Thomas Colbert was dedicated to preserving the coastlines along Texas and Louisiana. As an architect, researcher and educator, he was engaged in numerous projects that investigated innovative ways to protect coastal areas from storms and other threats.
Colbert, a professor in the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, recently died. Colbert’s presence will be missed at UH, but his passion for coastal preservation left a lasting impact on both peers and former pupils.
“Tom was a wonderful person and a great colleague,” said Ronnie Self, associate professor at UH’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture. “He also was a very admired teacher. He played key roles at the College of Architecture throughout his tenure at UH.”
A native of New Orleans, Colbert was deeply impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Watching his hometown become submerged by storm waters strengthened his resolve to apply his talents to projects that would guard coastal areas from similar threats.
At UH, Colbert guided students through real-world projects such as conceptualizing innovative levees in Galveston. He also played a lead role in UH’s Three Continents Studio, a multi-university research initiative aimed at understanding (and averting) coastal risks around the globe.
Last year, Colbert delivered the presentation “New Perspectives for the Galveston Bay” at the 2014 International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) in the Netherlands. During that same trip to Europe, he was present when UH architecture students presented projects (developed during the Three Continents Studio) at the Venice Biennale.
“Tom was a strong influence on his students,” Self said. “He taught by example. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina fueled him as a researcher and an architect. Coastal planning and protection became a mission for him.”
In addition to his work at UH, Colbert was among the researchers at Houston’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center at Rice University.
In 2014, Colbert was named Educator of the Year by the Houston chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
“It is always an honor to be recognized for your efforts,” Colbert said. “As an architectural educator, it is a particular honor to be recognized by the American Institute of Architects. It makes me feel as though the work we are doing at UH is making a difference to the profession and the discipline of architecture.”