Search results for "Miami Beach"

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Miami Nice

Who you need to know in Miami’s up-and-coming design scene

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Miami’s up-and-coming design scene is looking to the city’s past, materials, and building vernacular to realize new design that is all about Miami. The Architect's Newspaper spoke with five of the hottest firms in the city to find out what the rest of us might be missing out on in the 3-0-5.

Cure & Penabad Adib Cúre and Carie Penabad

How does your practice’s ideology manifest through your projects? The portfolio of projects, both domestic and international, displays an intense commitment to the discipline of architecture, its material culture, and constructional conventions. The work challenges the double tyranny of program and diagram that have come to dominate the design process today, relying on a broader understanding of history and typology for a looser and therefore more sustainable fit between program and form. What trends should everybody be watching for in Miami? Miami is a young city that has experienced unprecedented growth in the last decade. As the city develops its urban core in response to rising seas and global climate change, it is necessary to not only build more sustainably but to invest in the public realm, particularly with regard to public space and transportation.

Gelpi Projects Nick Gelpi

How does your practice’s ideology manifest through your projects? We are a design practice dedicated to examining the material relationships of building concepts by focusing on the collisions between materials and representation.

In years past, faced with a lack of clients, our focus was primarily design as research, engaging materials as a type of sparring partner…bending, testing, and manipulating basic materials looking for new design potentials through feedback. Recently we have had the opportunity to build buildings, so we have tried to engage materials and details as a way of destabilizing basic assumptions about design and construction. We strive to engage construction itself as a culturally transformative act.

What trends should everybody be watching for in Florida? In Florida, one must be concerned with where the water is. The built environment here is always considered in terms of its proximity to the water. The opening of the Pérez Art Museum in Miami illustrated new potentials for articulating the edge between the interior and the exterior space, and also for the positioning of the building in relationship to the Biscayne Bay. The museum seemed to revive historic examples of vernacular architectures for addressing these concerns, drawing from references including an old community of buildings actually built out in the bay, called Stiltsville. NC-office Peter Nedev, Elizabeth Cardona, Cristina Canton, and Nikolay Nedev. How does your practice’s ideology manifest through your projects? We believe that architectural design is a process of accommodation, rather than scientific deduction. Our practice does not subscribe to predetermined biases. Instead, we search for the most appropriate solution to any given condition largely influenced by the specificity of the place and the particular needs of the client. Our work aims to be environmentally conscious, sensitive in its use of materials, and appropriate to its dimensions. We believe that there is no single truth in the production of meaningful design. Any upcoming project you are particularly excited about? We are currently working on a commercial brewery and tasting room that will be located in Hialeah, Florida, within a new district created to promote art and culture called the “Leah Arts District.” It will be the City of Hialeah’s first brewery. What trends should everybody be watching for in Florida? There is a rediscovery of Florida’s tropical vernacular and a return to that elemental knowledge in the use of louvers, screens and passive design strategies. These responses to site and climate are contributing factors for the implementation of current and new construction methods. Studio Roberto Rovira Roberto Rovira Could you talk a bit about your studio’s process and philosophy? Our studio operates at the intersection of landscape architecture, art, and technology. We view landscape’s innate lack of resolution and inexactness as strengths. Our work strives to engage the in-between, the ephemeral, and the passing, and we embrace a mode of practice that alternates between art and design as essential methods of inquiry. Do you have a recent project that you are particularly excited about? One of the projects about which we are most excited is our Ecological Atlas, which attempts to simplify the visualization and understanding of the natural world. By using intuitive, graphic mappings that can convey changes in bloom times, deciduous tree patterns, produce seasonality, animal migrations, and other time-dependent phenomena, the Ecological Atlas facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the natural world in ways that are essential to building a sustainable and resilient future. It bridges art, science, and design, and connects the power of data and technology to the rich complexity of natural systems. Touzet Studio Carlos Prio-Touzet and Jacqueline Gonzalez Touzet How do you approach design, and how does that set the office apart from others in Miami? We are architects who love modernism and finely crafted design solutions. Our work is very intensely research driven—inspired by nature, technology, and the culture of the place or the people for whom we are designing. We think of our architecture and design as a way for us to tell stories and reflect about the people and the place. Our attention to detail and understanding of materials is an area where our studio is fairly unique in Miami. We love the creative exploration and intellectual journey as much as collaborating with builders throughout the process on the end product. We probably do more historical and material research, and build more study models and full-size mock-ups than other local firms. We still draw by hand extensively, as well as make heavy use of the digital tools available. We envisioned our studio to be a real collaborative studio environment, not just an architectural office. Do you have a recent project that you are particularly excited about? We recently completed a couple of flagship buildings on one entire block of historic Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, including the new Apple Store, Gap, and a recently completed Nike Store. All three projects were for global design brands that wanted a unique expression of their vision in Miami, and were very well-received by the Historic Preservation Board.

RAD LAB and Miami Beach Studios Written by William Menking

No architecture center can expand beyond local limits and become an international magnate for creative practice unless it has a strong university research component bringing new people in the profession. The two major architecture schools in South Florida, Florida International University and the University of Miami, have created such centers in the last five years. Here we take a brief look a these facilities:

RAD LAB RAD-UM at the University of Miami is one of the most creative and productive research initiatives in an architecture school today. The concept for the lab is the creation of Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury who has migrated the lab from his academic positions at the University of Toronto (where the lab continues) and California College of the Arts in San Francisco. El-Khoury has developed and refined this experimental studio beyond the normal closed university studios into one the most important and productive research centers in the country.

It has been commonly accepted in academia and advanced sectors of the design profession that the future of computing is not in static table-top machines, but embedded in objects that surround our daily life like a Nest Thermostat or lighting that senses the presence or absence of people in a room.

RAD-UM has taken this reality of our changing relationship with technology and asked design researchers and students to imagine its potential and real effects on our public and private spaces. For their first project, Bio-Reactor, they created a set of acrylic shelves with LED-lit algae jars. According to the website, “Each LED can be individually controlled and thus, through photosynthesis, the rate of growth of the algae in each jar and subsequently, the density and color of each jar, can be controlled.” It is a beautiful low-resolution display and el-Khoury believes it will have a more important long-term effect for living walls. The Miami Beach Urban Studios The Miami Beach Urban Studios is a research center on Lincoln Road that brings together faculty, students, and outside collaborators from seven different disciplines in art, design, and technology. The studio’s executive director John Stuart described it as “the love child produced by a wild night of beach partying with the MIT Media Lab and the Wexner Center at Ohio State University.”  “If you want to see the creative soul of these other universities,” Stuart continued, “you need to know what these research centers are doing—it’s the same with our lab and Florida International University.” Stuart thinks of the facility as a “connecter or collider” where often disparate disciplines meet at the center’s unique 3-D printer—the largest in the world. The lab has 3-D-printed large-format images of a Morris Lapidus building in Miami Beach and multiple projects profiling potential scenarios and the effects of sea level rise on the community. A final project that demonstrates the diverse collaborators in the lab is a 3-D printed violin for students and veterans with prosthetics limbs. This project joined together representatives from the lab’s Human Sensation project with the FIU Adaptive Neural Systems Lab, the High Performance Database Research Center, the FIU VizLab, Venture Hive, Rokk3r Labs, and the World Council of Peoples for the United Nations.
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Shopping Re-Center

The old mall is dead and Florida’s largest retail developments are showing what comes next

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

When Victor Gruen designed the first contemporary American malls in the mid-1950s, he changed the changed the way Americans shopped. Much to his chagrin, however, what malls would become over the next 50 years would be far from the civic social suburban spaces that he had envisioned. He would eventually distance himself from the typology.

