By Jackson FoxFrom the Gulf of Mexico to the heart of downtown, the Houston Ship Channel has proved to be a vital piece of the city’s growth for one hundred years. Through history, we can trace how Houston’s economic ethos has transformed a narrow, winding bayou into an international epicenter of import. Home to nearly 200 international companies and petrochemical plants, the ship channel has literally cemented its place in the city’s past, present, and foreseeable future. How is it possible that the Houston Ship Channel, stretching more than fifty-two miles long, generating more than one million jobs, connecting us so crucially to the regional, national, and global economy, remains so detached from our local culture? Is this relationship something worthy of salvage, or has it become too disconnected, too environmentally volatile, and too toxic to save?
In the wake of recent water-related disasters around the globe, the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston is spearheading an international research effort to explore and elevate these critical questions on a global stage. This consortium, entitled “Three Continents Studio: Living in Dynamic Equilibrium,” is led by Houston architect and educator, Peter Zweig. Together, the students and faculty of Tulane University in New Orleans, the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and architecture students at the University of Houston embarked on an unprecedented exploration to analyze the urban condition in each of their respective coastal cities. Professor Zweig emphasized the importance of “building a concept around [water and flooding]” to channel the efforts of each school into one, cohesive story. Though each city brings unique and local challenges to the forefront, they all share a long-established history of systematic flooding issues. As these four schools on three continents combine research, exchange ideas, and conceptualize solutions, they demonstrate innovative approaches to city planning and showcase cooperative values, symbolic and indispensable to architecture in the twenty-first century.
Watch the film of the Three Continents Project