Posts tagged with "April 2017 Florida Issue":

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An historic skatepark is replicated—and memorialized—in Tampa

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 Bro Bowl—an erstwhile icon of Tampa’s skateboarding scene—reopened last year with its spirit transposed to a graffiti-free imitation just a few hundred feet from its original footprint. While the skate park initially strained relations between the area’s skateboarders and the African American community—both made full-throated claims to the site—it seems that the new design has assuaged both sides.

Planner Joel Jackson, a City of Tampa employee who seized on what was then a sub-cultural sport, was inspired by the informal use of swimming pools and designed the Bro Bowl in the mid-seventies. Built in 1978 as part of the Perry Harvey, Sr. Park, the Bro Bowl was among the first skate parks in the country. For the activists involved with brobowl.org, the demolition of the landmark in 2015 marked the loss of a cultural and social memory, especially considering that the move effectively revoked its historic status. Other activists claim that the site was significant not simply as a nostalgic moment in history, but as a public commons essential to resisting the commercialization of private skate parks.

For some, however the removal of the Bro Bowl was a necessary part of a larger city-led effort to transform the Scrub neighborhood and Central Avenue drag. Many community leaders saw the redevelopment initiative as a method of reclaiming a bygone history of the African American experience in Tampa. The neighborhood has been occupied by African American families as far back as the Civil War, and has seen a growth of African American–owned businesses throughout the years. But under the auspices of urban renewal, some claim that much of this community was decentralized and even permanently lost. The redesign of Perry Harvey, Sr. Park and the investment in residential and commercial projects nearby was an attempt to realign the residents with the heart of their community.

Tension between the two stakeholder groups has largely subsided in the wake of the park’s overwhelming success. The site of the former Bowl was replaced with a series of display apparatuses with imagery and text detailing prominent members of the African American community, both locally and nationally, as a kind of urban storytelling. Though the Bowl lacks the material history that was so beloved by the skateboarding world, small parts of the extant concrete surface remain in situ. The new skatepark was designed using laser-imaging technology to recreate the feel of the previous concrete surface. According to the Tampa Bay Times, local skateboarders are impressed by the similarities between the original and the replica, “They almost nailed it,” Brian Schaefer, Skatepark of Tampa founder, told the Times.

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Exhibition showcases 60 years of a Cuban-American painter’s exploration of vernacular architecture

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.

Emilio Sanchez in South Florida Collections marks the artist’s first show in South Florida in over a decade. The Cuban-American painter’s work is largely centered on his time in Cuba and the Caribbean and, later on, in New York City. His paintings depict the vernacular of his surroundings, often finding inspiration in existing structures and scenes and transforming them into abstract and surreal portraits. “His keen eye and remarkable ability to edit out incidental elements and details imbue the work with a dreamlike quality, as if the buildings he depicted existed in a parallel universe born of memory, longing, and imagination,” said co-curator Victor Deupi, an architecture scholar, in an interview with Cuban Art News. The exhibition encompasses six decades of Sanchez’s professional career, displaying paintings from the 1940s through the 1990s. Alongside his paintings, the museum will display sketchbooks, doodles, and other personal documents to paint a better picture, if you will, of this artist’s prolific work.

EMILIO SANCHEZ IN SOUTH FLORIDA COLLECTIONS Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami 1301 Stanford Drive Coral Gables, Florida Through May 21, 2017

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Is Jacksonville, Florida’s best hope for a post-climate change megacity?

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.

Increasing economic and environmental pressures have the potential to challenge the resiliency of South Florida’s low-lying urban areas in the near future. As Florida’s population continues to grow in the midst of the increasingly obvious impacts of gentrification, global climate change, and sea level rise, economic and environmental displacement are likely to make the northern city of Jacksonville a beacon of hope for a climate-ravaged state.

Why? Because Jacksonville is huge and has room to grow. The city, named after President Andrew Jackson, also first governor of Florida, is the state’s largest by population and the 12th largest in the U.S., population-wise, with 868,031 residents. Jacksonville is also the largest city in the U.S. by land area—874.3 square miles—making it almost twice the size of Los Angeles and about three times that of New York City. The city’s corresponding 1,142 people per square mile density—L.A. and New York are many times denser—means there is plenty of room to grow.