Today, malls, as a typology, are going through major change. Whether due to a changing economy or a changing customer base, malls—as 1990s mall rats knew them—are disappearing. Instead, new configurations and old ideas are shaping the way people are shopping, and if there is one place to look at this change, it’s Florida.

Florida has weathered the last decade relatively well. Buoyed by its massive tourist industry and the ever-replenished retiring baby boomer population, malls across the state still draw crowds. Even so, these palaces of consumerism are not impervious to the changing tastes of the country. As national retailers such as Macy’s and J.C. Penney fall on hard times, the anchor stores have become literal anchors—dragging.

Although new “traditional” malls are rarely being built, shopping centers are still popping up, or being reformatted. Perhaps ironically, one of the most popular mall replacements are retail streets. Many of these have been commercial centers for decades, but so many of them declined as malls gained in popularity. Across Southern Florida, the towns and suburbs surrounding Miami have rushed to remodel and reinvigorate their “urban” shopping streets.

The next of these to be realized will be Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile. The half-mile main east-west drag through town, Coral Way, has been home to numerous mom-and-pop stores, many of which have struggled to survive. The urban design, by New York firms Cooper Robertson and Local Office Landscape Architecture, aims to replace the narrow sidewalks and copious angled street parking with a more pedestrian-friendly experience. Flexible plazas, outdoor dining spaces, enlarged planted areas, redesigned wayfinding graphics, and an improved lighting scheme will be used on and beyond the Miracle Mile. Stretching off on neighboring side streets and focusing on intersections, the plan will reframe the area as a full retail district. While the model for the project is a European shopping experience, overhead LED lighting and bright street pavers will be decidedly Florida, evoking the shapes and movement of raindrops and water ripples.

The Miracle Mile will be just one of the many revitalized shopping streets in the Miami area. It will join Palm Beach’s Sunset Drive and Worth Avenue, and Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach as alternatives to traditional malls. Yet while these more established venues are seeing new life, traditional malls are being completely rethought. New retailers and new customer expectations are being formalized as street-mall hybrids on a scale that has not been seen before.

The Miami Worldcenter will be a 27-acre mixed-use development in downtown Miami. At the heart of the $2 billion project is a “High Street retail promenade and plaza” which will include retail, dining, and entertainment along a pedestrian street. The project is so large—it will also contain 2,000 residential units and 1,700 hotel rooms—that it will connect the Central Business District and the Arts & Entertainment District, changing the way tourists and Miamians move through the downtown.

Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects is leading the master planning as well as designing three of the buildings for the project. The firm’s experience designing the extremely popular Grove and Downtown Disney projects in Southern California make it particularly suited for the project. Even so, the Worldcenter is on a much larger scale and addresses particularities of downtown Miami.

“Miami is evolving from a car-centric city to a pedestrian-oriented city,” Howard Elkus, founding principal of Elkus Manfredi said. “By focusing the energy of our project at the street level, we are able to create more vibrant streets and public spaces. Our dynamic open-space network now includes a system of parks, plazas, and car-free promenades anchored by a major urban plaza that will become the heart of Miami.”

In its original form, the Worldcenter resembled a more traditional mall, a three-level indoor shopping experience with large big-box anchors. Over the course of the design, the nature of retail had changed enough that the anchor-store model was rethought. The project quickly shifted to a more urban plan with separate blocks and pedestrian streets. Luckily for the development, a recent change in Miami’s zoning code made the project possible as an outdoor retail district. In particular, the Miami 21 zoning code, a new form based code that regulates building form standards, public space, and street standards. The code is guided by base tenets of the New Urbanism and Smart Growth movements. Both focus on pedestrian- and community-based design.

As customers demand more engaging shopping experiences with more complex programs, retail developers are not far behind with epic new shopping districts. From rehabilitated retail streets to newly built mixed-use districts, shoppers may soon be more likely to run into dapper flaneurs than escalator-riding mall rats.

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Miami Beach Elegy

Ant Farm’s Chip Lord turns his sights on Miami for his latest installment of sea-level rise documentaries

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Video artist Chip Lord has made a career of pointing his lens at subjects he both admires and dislikes. In his early Sony Portapak experiments with the collectives Ant Farm, T.R. Uthco and TVTV, he critiqued but had fun with American subjects like car design, the Kennedy assassination, television news, and domestic habitation. His 1972 Ant Farm-designed House of the Century on Mojo Lake, Texas, both sends up the idea of a playful weekend party house in its male body design and the site of an installation of television monitors slithering out of the lake into the property of the house.

Today, Lord is creating video works that bring his architect-trained sensibility to various cities facing issues of sustainability and rising sea levels including Venice Underwater, New York Underwater and next year a project about Phoenix, Arizona. Now he has created an urban portrait of the American city most immediately facing the issues of rising tides: Miami Beach. His Miami Beach Elegy focuses on the massive investment required to keep the city above water both for residents and its important tourist industry. The video focuses on the physical investment required to maintain the sea level metropolis—like a child building a sand castle that is wiped away by the tide, and a jolly convention of real estate agents as they celebrate selling property in a sinking city.

Miami Beach Elegy will premiere at the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco, May 11 to May 13.

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Pricey Stuff

Miami’s jet-set mixes art, design, and luxury, leading to a new wave of high-design condo projects

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Miami has a certain glitzy, glamorous character unique to its shores and streets. In recent years, the tropical climate and Latin flair have brought an influx of foreign investment and international attention. South Beach, the Design District, and events like Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami/ have attracted not only a moneyed crowd of beach-goers, but one that—in a new wave of spending and development—not only wants nice things, but cool things. This new attitude about art and design as an essential element of luxury has spawned a wave of condo projects that incorporate “starchitects” as part of the sales pitch—from Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid to Isay Weinfeld and Renzo Piano.

“Having an extremely high caliber of art, design, and architecture elevates the entire property to a work of art itself. This creates timeless value that speaks to a very niche type of buyer and has the ability to supersede shifts in the market,” Edgardo Defortuna, founder and president of Fortune International Group, said.

Many of the condo projects are based on the old hotel-apartment model, where the most affluent guests would simply live in a resort. But today private, all-residence buildings come equipped with all the amenities of a Florida resort, and then some.

