Asked about the pros and cons of practicing architecture in South Florida, Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design principal and lead designer Chad Oppenheim said, "It's always wonderful to design buildings in a beautiful environment such as Miami." He mentioned specifically the city's connection to nature, and the extent to which the surrounding water, sky, and vegetation provide inspiration. "I think that people come to Miami to enhance their lives, and as a firm it's always been our mission to design buildings and homes to help people achieve just that." But while the landscape and the spirit of the people inhabiting it act as positive stimuli, other regional characteristics are cause for concern. "Typically, I find that Miami is a place where it is expensive to build for what you get," observed Oppenheim, who will deliver the afternoon keynote at September's Facades+ Miami conference. "There is a quality issue that is hard to work around in Miami." The challenge is especially apparent when he compares his South Florida experience to his firm's Switzerland office. "While the building and construction costs may be the same price [in Europe], the quality is a lot better. There's a tremendous passion for craft and quality there that somehow is not necessarily a mission for people here in Miami." At the same time, Oppenheim is heartened by the recent arrival of international design talent on the local architecture scene. "In terms of improvement, as the city becomes more sophisticated and more mature, there's a greater desire for incredible architecture, amazing buildings, and quality projects," he said. As for Oppenheim Architecture + Design's approach to facades, explained Oppenheim, "It's not just about decoration, but how the building's skin can accomplish a goal." In particular, he noted the way in which an overdependence on air conditioning manifests in a one-size-fits-all relationship to the surrounding elements. "We believe that there might be a way to get more connected to the environment, and also do it in a way that's interesting architecturally." Oppenheim cited his firm's recently-completed Net Metropolis in Manila. "The facade includes a combination of sun shading and a high performance insulated glass window wall that minimizes incident solar heat gain and optimizes natural light, while giving occupants a panoramic view of the surrounding city," he said. The green envelope cuts down on the cost and energy consumption associated with air conditioning. "It's a way of dealing with design for the elements, doing it in a more low-tech way," concluded Oppenheim. Connecting the Philippines example back to his home city, he said, "We see a lot of buildings in Miami from before air conditioning was so prevalent featuring screens that become part of the architecture. It's really nice to see those kinds of things and how beautiful and appropriate they are to the climate." To meet Oppenheim and hear more about his take on high performance building envelopes, register for Facades+ Miami today. See a list of symposium speakers and exclusive field trip options on the conference website.
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Miami is hot right now—and not just because it's midsummer. The city, which is in the midst of a building boom, is of necessity a model of sustainable building practices and extreme-weather preparedness. Thanks to local AEC professionals' experience grappling with high winds, hot and humid conditions, and the threat posed by rising sea levels, Miami is the perfect place to talk about high-performance building envelopes. Many of the industry's top designers, fabricators, researchers, and students will gather to do so this September 10–11, at the South Florida debut of Facades+. Facades+ Miami is the latest iteration of the popular Facades+ conference series, previously held in cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Dallas. Over two days, experts and practitioners dig deep into city-specific (but universally applicable) issues like designing resilience, and explore new technologies and methods using real-world examples. Day 1 of Facades+ Miami features a symposium packed with individual talks and panels on topics ranging from the new Krueck + Sexton FBI Miramar building to the future of facades in the city. The morning begins with check-in and breakfast, followed by a welcome by conference co-chairs and opening remarks from Cheryl Jacobs of AIA Miami and the Miami Center for Architecture and Design. Rojkind Arquitectos' Michel Rojkind and Oppenheim Architecture + Design's Chad Oppenheim will deliver the morning and afternoon keynotes, respectively. In between, conference attendees can expect to hear from panelists representing all points of the AEC industry spectrum, plus plenty of time to network with speakers and fellow audience members during breaks and lunch. For day 2, conference attendees can choose between two facades-focused field trips. Allan Shulman, of Shulman + Associates, will lead "Miami Grows Up: Downtown + Brickell," designed to spotlight recent and under-construction sites Downtown and in the Brickell Corridor. Tour stops include Herzog & de Meuron's Pérez Art Museum Miami and the new Frost Science Museum. The second field trip, led by architecture critic and author Alistair Gordon, is "Miami Beach & Design District." It focuses on old and newly-renovated properties in Miami Beach and the Faena District, and will conclude with a look at high-design envelopes including IwamotoScott's parking garage in the Design District. View a complete symposium agenda and register for the conference at the Facades+ Miami website.