Ruth L. Steiner, professor and director at the Center for Health and the Built Environment in the department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida, Gainesville, said: “I think the area is amenable to accepting large amounts of new growth,” adding that though the region could likely support an influx of new residents, its schools, transportation, and land-use policies would need a healthy dose of re-thinking to be ready.

A question regarding the massive growth in southern and central Florida, however, centers around the long-term sustainability of these new population centers as the impacts of climate change and sea level rise threaten the state’s coastal communities. With sea levels predicted to rise between four inches and up to ten feet across the region, low-lying areas of the Miami region will see massive losses in real estate and untenable retrofitting costs. The simultaneous and ongoing population growth across that region will likely ultimately push residents to flee to higher, cheaper ground.

That’s where Jacksonville comes in. Though some parts of the city lie on the coast, much of the city’s land area currently sits roughly 16 feet above sea level. As of 2010, Jacksonville had 366,273 households with an 11.8 percent vacancy rate, meaning that roughly 43,220 units are currently unoccupied. The relatively high vacancy rate means lower rents and, maybe more importantly, lower economic barriers to homeownership for first-time buyers—a growing problem for Miami’s millennial residents. Jacksonville is also home to the nation’s largest urban parks system, with 80,000 acres of parkland distributed across 337 sites, which according to Steiner, “bodes well” for any future urban development. She explained, “Investment in public infrastructure like parks has a high level of pay-back in terms of raising quality-of-life.”

Steiner added that the city faces challenges in terms of its urban layout; “another dilemma is the city’s sprawled out urban form,” she said, adding that because most of the development in the city has happened since World War II, the city is organized along “a series of major arterials and mega-blocks,” a 3,400-mile long network of roads that deters pedestrian-oriented design. Jacksonville also has a bus-only transit system that, aside from a downtown monorail line, leaves much to be desired in terms of mass transit.

The city, a short drive from the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus, is, however, poised for knowledge worker growth. Not only that, but the vast majority of Florida’s recent population growth is not from an increase in births or even migration from other American states, but from a net influx of individuals moving to the state from foreign countries, with Cuban, Venezuelan, and Haitian immigrants showing up in the highest numbers. The impact of climate change on those countries is currently unknown, but it is safe to assume that those communities would continue to grow should conditions back home deteriorate.

In a not-too-far-off future, could Jacksonville provide a relief valve for the growing state? It’s likely, and if city officials can prepare accordingly, Jacksonville’s new residents might learn to love the city. “Sometimes,” Steiner added, “I think Jacksonville is a diamond in the rough.”

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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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4,672 ultrathin aluminum strips compose THEVERYMANY’s Orlando convention center installation

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 48-by-35-by-26-foot public artwork has been installed in the main concourse of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. The work, titled Under Magnitude, is designed by New York architect Marc Fornes and his firm THEVERYMANY as a “curious signal and a place for visual wandering” meant to activate one of the convention center’s main social spaces.

The two-story sculpture—made up of 4,672 ultrathin aluminum strips and 103,723 rivets—is suspended above the concourse floor via steel wires and can be seen at eye level from the mezzanine. The structure follows the laws of what Fornes described as “tangential continuities,” a geometric phenomenon describing how micro-level linear components are utilized to describe macro-scaled, nonlinear geometries. The model dates back to the work of 20th century artist Frei Otto, whose Soap Bubble Model theory postulates the so-called “extensive curvatures” at the foundation of Fornes’ work. Frei was interested in the geometric and structural tension that occurs in surfaces that transfer stresses along their length. Fornes inverts that theory via his notion of “intensive curvatures,” in which digital modeling is used to “maximize double curvature across the project,” rendering dynamic and fully self-supporting forms. The result is a holistic structural system that is defined by a tightly curved and constantly changing surface that is also incredibly strong and composed of thin materials.

The project, developed using Rhino digital modeling software, opened in March 2017. In a video, Fornes said: “Some people start to project their own background onto it. If you come from the sea, some people will read coral. Some people will read flowers. It doesn’t matter [how the viewer interprets the form], but it matters that they engage and that they start to wonder about the structure.”