Take a look at the latest batch of residential towers:

Eighty Seven Park 8701 Collins Avenue, Surfside Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop with West 8 Status: Under construction Units: 68 Floors: 16

After controversially razing Morris Lapidus’s Biltmore Terrace Hotel, the developers at Eighty Seven Park not only enlisted Renzo Piano to do the building, but they also tapped West 8 to landscape a 35-acre, public oceanfront park. The Towers by Foster + Partners 1201 Brickell Bay Drive, Miami Architect: Foster + Partners Status: Approved Units: 660 Floors: Unknown Announced in November 2016, this 1,049-foot-tall building got FAA clearance and is poised to be one of the tallest towers in Miami—it could be the city’s first completed supertall. Parking will be submerged and it will feature 56,0000 square feet of open space at ground level, including a through-block arcade. The Surf Club | Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences 9011 Collins Avenue, Miami Architect: Richard Meier & Partners Status: Under construction Units: 150 residences Floors: 12 The historic Surf Club is one of the most famous low-rise hotels in Miami Beach. It is being converted into a large block of residences, but will include 77 hotel rooms. Parts of the old resort will be saved, including the ballroom, which will become the new reception area.

SLS Brickell Hotel and Residences 1300 South Miami Avenue, Miami Architect: Arquitectonica Status: Completed 2016 Units: 124 Floors: 55

This combination condo tower and hotel features an iconic mural on its exterior, painted by Brooklyn-based artist Markus Linnenbrink. The hotel interiors are designed by Philippe Starck and the tower is host to Bazaar Mar by Chef José Andrés, a tile-clad seafood joint closer look on page 6). Grove at Grand Bay 2675 South Bayshore Dr, Miami Architect: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) Status: Completed 2016 Units: 96 Floors: 20 This spiraling stack’s structure is left exposed with raw concrete columns that slightly lean askance. The concrete floor plates are also exposed and a lush garden by Raymond Jungles complements the canopy and planters made of concrete, which Jungles called “the natural stone of South Florida.” One Park Grove 2701 South Bayshore Drive, Miami Architect: OMA Status: Under construction Units: 54 Floors: 20 Three towers are rising on the Coconut Grove Bank site, where a charming mid-century bank will be demolished and replaced by a new, OMA-designed facility as part of the area’s makeover. The project also includes performance spaces on the ground level. OMA won a high-profile competition for the project, beating Diller Scofidio & Renfro, Christian de Portzamparc, and Atelier Jean Nouvel. Jade Signature 16901 Collins Avenue, Sunny Isles Beach Architect: Herzog & de Meuron Status: Under construction Units: 192 Floors: 57 Every inch of this Sunny Isles Beach tower is designed, from concrete skylights in the common areas to the double height “Sky Villas” just below the $32.9 million penthouse. One Thousand Museum 1000 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) Status: Under construction Floors: 62 Units: 83 The layouts of the units change as this massive sculptural facade weaves its way up the structure. At 709 feet, it will be the tallest ZHA project to date and one of Miami’s altitudinous when completed. Fasano Miami Beach 1901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach Architect: Isay Weinfeld Status: Approved Units: 67 residences Floors: 22 The Shore Club has a long history as one of the iconic hotels on South Beach. This stylish renovation—by HFZ Capital—will convert the hotel into condos, but the public pool and hotel spaces will remain under the label of Brazilian hospitality superstars Fasano. The pool will be surrounded by five two-story beach homes.
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Reefer Madness

This Miami studio creates mesmerizing artworks of the city’s original architects: corals

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

“Corals are the first architects on planet earth and the only organism besides humans to create things you can see from space,” said Colin Foord, marine biologist and cofounder of Coral Morphologic, a multimedia aquaculture studio and science lab out of Miami that is as focused on studying and growing corals as it is capturing and sharing their unique relationship to the city. “Miami has been submerged and emerged multiple times over recent and long-term geologic history,” explained Foord. “Coral keystone mined from the Florida Keys was used all over Miami—much of the city is made from marine calcium carbonate, some of which is the coral skeletons themselves. That is the baseline of our metaphors: the similarities between the city being like a coral reef and the coral reef being like a city. A reef is a 3-D ecosystem that is urban life on top of urban life; it’s fast and colorful and full of diversity.”

Coral Morphologic films the corals growing in its lab and then composes unique soundtracks for the videos to create mesmerizing artworks that are equal parts Planet Earth and Acid Test. The films are usually captured in a single shot using high resolution to capture the corals’ unique fluorescent qualities, and sped up to showcase the corals’ movements, which otherwise happen at a rate slower than humans want to watch.

In late February, Coral Morphologic teamed up with independent cinema nonprofit Borscht Corporation, music, arts, and technology festival III Points, and alternative band Animal Collective to create a site-specific performance at the Frank Gehry–designed New World Center in Miami Beach. Using multiple projectors, Foord and his cofounder, musician Jared McKay, screened their coral videos on all five of Gehry’s iconic sails while Animal Collective performed an hour of new music inspired by the reefs. According to Foord, the New World Center has one of the most advanced audio-visual systems in North America and the massive, swooping sails—the largest is 7,000 square feet—lend themselves well to the immersive experience. There are plans to adapt the performance to a planetarium setting in order to bring it to more audiences in the future.

This is the second performance on which Coral Morphologic, Animal Collective, and Borscht Corporation have collaborated: In 2012 they presented a film on the outside of the New World Center. Previously, Coral Morphologic has projected its coral videos on architecture around Miami and created a large-scale installation in 2009 at Miami’s Art Basel. “By projecting corals onto cement and limestone walls, we are sort of referencing the geologic path,” says Foord. “All of the city was once under water, so it’s a very pertinent reminder that the coastline is not a static thing. We are essentially creating artificial reefs because, when the sea level rises and the buildings go under water, the corals will recolonize the cement—essentially, the bones of their ancestors—and they will inherit the city.”

Foord and McKay believe that humans have much to learn from corals, from their slow timescale (there are corals alive in Florida that predate Columbus’s arrival to the New World) to their adaptability. For example, corals now inhabit Biscayne Bay, a formerly brackish, mostly freshwater site turned saltwater bay, and have even glommed onto manmade infrastructure, including highways and artificial islands. They have survived numerous climate shifts, an impressive feat considering that corals are cemented in place and cannot leave if an environment becomes uninhabitable. According to Ford, “Miami has sort of inadvertently become a coral laboratory funded by taxpayers, and if we can begin to understand how coral can adapt and respond to this environmental upheaval then perhaps Miami can be a glimmer of hope in adapting to these changing environmental conditions.”

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Studio Visit

Shulman & Associates blends global influences and new urbanism into its Miami practice

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

A native Floridian, Allan Shulman grew up in Fort Lauderdale, completed his postgraduate studies at the University of Miami, and has since settled in Miami. It’s no surprise then that he describes his firm, Shulman & Associates, formed in 1996 with wife Rebecca Stanier-Shulman, as a “regional design studio” (emphasis on studio).

Shulman though, draws influence from a variety of locations, all urban: New York and Paris—he worked briefly in both—and Tokyo, where he studied for a year at Waseda University while taking a break from his undergraduate program at Cornell.

