teach design studios focused on health-related design problems. For example, Susan Rodiek, associate professor of architecture and a faculty fellow at the CHSD, teaches undergraduate design studios and this year, her students swept a national nursing home design competition called “Renewing Home”.
The College of Architecture’s focus on health care design started with Mann in 1966, when one of his former Columbia University professors, Edward J. Romieniec, became the first dean of Texas A&M’s College of Architecture. Recalling Mann’s interest in health design as a student at Columbia, Romieniec invited him to spend one year at Texas A&M, creating an architecture-for-health program. The result was the Architecture-for-Health studios, and what was supposed to be a 12-month stay for Mann stretched into more than four decades in Aggieland.
Media Contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services at Texas A&M University;
(979) 845-5591; firstname.lastname@example.org