Under Magnitude Orange County Convention Center Orlando, Florida Tel: 407-685-9800 Architects: THEVERYMANY
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A new book explores Bacardi’s use of architecture going back to the 1800s

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.

From its 1862 origins in Santiago, Cuba, Bacardi has grounded its identity through architecture—whether in utilitarian distilleries and factories or in more aesthetic offices and showrooms. Allan Shulman’s Building Bacardi: Architecture, Art & Identity traces the beverage empire’s affair with design beginning in 1800s Cuba, its migrations to the United States and throughout Latin America, and into new facilities in Europe after the turn of the century. Throughout these moves, Shulman contends that the company’s image and brand determinedly combined contemporary and vernacular elements.

Shulman lays the foundations for Bacardi’s architectural ambitions in the competition for the Bacardi Building in Havana. Located in the colonial heart of the capital, the building took a turn for the modern in 1930 when the winning architects, Esteban Rodríguez-Castells and Rafael Fernández Ruenes, changed the facade during construction from Renaissance Revival to a more contemporary art deco. Yet distinctly Cuban elements were incorporated, such as leaded glass, louvered windows, and local colors and patterns, to provide the building with a local identity. A visual landmark, the tower’s predominant function was the tasting room, a cocktail bar that catered to the largely American Prohibition-era clientele.

In post-Prohibition New York in 1933, this modern vernacular mix imbibed a Cuban flavor. Morris Sanders designed the new Bacardi Bar, which would take up space in the historic New York Club. The bar featured white leather focal points in an otherwise dark space, with a backdrop of a somewhat satirical mural by William Gropper to drive home the Cuban sensibility. A similar tactic was employed in 1938 for the Bacardi Room in the Empire State Building. Designed by Franklin Hughes, the space on the 35th floor was inwardly focused, with wooden screens blocking outside views; in their place, a mural by Antonio Gattorno, Waiting for Coffee, depicted a pastoral scene of sugar cane fields.

While Bacardi’s architectural style vacillates from utilitarian to expressive, it was never left to chance. Bacardi created its facilities by interpreting the local style through modern design and construction, a hybrid that often resulted from mixing local and international architects. Much of this mix appears in the wonder years of 1944 to 1977 when Bacardi was led by Jose Mario “Pepin” Bosch, who thought of himself more as a patron than a client. The breadth of architects and designers included under his reign certainly attests to this.

Native Cubans led the early work. Enrique Luis Varela designed the Modelo brewery near Havana and laboratories in Santiago in 1948. Ermina Odoardo-Ricardo Eguilior Arquitectos designed an addition to a plant in Santiago in the 1950s, as well as the Bacardi International Limited Building in Bermuda in 1972. In 1954 Sáenz, Cancio & Martín (SACMAG), appearing as both design engineer-architect and architect of record throughout Bosch’s tenure, developed a master plan for the new headquarters near Santiago along the central highway for its “modernity, mobility, and connectedness,” themes that pervaded Bacardi’s ethos. In 1956–57, Bosch commissioned Philip Johnson for a private residence and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for an administrative building. Both went unbuilt under Cuba’s growing political tensions. Shulman argues that the Mies van der Rohe’s design reappeared somewhat modified as the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

Though aligned with the Cuban Revolution, by 1960 the company’s assets in Cuba had been nationalized, and Bacardi exiled. But, in 1936, Bacardi had expanded to Puerto Rico to capitalize on being in a U.S. territory as Prohibition ended. A new campus with the main plant designed by Toro y Ferrer Arquitectos was constructed there in 1954. Construction increased after exile, including an expressive canopy-structure pavilion by SACMAG in 1962, and the Foyer Museum and Bottling Plant in 1965 by Miguel Rosich and Ignacio Carrera-Justiz. Félix Candela was tapped for an unbuilt warehouse design. Instead, he completed multiple commissions in Mexico. In Tulatitán, Mexico, Mies van der Rohe, with SACMAG as the architect of record, designed the company’s administrative building in 1958.