Shulman’s main focus, however, is Miami Beach, a city that has been at the forefront of his academic interests and throughout his career as an architect and professor of architecture at the University of Miami. With the Nolli Map in one hand and new urbanist principles in the other, Shulman described the city as the “perfect laboratory” for learning how to “use typologies as a basis for new design ideas.”

A fascination with public space and semi-private networks, as well as an engagement with the urban environment are defining aspects of Shulman’s approach to work. “We start by thinking about how we can expand, engage, and integrate into the public space and existing networks,” he said. “We always try find one or more elements of the project that achieves that.”

Betsy-Carlton Hotel 1440 Ocean Drive, Miami

Bridging the 1938 art deco Henry Hohauser hotel to its new addition by Shulman is a silver sphere that disguises a pedestrian connection between the two buildings. The elliptical enigma transforms one of the many circulation arteries that run through the building’s site into public art. A cafe extension on the building’s side has the same impact: Triangular in plan, the cafe enhances the east-west alleyway that takes pedestrians from Española Way to the ocean by utilizing a landscaped roof deck as an amphitheater for poetry, also aligning with the hotel’s historic mission of cultural programming. Billboard Building 3704 Northeast 2nd Avenue, Miami A pertinent example of Shulman’s philosophy can be seen in the Billboard Building in Miami’s Design District. Situated roughly 10 feet away from the elevated I-195 that heads to Miami Beach, the project sees a three-story 1920s commercial building joined to a sleek 90-foot-tall addition. Cabana Bay Beach Resort Universal, Orlando The 1,200-key hotel employs a post-war aesthetic prescribed by Universal Orlando Resort. “As architects, the challenge was to make the language feel new again and to avoid being purely retro,” said Shulman. A central plaza-pool deck (once a necessity for the post-war vacationing class) is enlivened by amenities such as play and picnic areas, ping pong tables, and sand pits. Children can play as parents monitor from their balconies, all of which look into the space. Jugofresh Wynwood Walls Wynwood, Miami Located in the warehouse complex of Wynwood Walls—an area that features a coterie of industrial buildings covered in murals—is an outlet for juice and food bar Jugofresh. Sacrificing space to the public, Shulman proposed opening up two garage doors at either end of the building to activate a plaza once blocked from the street. A folding glass wall blurs boundaries further and creates a “breezeway” that features a wall of fans—an alternative Shulman pursued to avoid air conditioning the space. Jugofresh now uses the wide floor plan to host yoga classes and other activities. Inside, almost every shade of green abounds, employing a color palette as vibrant as its exterior (which couldn’t be changed).
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Making No Small Plans

Optimism fuels Miami’s mega-developments, but a denser Miami isn’t a sure thing

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

New York or Los Angeles?

These are the two contrasting models of urbanism that Raymond Fort, designer at Miami-based architecture firm Arquitectonica, cites when asked about Miami’s future. In New York, numerous walkable neighborhoods—whose density, convenience, and character are major assets—are connected by a robust public transportation system. In Los Angeles, low density and car-oriented urbanism is the norm outside the downtown core (though transit-oriented development has begun to spread in recent years). Many developers working in Miami are clearly enthusiastic about the New York model. However, that future isn’t guaranteed: The potential for car-dominated sprawl and other hybrid models still exist.

Arquitectonica is behind Brickell City Centre, a 5.4-million-square-foot complex of offices, luxury condos, a hotel, and ample retail south of Downtown Miami. Developed by Swire Group, Brickell is one of the many large, mixed-use developments in Miami that signals movement toward density. Phase one opened late last year, and phase two will entail an 80-story mixed-use tower.

Just north of downtown, there’s Miami Worldcenter, a 17-million-square-foot, 27-acre complex. It’s a joint venture by multiple developers, with Boston-based Elkus Manfredi leading the master plan and designing the center’s phase one, which is anchored by a 1-million-square-foot retail podium. Phase two is a $750 million convention center and hotel.

Development isn’t only concentrated in the urban core. About two miles north of Downtown in the Wynwood neighborhood, developer Moishe Mana and Miami-based Zyscovich Architects are poised to build a 9.72-million-square-foot, 23.5-acre development that will feature as many as 3,482 residential units, a mix of retail, office, and cultural programming, as well as an extensive public “Mana Commons” that will cut through the complex’s cluster of medium-rise towers. Dubbed Mana Wynwood, it won approvals last September. More like it may be on the way: In Little Haiti, the Eastside Ridge development will replace 500 townhouses with 7.2 million square feet of mixed-use development, and another project dubbed “Magic City(also located in Little Haiti) would see an innovation center, business incubator, housing, retail, and other art-entertainment facilities arise across a 15-acre campus.

What’s driving all of these major concentrations of development? In part, affluent young professionals across the U.S. are moving to cities seeking walkable, transit-connected neighborhoods, and developers are eager to meet that need. But there are factors unique to Miami. One is the city’s zoning: The Miami 21 code, implemented some six and half years ago, has significant parking requirements that incentivize large developments. For example, in dense high-rise areas, the code mandates 1.5 parking spaces per unit. Consequently, smaller projects struggle to meet the logistical and economic challenges of incorporating that much parking into their site. Bigger projects can more easily integrate a parking garage into their lower levels. Furthermore, if a development covers nine contiguous acres, it can qualify for a Special Area Plan, an arrangement that allows developers more flexibility in situating parking and negotiating the rules of Miami 21’s form-based code. This maximizes the development’s value. Brickell, Mana Wynwood, and the Worldcenter, as well as virtually all of Miami’s major developments, are (or have applied for) Special Area Plans.

Miami’s geography is also part of the equation. John Stuart, professor of architecture at Florida International University and executive director of its Miami Beach Urban Studios, explained how wealth from the Caribbean and Central and South America has historically flowed into Miami. “We have this gravitational pull from the south,” he said. Affluent people from Chile, Venezuela, and elsewhere come to Miami seeking “these kinds of urban experiences where they’re safe, their products are confirmed as authentic, but they’re close to their own countries….”

But the city’s geography turns from an asset to a risk when one considers the threat of extreme weather and sea-level rise. Miami Beach, which sits a mere four feet above sea level (compared to Miami’s six feet), is regularly inundated during king (high) tides and is spending nearly half a billion dollars to raise streets, install pumps, and push back the waters. Faced with such uncertainty, Stuart sees mega-developments as “just overflowing with optimism” and the belief that climate change will be remedied, ameliorated, or far enough away to not warrant significant concern in the near future.

In the shorter term, how Miami 21 and public transportation evolve may be deciding factors in shaping the city. In Wynwood, the City of Miami Planning Department is testing out a new zoning overlay that alleviates parking requirements for developments with smaller units. If Wynwood ceases to become the exception, then dense growth may not be restricted to Special Area Plan developments and the downtown urban core.

