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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Academics & Research

UH ‘featured university’ at world’s largest architecture exhibit

From left to right: Thomas Colbert, Associate Professor of Architecture, Patricia Oliver, Dean of the college of Architecture, Gerald D. Hines of Hines Interests, President Renu Khator and her husband Associate Dean Suresh Khator, and Michael Rotondi, at the entrance of the 2014 Architectural Biennale in Venice. | Photo Courtesy of Thomas Colbert

Students and faculty at the Gerald D. Hines School of Architecture flaunted the year’s accomplishments last month at one of the world’s most prestigious shows for architecture in Venice, Italy.

Architecture professors Peter Zweig and Thomas Colbert, as well as students Lacey Richter, Sam Goulas, Jackson Fox, David Regone and Wells Barber headed to Venice for the Venice Biennale, an exhibition of modern art and architecture held every two years.

“The Venice Biennale is the largest exhibition of architecture in the world,” said Hines School Dean Patricia Oliver. “Usually it’s extremely competitive and features the top architecture of all the countries around. Every major country in the world has a pavilion there, so getting accepted to an exhibit there is an honor.”

The Hines School’s project was an intercontinental effort, working with Tulane University in New Orleans, the University of Buenos Aires and the Delft University of Technology in Delft, Netherlands.  The University of Houston was featured in the Buenos Aires Biennale in September 2013 and the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam in May. Venice, Oliver said, was the “capstone.”

“In the Venice Biennale, our work was featured above the other colleges that we collaborated with,” Oliver said. “Each Biennale we attended featured one group over another group. When we were in Buenos Aires the project was featured a little bit more than everyone else’s’. In Rotterdam the project was featured a little more than others, and in Venice we were the featured university.”

While at the Venice, the faculty and students visited the Biennale’s 23 different venues, looking at architecture presentations from all corners of the globe. Most of the week was spent preparing for the university exhibition’s double opening, but they also visited the Biennale’s other attractions, one of which was a symposium.

“It is a really special honor to have work included in the Venice Biennale. It is one of the most respected venues for architecture in the world, and the place itself is magnificent,” Colbert said.

“The architecture of Venice is inspiring in every way. The exhibition buildings are magnificent. Many of the greatest architects of the day are represented here, and are the best efforts of many of the most highly regarded schools of architecture in the world are as well. It feels good to be here.”

The university presented Three Continents Studio and Risky Habit(at): Dynamic Living on Buffalo Bayou — part of the same project, showcasing theoretical solutions for improving the city of Houston’s waterway system and more.

“The interest in our part was to focus on the ship channel and the bayou system — it goes from downtown to the Galveston Bay, and along the 52-mile stretch — (as) there are so many conditions that challenge every possible aspect of architecture,” Oliver said.

“So you’re looking at an area that has the largest petrochemical development industrial complex in the United States. It also has the fourth largest estuary in the United States. That combination is already pretty amazing. So the idea is to look at the ship channel, respond to the pressures of development there, and try to approach solutions to that development that turns negative solutions into positive.”

The exhibition will remain at Venice’s Palazzo Bembo and Palazza Mora until Nov. 23.

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