One of Bacardi’s more dynamic duos appears in Miami. In 1963, SACMAG’s seven-story Bacardi Imports Tower rose as a small service core to support a large truss from which the rest of the building hangs. An antithesis of the modern corporate office building, the lobby was moved to the second floor and the plaza level was a gallery. Shulman points out a striking similarity in the urban plan of the tower set back in a public plaza to Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building completed in 1958. A decade later, a smaller “mushroom” building—an administration annex—designed by Carrera-Justiz appeared. The tower was faced with dark glass on the longer sides, while the short sides featured blue and white stone and tile murals. The annex took this a step further and faced the entire building with hammered colored glass set in epoxy. The design by Johannes Dietz gives the mural a magical lantern effect.

Following Bosch’s retirement in 1976, Bacardi focused on its individual brands and new acquisitions. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that attention to facility design reemerged. Bacardi began renovating historical structures as it had done in the past, with a hospital in Puerto Rico in 1939 and a Spanish monastery in 1975. With new renovations in Juillac-le-Coq, France, and Aberfeldy, Scotland, the most spectacular of the new era is Heatherwick Studio’s renovation and glasshouse enclosures for the Bombay Sapphire distillery on the site of former mills in Laverstoke, England. Here, the modern and vernacular complement more than mix.

The portfolio-sized book shows what it tells. Full-color photos, drawings, historical documents and Bacardi paraphernalia follow the text. However, calling it a coffee or cocktail table book would do little service to Shulman’s research, which is thorough without being too technical for non-architects. The design coverage is comprehensive, yet succinct. The large images make it easy to flip across the book’s geographic organization, and a timeline is included. While the history of Bacardi is shown broadly, those wanting more are directed by an extensive set of endnotes and bibliography.

Building Bacardi: Architecture, Art & Identity Allan Shulman, Rizzoli, $60.00

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As Cuba’s economy embraces global tourism, modernist works fall under threat

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.

Preservation efforts aimed at recognizing and restoring Cuba’s storied architectural relics—long a pet project within professional and academic circles—might finally become mainstream as the country adopts market-based policies.

The implications of these economic and political changes for Cuba’s cultural heritage—much of which suffers from decades of deferred maintenance—are potentially vast and unknown. Architect Belmont Freeman, who has led many tours to Cuba on behalf of Docomomo and the Society of Architectural Historians, said, “There are a lot of cranes in Havana right now, every one of them related to a hotel project.”

Recent years have seen a ballooning interest in Cuba by international hoteliers. European luxury-hotel group Kempinski is set open its first hotel in Cuba this summer. The hotel will feature 246 rooms in the renovated Manzana de Gómez building, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was designed as Cuba’s first shopping mall in 1910. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is also entering Cuba by taking over operations of Havana’s neoclassical Hotel Inglaterra, the Hotel Quinta Avenida, and the colonial-era Hotel Santa Isabel. The move makes Starwood the first United States hotelier to enter the Cuban market since 1959. Hotel Quinta Avenida was renovated in 2016 and opened last summer. The Hotel Inglaterra, originally built in 1844, is expected to open in late 2017 after its renovation.

Real questions exist, however, not only in terms of the quality of these renovations, but also with regard to the status of other cultural, archeological, and architectural artifacts in the country. Cuba is home to a vast array of architectural history, including relics and sites important to the indigenous cultures that originally inhabited the island. However, colonial-era fortifications and more recent building stock, including successive waves of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century development, make up the vast majority of structures across the country. What will happen to those less prominent and more sensitive relics? Many of the city’s inner neighborhoods are filled with eclectic Beaux Arts–style structures, while the outer city and its environs are a hotbed of proto- and early-modernism, with works like the Hotel Nacional by McKim, Mead & White from 1930 and the Habana Libre Hotel by Welton Becket with Lin Arroyo and Gabriela Menendez from 1958 standing out both in terms of architectural style and for their respective roles in local and international history.