This leads to the issue of public transportation. “That’s at the core of much of what’s fragmenting the city, holding it back economically, socially, culturally,” said Stuart. “There’s very little opportunity for people who live in a neighborhood they can afford to access other neighborhoods for employment, artistic production, or other means.” Miami is in the process of funding and planning an expansion of the Metrorail, the city’s above ground heavy-rail rapid transit system. Eighty-two miles of new rail and six new lines—costing $3.6 billion—would connect the city’s burgeoning neighborhoods with each other and downtown. Complicating the situation are Uber and Lyft, whose low rates can be competitive with public transportation. Moreover, according to Fort, the prospect of driverless cars adds a new level of uncertainty to major public transportation investment.

A conversation about public transportation and mega-developments must also include the question of affordability. According to a 2016 study from the New York University Furman Center, in Miami “85 percent of recently available rental units were unaffordable to the typical renter household,” making the city the least affordable for renters among the country’s top 11 metro areas. But there are glimmers of hope: As development moves from the urban core and the waterfront to places like Wynwood, more non-luxury units may come online. Additionally, the city is already taking steps to increase affordable housing stock: A measure passed in late February would reward residential projects that feature affordable units with greater density and less required parking. However, while the downtown core and Wynwood don’t have large existing communities facing gentrification, that challenge may arise elsewhere. In other instances, density alone may deter development: Earlier this year, local opposition stopped a 1.2-million-square-foot Special Area Plan development east of Little Haiti.

For a firsthand experience, Fort recommends riding the Metrorail to survey the city—from there, you can see pockets of development (Coconut Grove, Little Havana, Brickell, Downtown) that he thinks could become medium-density nodes in a new polycentric city. He also cites neighborhoods like Edgewater, Wynwood, and the Design District that aren’t on the Metrorail but are still growing. “That’s what I think the next phase of development in Miami is,” he said, “where we look at neighborhoods and understand what’s missing” to make them mixed-use, denser, and affordable. Optimism for density, however, is just one of many factors—climate change, transportation technology, affordability, and zoning codes, to name a few—that will shape Miami in the years to come.

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Getting There

Miami’s infrastructure woes run deep, but the city has its eyes set on “huge cultural change”

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Talk of “infrastructure” may be one of the few things—if not the only thing—that comes close to uniting Democrats and Republicans at the moment. It was transit infrastructure, of course, that literally united the states of America: originally with railroads in the 19th century and later with interstates and automobiles in the 20th. Today, however, some cities’ prevailing love affairs with the car have become rather one-sided.

Polluting air and clogging roads, vehicles choke our cities. Miami ranks fifth nationally and tenth globally for congestion, as residents spend 65 hours in traffic per year on average, according to INRIX, a global traffic researcher that uses big data. Adding real injury to insult, the state’s stretch of the I-95 is America’s most deadly, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

There is a financial burden to excessive traffic too. INRIX estimates that congestion costs Miami drivers $3.6 billion per year (remember that figure). Additionally, drivers pay out an average of $628,000 every day in tolls, just for the privilege of using the Miami-Dade Expressway.

Cars aren’t cheap, but what is the alternative in an auto-dependent city like Miami? Director of the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) for Miami-Dade County Alice Bravo said that she wanted to make Miami a “car-optional community,” where people can get to “all the different regions within the county using reliable public transit that’s convenient and helps people save time.”

A plethora of schemes and projects are now occurring in and around the city, such as high-speed regional rail, local rail, bus, bicycle, and pedestrian routes, water travel, and carpooling. Miami has gone from having nothing concrete in the pipeline for years to everything happening at once, and this coincides with a development boom that is more tuned for urban living than previous waves of development.

Bravo said that the backbone of the infrastructure surge is the Brightline, a completely private, approximately $3 billion scheme by All Aboard Florida. The “higher-speed” (Note: not high-speed) rail service runs the 235-mile stretch from the Orlando airport to Downtown Miami. The new line will reduce travel between Orlando and Miami from four hours to two and a half, for about the same cost as driving.

Such a commuter-rail service may sound familiar: In the late 19th century, the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) was developed by Henry Flagler. Flagler’s railway ran from Jacksonville and was dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” The commuter rail prevailed until the 1960s when the line was used to transport freight only, which it still does to this day. Unsurprisingly, then, All Aboard Florida is a sister company of the FEC and the new tracks will be laid along the existing lines.

Designing the Miami station, as well as those in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach is Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) who are working with Miami-based Zyscovich Architects. Design principal Roger Duffy explained how the stations would work with the existing infrastructure around them: “At Fort Lauderdale, we’re looking to link up with a bus service that will connect the cruise port and the station.” The city is also pressing on with plans for a streetcar system called “The Wave” that would connect with the station as well.

Meanwhile, at West Palm Beach, the 60,000-square-foot station is located at the center of downtown and will connect with the existing trolley network as well as Tri-Rail and Amtrak. In Miami, the station inhabits a similar location. A zoning override that turned the area into a special transit district was required to build the station, and tracks here are elevated 50 feet into the air so that the 11,000-foot-long station can bridge roads and pedestrian pathways.

Like any contemporary train terminus, the station will offer a ton of retail space, with room for a food court too. Duffy, however, stressed that the station was “not like duty-free at an airport,” where you have to weave through shops to get anywhere. Amenities will also cater to the area outside the building. Space for food trucks—a hit in Florida—has been provided, while skylights where the station bridges the streets offer daylight.

The Brightline train itself was designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group—an in-house strategy and technology studio at the New York architecture and design studio. The LAB at Rockwell Group worked with All Aboard Florida to conceive the Brightline name, brand platform, visual identity, and designed the train’s interiors as well as the exterior graphics. In addition to this, one of Rockwell Group’s architectural studios designed the interior check-in areas, food and beverage areas, and lounge experiences for all four Brightline stations.

Using the Brightline project as a springboard, Bravo is embarking on a $3.6 billion (remember that number?) transport scheme. Part of “Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit,” otherwise known as the S.M.A.R.T. plan, 82 miles of track will be laid along six transportation corridors that involve local services, including the suburban Metrorail and the elevated monorail Metromover.

In addition to new tracks, existing tracks are also finding a new lease on life as a haven for pedestrians and cyclists. Known as the “Underline,” the rails-to-trails scheme, comes from James Corner Field Operations (JCFO)—the same firm who developed New York’s hugely popular High Line.

As one might guess, the scheme involves area underneath the Metrorail being turned into a landscaped oasis filled with pedestrian paths, cycle lanes, and native planting. The 10-mile stretch is planned to run from Brickell Station down to Dadeland South Station. Phase one is occurring in Brickell, where work is due for completion in 2019, set to cost netween $7 million and $9 million. “Brickell has grown explosively in the past 10 to 15 years,” said Meg Daly, president of Friends of the Underline, the group leading the project. “We really believe that this trail-cum-park will offer incredible amenities and green spaces to offset the vertical growth and increased density in the area.”

Expanding on this, Isabel Castilla of JCFO listed amenities such as a dog park, an outdoor gym, a basketball court that doubles up as a space for yoga classes and similar activities, as well as a 150-capacity bicycle garage (Miami-Dade’s first) and a bike repair station. Art will also line the trail, and amenities will be site-specific: In the University of Miami area, a beach volleyball court will be installed.

