Public Programs


Our Civic Forums take place yearly to look at urban and design topics that are of particular relevance to Houston and its region.

These events provide an open forum to discuss and analyze timely topics that are affecting Houstonians as well as those that have a larger national and international relevance. From flood control and resiliency, to transportation, environmental justice, neighborhood equity, and a critical analysis of the effects of climate change, Civic Forums take on controversial topics to bring different points of view together.

Every year, we invite local experts and leaders to present and frame the impact of their work through a critical lens that can inspire others to understand the intricate and complex urban policies, which regulate all aspects of our built environment.

The discussion, connections, and results that they generate are deeply rooted in the belief that our city can lead the discussion around some of the most challenging contemporary urban topics in an effort to identify new models for other cities around the world grappling with equally challenging social, economic, and urban scenarios.

Houston Rezoned: TIRZ and the City

What Are Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZs)?
Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZs) are special zones created by City Council to attract new investment in an area. These zones help finance costs of redevelopment and promote growth in areas that would otherwise not attract sufficient market development in a timely manner. Taxes attributable to new improvements (tax increments) are set-aside in a fund to finance public improvements within the boundaries of the zone. Source

Moderated by Troy Schaum

Oct. 21, 2023

MATCH: Midtown Arts and Theatre Center Houston
3400 Main St

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Special thanks to our Host Planning Committee:

Andrew Albers, AIA - Principal, OJB

Amna Ansari, AIA, NCARB - Partner, Ultrabarrio

Doug Childers, AIA, CDS, LEED AP - Studio Practice Leader, HKS

Sean Cowan - AGM, Uchi Houston

Curtis Davis - Former Visiting Professor, Rice Architecture + Prairie View A&M University

Melissa McDonnell-Luján  - Director of Project Development, The Menil Collection

Heather Rowell - Principal at HR Design Dept

Troy Schaum - Associate Professor, Rice Architecture and Partner, SCHAUM/SHIEH Architects



Spring 2023: Texas is Urban II

A continuation of the discussion from the Fall  2023 Civic Forum, Texas is Urban I

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Fall 2022: Texas Is Urban I

That Texas is urban is beyond doubt. Its cities are some of the largest in the country, and they are complicated in ways that defy simple narratives. As the RDA turns fifty, it cannot turn away from its role at the center of design advocacy in Texas. But to continue exploring how we will develop our cities in the coming decades, we will need your participation.

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Architectural Drawing

Spring 2022: Food Equity

Panelists were asked to analyze and shed light on the growing inequity between Houston’s communities based on appropriate access to healthy and sustainable food. They spoke to relevant projects, in Houston and across the nation, which exemplify design-oriented alternatives to current urban food networks. This discussion aimed to inspire the audience through projects and research, including unconventional examples that utilize design thinking as a problem-solving tool, in which architectural principles are applied to create conducive spaces for growing food in urban areas.

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