Furthermore, the Revolution’s communist utopianism was codified through the prodigious production of radically progressive works of architecture by Cuban modernist architects. Those works include the expressionist National Schools of Art by Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti, and Roberto Gottardi from 1961; the Brutalist Ciudad Universitaria Jose Antonio Echeverria (CUJAE) building by Humberto Alonso from 1961; and the vast neighborhoods of Habana del Este that are made up of locally derived designs modeled after Soviet modular apartments.

It is unclear if and when future building improvements are undertaken across the city, whether more recent works of architecture will be prized to the same degree as colonial-era works. Freeman painted a grim picture, saying, “There has been a steady pace of cosmetic refurbishment of old buildings in the colonial core of Old Havana, but (generally speaking) historic preservation efforts have not picked up in any significant way except for those related to tourism infrastructure.”

The effects of the recent formal economic and political changes in official policy are not necessarily new phenomena, however: Havana has strong track record of using historic preservation as an economic driver. The office of the City Historian, led by Eusebio Leal Spengler, has pioneered local attempts to embed the preservation and restoration of Old Havana’s neighborhoods into economic development plans. Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, and while many projects in the colonial core have benefitted from Leal Spengler’s efforts—namely the restoration of Plaza Vieja and a slew of other properties the office has converted for hotel and tourismuses—many of the city’s early modernist and post-revolutionary architectural marvels sit in various states of decay and disrepair. The restoration of the National Art Schools was, until recently, slated for completion and renovation. Those efforts have petered out, subsumed by a new economic downturn following geopolitical turmoil in Venezuela, one of Cuba’s chief oil providers.

Cuban architect Universo Garcia Lorenzo, who was coordinating the renovations for the National Art Schools until the funding dried up, explained that with the Cuban government strapped for cash, major restoration projects in the country will have to rely on international funding. Some help is coming: The Italian government is funding the continuation of work on Gottardi’s School of Dramatic Arts and also, England’s Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation was working to finance the rehabilitation of the ruined, Garatti-designed School of Ballet. But, Garcia Lorenzo said, “I can’t speculate now on when the restoration will be completed,” adding that despite the fact that Porro’s School of Plastic Arts and School of Modern Dance had been completely renovated in 2008, the current funding lapses meant there would be a shortage of funds “dedicated to maintaining those structures into the future.”

International funding cannot come soon enough, as the partially completed and dilapidated structures are exposed to the tropical elements. Garcia Lorenzo said, “Essentially, the three unfinished buildings are frozen in time, slowly decaying and waiting to be restored.”

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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’s working-class neighborhoods organize to reject gentrification

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.

Across Miami-Dade County, organizations like Miami Homes For All (MHFA), Struggle for Miami’s Affordable and Sustainable Housing (SMASH), Miami’s People Acting for Community Together (PACT), and Fanm Ayisyen nan Miyami (FANM), among others, have been instrumental in launching affordability campaigns across threatened and economically distressed neighborhoods. In the process, these groups are lending a voice to many of the Miami working-class communities as the forces of gentrification and luxury development rewrite the region’s urban fabric.

Miami real estate is booming but in all the wrong ways. A recent flowering of luxury condominium development coupled with a surging population and decades’ worth of under-building have pushed rents sky-high. Miami’s growing urban core—especially the neighborhoods of Brickell, Overtown, and Wynwood—are beginning to push past their traditional neighborhood boundaries, destabilizing surrounding communities. According to the 2016 Housing Miami Together report compiled by MHFA, an advocacy group dedicated to alleviating local poverty, Miami has the nation’s highest percentage of rent-burdened households. In response, advocates are pushing for increased development of affordable housing units and for mixed-income and transit-oriented developments across the region.

MHFA held a special housing summit in 2016 that spawned the aforementioned report. The conference led to increased efforts by groups like nonprofit housing developer South Florida Community Development Coalition (SFCDC) and PACT, a direct-action organization made up of religious congregations and groups, to push the county to implement a slate of pro-affordability reforms. The groups were instrumental in getting the county to establish an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that would be used to harness additional resources for new affordable units. The county contributes 25 percent of proceeds from certain county-owned land sales to the fund, which itself dedicates 50 percent of overall resources toward the development of very low– and extremely low–income housing. MHFA also provides Section 8 project-based vouchers through the Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development Department in order to embed Section 8 housing in market-rate developments.