According to Irene Hegedus of the DTPW, providing safe bicycle routes is a high priority. Castilla added that the shade provided by the Metrorail is “critical” for a project where people are encouraged to “walk, run, and cycle to stations and along the path.” “Working with the existing infrastructure,” she continued, “we hope this leads to the rezoning and re-visioning of areas along the Metrorail as transit-orientated development sites and areas where, as Miami continues to grow, it hopefully grows in a denser way near transit stations rather than continuing urban sprawl that is very dependent on highways and cars.”

Bravo, too, is aware of the interwoven relationship between transit development and the densification of urban areas. Another tool she discussed to further assist Hegedus’s and her ambitions was the possibility of Uber and Lyft entering the fray of her transport plans, acting as the “first and last miles” for journeys.

Now operating in Miami (after three years of lobbying for service legalization), Uber and Lyft previously found success in other parts of Florida, notably in Pinellas Park and Altamonte Springs where rides are subsidized and saving the cities considerable money. Altamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz described the pilot partnership as “going very well,” but said the scheme is due to end in July.

The low-cost nature of services such as Uber and Lyft is a key to their success. Already able to outprice traditional taxi drivers, ridesharing services Uber Pool and Lyft Line are looking to compete with bus service, too. Uber has gone further than mere carpooling by introducing pickup points optimized by algorithms that essentially create Uber bus stops.

Uber is also losing money—approximately $3 billion per year. In December, economist Justin Wolfers commented that “prices will rise once they’ve succeeded at monopolizing the industry.” If he is correct, the governmental embracing of Uber and Lyft long-term will prove to be shortsighted. Evidence of what happens when alternative public transit routes become unavailable can be seen in London. During a tube strike earlier this year, Uber fares surged by 450 percent; one rider was reportedly charged $138 for a five-mile trip.

It should be noted, though, that Altamonte Springs and Pinellas Park went with car sharing due to other circumstances not going their way. The Altamonte Springs city government set aside $500,000 (of which only a fraction has been needed) for private-hire subsidies after it was denied funding for a $1.5 million pilot “FlexBus” program. At Pinellas Park, the program emerged in response to a 2014 referendum in which local voters declined to adopt a one-cent sales tax to aid transit in the area.

In Miami, however, residents appear to be more enthusiastic about public transport. The “People’s Transportation Plan,” a half-penny charter county sales surtax is helping to fund the S.M.A.R.T. project, something the public voted in favor of back in 2002.

All this, too, shouldn’t suggest that Miami is waging all-out war against the automobile. Getting around by car is being made easier by what Bravo calls “smart signals”—traffic signals that adapt to current states of congestion. Using cameras, they monitor intersections and use AI to optimize traffic flow. Miami-Dade County is investing $40 million this year for the implementation of the traffic signals along major corridors, part of a five-year, $160 million effort. Other smart-city services include 300 soon-to-be-installed wi-fi transit hotspots from CIVIQ Smartscapes.

With all the proposed infrastructural plans, varying in scale, Bravo is under no illusions about the difficulty of the task. “This is a huge cultural change,” she said. However, Bravo is optimistic about how future generations will take to the changes. “New millennials are cool about public transportation,” she added. Such unprecedented growth seldom comes around often, and the chance to invest off the back of hefty tax receipts may be fleeting. Miami’s public transit system is dire, but if it continues to ride the wave of public support and enact its plans, change in the form of mobility lies ahead.

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1212 Lincoln Road

Perkins + Will unveils renderings of mixed-use Miami Beach development

Perkins + Will has revealed renderings of its new mixed-use complex in Miami Beach, which will anchor one of Miami’s liveliest corners, Alton Road and Lincoln Road Mall. The new structure will house a boutique hotel, European-style food market, retail spaces, and a 450-car parking structure.

Lincoln Road is already home to many modern buildings, such as Frank Gehry’s New World Center and Herzog & de Meuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road, which is part of the appeal according to Jose Gelabert-Navia, Managing Principal on the project. “We love doing projects in Miami Beach, because the architecture is already modern, contemporary, and cutting edge,” he said.

1212 Lincoln Road aims to speak to that tradition and engage the area’s walkable nature, providing a grand exterior staircase for access to the market and a second-floor balcony with views of the pedestrian mall.   

1212 Lincoln Road is scheduled to begin construction in 2017. The design team is led by Design Director and Principal Pat Bosch alongisde Alejandro Branger, Damian Ponton, and Carlos Vilato and Kricket Snow is the Project Manager.

Architect: Perkins + Will Client: Crescent Heights Location: Miami, FL Completion Date: 2018

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Turning the Tide

Facing rising sea levels and greater insurance risk, Southern Florida braces for relocations, new flood design standards, and more

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We're publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

The moon over South Florida looked like a swollen grapefruit in November, its reflection rippling off pools of ocean water that bubbled up through storm drains, crept over seawalls, and swallowed Miami streets. It was a “supermoon,” about 17,000 miles closer to Earth than usual, according to NASA, arriving just in time to supercharge the seasonal high waters known as king tides. The water made an island out of the lifeguards’ shack on Matheson Hammock Park, swept “No Wake” signs from marina harbors onto city streets, and marooned a live octopus in a parking garage along Biscayne Bay.

On days like these, it’s obvious that much of the region now home to about 7 million people began as a network of swampy canals meandering from the Everglades to the ocean. Sometimes nature conspires to remind the city of this fact, as it did in November 2016.

Lately those reminders have become more frequent. The rate of sea-level rise has tripled over the last decade, according to a recent study from the University of Miami, bringing with it more frequent coastal flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects that Miami-Dade County will see about 15 inches of sea-level rise by 2045. And because South Florida sits on porous limestone bedrock, saltwater is not just encroaching on coastal communities, but gurgling up from below.

Right now it’s a nuisance, but over the lifetime of a mortgage, flooding in South Florida could threaten tens of billions of dollars of real estate and upend development in the country’s 10th largest metropolitan area. Architects, planners, and developers are just beginning to overhaul the urban landscape, laying the groundwork for a sweeping transformation of building codes, municipal infrastructure, and design norms that could save the city from rising seas.

The crucial question is: Who will change that built environment? Will it be architects and city officials, safeguarding South Florida against the effects of climate change as the world’s living laboratory for so-called climate resiliency? Or is nature coming to reclaim Miami as a swampland?

Higher Ground

South Florida’s development boom is so lucrative it seems inevitable that it will continue. Before the city was founded in 1896, however, it wasn’t clear that the mouth of the Miami River would ever be anything more than a mosquito-infested trading post—until the industrialist Henry Flagler dragged his railroad south from Palm Beach along the highest ground he could find: a coral ridge between 12 and 25 feet above sea level. The tracks reached Biscayne Bay on April 22, 1896. Three months later Miami was incorporated.

Today, Miami is a bustling, sprawling urban landscape that has been remade to suit cars, but some planners say that the same limestone ridge Flagler used could anchor climate-friendly development.

The Urban Land Institute is drafting a plan for the Arch Creek Basin, a mostly low-lying area straddling 2,800 acres and four municipalities, as well as unincorporated Dade County, around one stretch of the railroad. Primarily poor people of color, the residents of Arch Creek face a severe threat from sea-level rise—one that could eventually force them to abandon the area.

At a charette in November, designers Gustavo Sanchez-Hugalde, Max Zabala and University of Miami professor Sonia Chao presented their idea for a flood-resistant transportation hub at Northeast 125th Street. It would be transit-oriented development, dense with mixed-use buildings and affordable housing, but also with a health clinic, back-up generators and other resources that could come in handy during a disaster.

“Think of these as not just transit but resilience stations,” said Chao.

In the long run, South Florida’s scarcity of higher ground could also make its elevated areas more valuable as waters rise. That could exacerbate gentrification in minority neighborhoods with relatively high elevations like Liberty City and Little Havana.

“It’s a matter of time until investors will head for the higher land,” said James Murley, chief resilience officer for Miami-Dade County. But climate change isn’t forcing people out of their homes just yet. Asked if climate change is a driving force for gentrification in Miami, Murley is skeptical, but others are starting to look toward the future.

“Right now we’re experiencing more of the classic gentrification that comes with a growing real estate economy,” Murley said.

While the mainland mulls long-term plans to adapt to rising seas, the coastal barrier island of Miami Beach is busy building.

Planning for High Water

Over the next five years, the municipality of Miami Beach will spend $400 to $500 million on flood defenses, installing 80 new pumps, raising roads, and strengthening seawalls across the city. So far the city has funded about $200 million of that project by more than doubling stormwater fees.

A law passed last year requires the owners of buildings larger than 7,000 square feet to pay a fee if they don’t get certified as at least LEED Gold. The builders of properties that don’t get LEED certified at all get slapped with a fee equal to 5 percent of their construction costs. That could help raise money for future infrastructure investments.

Miami Beach also requires new buildings to be at least one foot above the base flood elevation of six feet above sea level. As an additional incentive for developers, the city won’t count the raised elevation of a flood-proofed site toward the project’s height limit or floor-to-area ratio.

Miami Beach environment and sustainability director Elizabeth Wheaton said the new requirements wouldn’t stunt development.

“Developers want to build here,” Wheaton said. “They’re going to do what’s required.”

The first building completed under the new elevation requirements is Jean Nouvel’s Monad Terrace, a 59-unit luxury residential tower on the waterfront in South Beach. Nouvel built Monad Terrace’s ground floor more than 11 feet above sea level, elevating all of the building’s interior spaces and its entrance high enough to ward off flooding.

Building high is an increasingly popular choice for private residences, too. The local architect Rene Gonzalez, known for his high-end modernist houses, is building four new homes in the area that are modeled on mangroves—propped up with stilts and columns for an additional layer of privacy that also affords the owner some long-term insurance against flooding. Gonzalez designed his own home on Belle Isle the same way.

“It’s a responsibility that every architect should take on,” said Gonzalez. “Building a house up is not a luxury. It’s a necessity in our current environmental climate.”

For now, however, most of that work is clustered in tony Miami Beach. In Miami-Dade County at large, where nearly half of all residents live in poverty, there are fewer options.

Because saltwater rises up through South Florida’s porous limestone bedrock, it’s not just coastal communities that are at risk. Many of the most threatened areas lie miles inland, in suburban and often low-income areas of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties that can’t afford to elevate all their homes and streets.

“It’s unavoidable that there will be relocations,” said Anthony Abbate, an architect based in Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, just to the north of Miami-Dade. “It’s a difficult conversation but I think we’re on the verge of having it. This has to be a conversation with the people, with the public.”

Miami-Dade is in the middle of a vulnerability analysis for major infrastructure, from its airport to its water system, identifying “adaptation action areas” where city planners might best focus their efforts.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and it needs to be done in short order,” said Abbate.

Some of that work is already underway. The newest addition to the county’s hospital system will pioneer a flood-friendly approach in the recently incorporated town of Doral, just west of Miami International Airport. Designed by Perkins + Will, Jackson West hospital will devote most of its 27 acres to green space and a retention pond to store runoff not just from the built-up part of the site that will house the hospital, but from the developments surrounding the site. Construction is set to begin later this year and the hospital could open in 2020.

Risk and Reward

Perhaps before it faces up to the force of nature, however, South Florida may have to reckon with its runaway real estate market. Wayne Pathman, a land-use attorney and chair of Miami’s Sea Level Rise Committee, said the face of Miami’s climate crisis might not be a natural disaster, but a collapse of the insurance market.

“Flood insurance is going to be the tip of the spear,” Pathman said. “Unlike hurricanes, which are a single event that may not happen for years at a time, sea-level rise is a constant. Once it’s here, it’s here, and it’s never going to get better.”

Pathman said some of his clients with property in Miami Beach and North Beach are already seeing a 500 percent increase in their flood insurance premiums. For now, that’s manageable, he said, because they were probably underpriced in the first place.

“When that jumps as high as $50,000 over the next 10 years, which it will, that’s alarming,” he said.

Areas that today flood two or three times each year could see water in the streets every week, and banks may stop offering mortgages there. That could have ripple effects across the region, Pathman said, jeopardizing tourism dollars and property-tax revenue that Miami-Dade and Broward counties will need to fund new climate-resilient infrastructure.

“Those are our only two industries here in South Florida,” Pathman said. “If we don’t start dealing with the insurance risk, all the ideas we come up with for future infrastructure will be cost-prohibitive because we won’t have any money.”

Reinaldo Borges, an architect who sits on the sea-level rise committee with Pathman, said the luxury houses and museums already built to deal with higher seas show climate-resilient design can provide a return on investment.

“If you design correctly,” he said, “you shouldn’t be worried about insurance risk.”

Borges has a checklist for clients who are looking to invest in the future of Miami real estate—not just flip property for a profit. It includes elevating building mechanical systems, installing hurricane-proof windows, and planning for severe floods.

“For a building like that, all you have to do before a storm is bring your pool chairs inside,” he said.

Climate-proofing one building may be a straightforward design problem. Saving a metro region of 7 million is something else.

Borges came to Miami when he was six years old, brought from Cuba by parents who sought a better life for their children. Today he has two daughters, ages 23 and 29, and he has the same hope for them.

“When you’ve got political leadership in denial, these are challenges I’m concerned about,” said Borges. “This is a world-class city, but people are starting to ask if this is the place they really want to invest.” 

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Heritage

Miami embodies challenging stereotypes, but generates new architectural identities in spite of them

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We're publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

There are facts about Miami that challenge the American narrative on what it means to be an American, like the fact that most Miamians—documented and undocumented—have been Americans their entire lives, just more southerly located; one of the city’s major arteries is Calle Ocho (US-41), which starts at the Atlantic Ocean in Downtown Miami, stretches into the upper peninsula of Michigan, turning into a cul-de-sac, wrapping around itself and splitting the United States in two; and English has never been an official language of the United States, most evident in Miami’s creation of Spanglish. Perhaps no other interpretation can locate the problem of Miami as a most American object.