MHFA executive director Barbara Ibarra said, “We treat homelessness as a part of the affordability crisis,” adding that her group is focused on what is referred to as a “continuum of housing” that spans from the market-rate sector to various other income-defined groups, including formerly homeless individuals. Ibarra explained that MHFA is working, broadly speaking, to expand the prevalence of mixed-income communities across the Miami-Dade County area. She added, “It’s frustrating to see luxury development going on without any forethought being put to housing for people who take care of and work in those buildings. [Developers] have not been building housing for them.”

And it shows. A big problem in the rental market due to the apartment shortage has been the rise in slumlord-controlled properties. Adrian Madriz, project leader at SMASH, an initiative within the Center for Social Change, said, “Our organization seeks to smash the slumlords that target Liberty City and Overtown. They are grossly negligent and keep buildings in woeful disrepair.” The group’s program in those neighborhoods has seized properties from area slumlords and converted them to community ownership via a community land trust. The units are ultimately renovated as affordable housing and rent-to-own properties. Madriz added, “People are being priced out of decent living conditions. They’re being forced to live in places with cheaper rents in properties that are in worse repair.”

SMASH is currently working on two housing projects and is looking to develop emergency housing solutions for residents removed from extremely dilapidated or unsafe living conditions. For the latter effort, SMASH is looking to modular, shipping container, or prefabricated building systems to increase housing availability substantially. Madriz explained that certain shipping container designs can be engineered to be stronger than typical Type-V construction, an important consideration in the hurricane-prone region.

Developers, advocates, and city agencies are also working to implement a mix of so-called “2-percent fixes” like density bonuses for inclusionary housing, relaxed parking requirements, and upzoning measures. The measures individually boost housing production slightly and when taken together can make for sizable shifts in housing affordability. Regional partners are using these measures in order to incentivize the development of more deed-restricted affordable and less expensive market-rate units.

Miami-Dade is currently redeveloping the Liberty Square public housing projects in North Miami. Seven hundred existing units will be rebuilt as a 1,500-unit mixed-income, mixed-use community by developer Related Urban Development Group. Alberto Milo Jr., principal and senior vice president, said, “There has been a void in the development of workforce housing within the City of Miami,” adding that too many projects are “being developed with either all low-income or all market-rate units, but nothing in between.” Related’s growing portfolio in the region will include increasing amounts of mixed-income housing to take advantage of new incentives aimed at increasing affordable resources via mixed-income developments. When asked about whether mixed-income developments can relieve pressure on Miami’s historic working-class neighborhoods, Milo explained that they “are essential to the long-term viability of these lower-income neighborhoods, and will give quality housing choices to many working individuals and families.”

Ibarra also supports the idea, and described expanding the inclusion of low-income housing units in transit-oriented development across the city as “very critical” to maintaining affordability.

In many ways, the emerging mixed-use and transit-oriented trends pit developers and newcomers focused on a vision for a denser, transit-accessible—and, potentially, more equitable—Miami against longtime residents increasingly being priced out of their own neighborhoods. The sentiment led the neighborhood of Little Haiti on the city’s north end to fight for official city designation as developer Cho Dragon Management and architects Arquitectonica pursue a new 15-acre “innovation district” there. The $1 billion project aims to bring a 30,000-square-foot coworking space, a sculpture garden, and a 15,000-square-foot innovation center to the neighborhood. The problem is that new developers working in the area have taken to branding their projects after the historical moniker Magic City, a designation taken from a time before the neighborhood was populated by Haitian immigrants. FANM, an organization in Little Haiti that works to empower and deliver social services to Haitian women, recently worked to get the Little Haiti neighborhood officially designated by the city. The fear among the Haitian population is that as development moves in, Little Haiti will be wiped from the map.

FANM’s efforts paid off when the city council voted to approve the designation. At the meeting, Marleine Bastien, executive director of FANM, said, “We are elated. Now no one can come and erase the name of Little Haiti. If this decision was not made today, in a few years Little Haiti would disappear.”

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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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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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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.”