Miami is blown-out, teetering over the line of acceptable, into the realm of the incredible and back again in an instance so fleeting it can only be described in ephemeral anecdotes. Yet within this feeling there is permanence, textures embedded within the sidewalk Cuban-coffee windows, the Haitian barbecue in parking lots, the unspecified graffiti facades of new buildings, the bridge-cities connecting synthetic earth to eroding beaches, color and light used as generators for architecture, and ultimately in the multi-versed language of formalities spoken by the beautiful people of this sprawled-out, horizontal Tower of Babel.

As a capital of the end and beginning of the world, Miami’s architecture is fitting. From its colonial past through its cracker style, to its New Deal modern and art deco internationalist explosion, Miami has been equal parts parking lot and low-key laboratory for designers. Like Los Angeles, Miami had its own variation on postmodernism, thanks to unforgettable work by Arquitectonica, such as Pink House and the Atlantis; Roney Mateu’s 1984 radical, steel-and-glass Luminaire building that challenged Coral Gables’ small, terra-cotta city fabric; and Philip Johnson’s Miami Cultural Center, where one might have “Jammed at the M.A.M.” (before it became PAMM). This period saw Miami’s most prolific cocaine-funded densification, only surpassed more recently with unfettered safe-deposit-box towers dotting the skyline. Over the last 20 years, Miami has been equally critiqued for its lack of resiliency in sustainability and celebrated as an innovative southeastern center. One lesson from this contradiction is that Miami has always been both, inhabiting challenging stereotypes, while projecting new identities in spite of them.

But Miami’s architecture translates some of these conditions visually, through instances of drive-by-sidewalk cultures and mediated facades; coloration as a strategy for architecture; and resilient bridge-cityscapes. Since it’s unproductive to attempt a meager definition of everything in Miami, perhaps then the projection of new genealogies through its architecture might make it more worthwhile.

A new species of architectural element has exploded in Miami: the mediated facade. That is to say that the facade—technocratic, ornamental, relaxed, absent, and otherwise—has had a very sympathetic, albeit aesthetically allergic, ear within the history of Miami thanks to capital, climate, and culture. For example, expressive and gigantic graphics found their origins during modernism in the tile facades famously capping the sides of Enrique Gutierrez’s Bacardi Building and on Roberto Burle Marx’s sidewalk pavers, both located on Biscayne Boulevard. The mediated facade is different because it is divorced from its traditional place within the elements of architecture and the design process, more specifically in a planned loss of control for the architect. The facade in Miami began to operate differently in the Design District in the early-to-mid 2000s with an origin in Rene Gonzalez’s CIFO Art Museum. Using one million Bisazza glass mosaic tiles to represent a jungle scenography, Gonzalez harnessed postmodern communication to flatly rasterize the historical tectonic gymnastics of facades in Miami without resorting to a metaphoric translation of vegetation. However, that jungle image at CIFO not only transformed the reception of facades in the Design District via swift driving, tight parking, and slow walking, but also the transparencies and porosities of Miami’s more acceptable architectural faces.

In Wynwood, a low-resolution high-participation version of the mediated facade has taken the form of almost-bare frontal surface treatments by architects, turning the sidewalk into an outdoor lowbrow museum stroll. By leaving facades stark, architects are giving up aesthetic control and expression for a more localized collaboration, usually with painters, artists, and graffiti writers, to fill in the gap between neighborhood and interior. The result is a multivalent series of streetscapes, corridors, alleyways, and entrance sequences that extend art both into the facade-driven traditions of architecture and the urban interior, accessible when it doesn’t rain.

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Sunshine State

AN focuses on Florida for the AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando

The Architect's Newspaper's April 2017 issue takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). You can see all those articles on this page. Here, Senior Editor Matt Shaw's editorial from that issue highlights what we've explored in the Sunshine State.

Since The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) switched from four weekly regional editions to one single national monthly, we have worked tirelessly to maintain our in-depth regional coverage of architecture, even if it is packaged differently. But sometimes we miss the intense focus on one region for one issue. That is why for our AIA special issue, which coincides with the AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando, Florida, we decided to make a Florida regional issue, in the spirit of our old East, Midwest, West, and Southwest editions. We could call it Southeast, but there is so much building and development going on in Florida that we wanted to give it the classic AN treatment by itself.

What exactly is happening there?

Most of the high-profile development is in Miami, where The Four Seasons stands as the tallest building in the city at 789 feet, but will soon be surpassed by the 830-foot-tall Panorama Tower, and soon after that both will likely be passed by a wave of supertalls that are in the planning process. There are nearly a dozen proposals in various states of planning, including World Trade Center of the Americas, The Towers by Foster + Partners, KPF’s One Bayfront Plaza, and Skyrise Miami, a.k.a. “The Eiffel Tower of the Magic City.” The FAA has never approved a building over 1,049 feet, so that is the designated height of many, including the latter three listed above.

This boom shows that while the condo market in South Florida may actually be cooling off, the cities are not. In our feature, we profile Miami from several angles, showing a complex metropolis layered with architecture and design activity. The latest wave of development has brought with it a new civic-mindedness to a city that is struggling to escape its car-centric culture and is slowly growing to offer more urbane experiences through infrastructure, density, and advances in technology. The re-urbanization of Miami parallels many other places, but it has its own characteristic development patterns.

The paradox of building directly in the face of sea-level rise may seem daunting, especially as the governor of Florida continues to deny climate change and forbids government employees from using the term. Luckily, there is hope: A sub-state organization of counties and municipalities are taking the lead without state help. Since 2009, the counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach have led the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact. Other partners include the Institute for Sustainable Communities, South Florida Water Management District, The Nature Conservancy – Florida Chapter, and the Florida Climate Institute. Along with a collection of cities and towns, they have been working together—and meeting annually—to coordinate mitigation and adaptation activities across county lines, as well as address funding and policy issues.

In Miami, there is also work being done to combat the social issues of sea-level rise threatening the city, as there is real concern that up to 50 percent of the land will not be habitable in the coming decades. What will happen if this is true? Not only would real estate become unusable, but higher ground that is now affordable could become unaffordable for those who live there, if that territory becomes more desirable to those displaced along the shore. To offset that, many are looking to Philadelphia’s anti-gentrification “Development Without Displacement” methods such as the tax exemptions in the Longtime Owner-Occupant Program (LOOP), and other alternative ownership incentives and models, and applying them to a GIS-based plan for the city.

These contradictory forces—the ocean and the city—may pose a threat to Miami if no action is taken, but they are also what makes it so desirable. The landscape and the resultant tourism industry—hotels, malls, resorts, beaches, nightlife—fuels a tropical paradise with urban, suburban, and rural issues as compelling and complex as anywhere.

Because we cover Florida regularly, we have some past coverage that might interest those who enjoy this issue. Click here for a list of past articles.

Special thanks to landscape architect Walter Meyer of Local Office Landscape Architecture whose help was indispensable for this issue.