James Corner Field Operations unveils initial plans for The Underline, a 10-mile linear park in Miami
It has become common fair to refer to any and all rails-to-trails project as a certain city’s “High Line. ” (Yup, we've been guilty of that too.) The ubiquitous High Line comparison might be flattering, but it's obviously too simplistic. It glosses over site-specific details and rings a bit too New York–centric. With that said, it would be best to mention Miami’s planned 10-mile (non-elevated) park without namechecking the gold standard up north. But the Magic City is really asking for it with this one. First, it is called “The Underline." And second, High Line co-designer James Corner Field Operations has been tapped to oversee it. Field Operations and Friends of the Underline recently unveiled conceptual renderings of the linear park which runs underneath the city's elevated Metrorail. The plan envisions two pathways—one for cyclists and one for pedestrians—that run through a network of small parks, seating areas, and kiosks. In this sense, the Underline is designed to be a transportation corridor, less like the High Line and more like Chicago’s recently opened 606. Curbed Miami reported that "Landscaping, consisting of low-maintenance native species, would be divided into ecosystems reflective of South Florida's natural setting: a pine rocklands, hardwood hammocks, and wet prairies." The exposed concrete supports underneath the Metrorail tracks would also be used as mile markers and, in some sections, canvasses for murals. The Real Deal reported that Friends of the Underline hopes to eventually fund the project with a mix of private and public donations. In the meantime, the project continues to garner interest—and financial support. This week, ArtPlace America—a national non-profit that supports arts initiative—announced that the project had been selected for a $200,000 grant. This money will go into the planning process, and follows a recent $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation.
When it comes to the urban impacts of climate change, said FIU College of Architecture's Marilys Nepomechie, Miami is "the canary in the coal mine." In addition to the perennial threat of hurricanes and the challenge of managing a hot, humid environment, AEC industry professionals must grapple with South Florida's increasing vulnerability in the face of rising sea levels. "As water levels go up globally, places like Miami are affected," explained Nepomechie. "This has implications for infrastructure, as well as our assumptions as to where public life happens in the city—at street level." But for Nepomechie and fellow architect and FIU College of Architecture associate dean John Stuart, Miami's position on the front lines of environmental change presents a set of opportunities as well as challenges. Continually updated in the wake of devastating storms like 1992's Hurricane Andrew, the region's building codes—especially with respect to glazing—have made it "a model in terms of hurricane preparedness," said Nepomechie. "While these are uniquely Miami's for now, we have an opportunity to solve problems that will be in other places soon," added Stuart, citing high-wind storms and high humidity as two areas in which South Florida is innovating. While for years architects, landscape architects, and engineers have looked to the Netherlands for answers to flood management, said Nepomechie, "Miami has the opportunity to be to the 21st century what the Netherlands has been to the century before." Nepomechie and Stuart, who will co-chair a panel on "Responding to the Environment: Sea Level" at September's Facades+ Miami conference, are looking forward to an in-depth discussion of designing for resilience with panelists Marcia Tobin (AECOM) and Enrique Norten (TEN Arquitectos). "What's exciting about Marcia is that she's trained as a landscape architect and environmentalist," said Nepochie. "Performance agendas ask architects, landscape architects, and a range of engineering disciplines [to work together]. Miami is a place where we have wonderful examples of these solutions." Norton, meanwhile, represents the challenge of translating architectural solutions designed for other climates to the Miami context. "Enrique brings an interest in building at the quality he's able to achieve elsewhere," said Stuart. "He's had to rethink building skins to maintain the [standard] he's accustomed to." To hear more from Nepomechie, Stuart, Tobin, Norten, and other movers and shakers in high performance envelope design, register today for Facades+ Miami.
The redevelopment of St. Petersburg, Florida's iconic pier, with its very 1970s-esque inverted pyramid, is finally ready to move forward. The local city council has approved $5.2 million for the the structure's replacement which was designed by ASD, Rogers Partners, and Ken Smith. The money will go toward finalized designs, demolition of the existing pier, and initial contract services. This has been a long time coming. In 2011, the city hosted a competition to redesign the pier which resulted in fantastical renderings from the likes of Michael Maltzan Architecture, the Bjarke Ingels Group, and West 8. Michael Maltzan took the gold, but the plan stalled when voters rejected footing a $50 million bill. Fast-forward to December of last year when eight more proposals for the site were released as part of a second pier redevelopment competition. This time, teams had to work within a $33 million construction budget. (A St. Petersburg city official told AN around that time that the funding for the project had already been allocated.) Now jump to this spring, when it was announced that the team of ASD, Rogers Partners, and Ken Smith had won the competition with its proposal for Pier Park—a new public destination with a grove, sloped lawn, public seating, boardwalks, and areas for fishing and kayaking. As part of the scheme, the existing inverted pyramid isreplaced with a geometric pavilion that houses classrooms, a bar and grills, and restrooms. After all of this, the redevelopment is now ready to get underway. "The schematic design phase is scheduled to take five months and will include feedback from residents," said the council in a statement. "Following the design refinement, the community will be engaged to learn about the concept as the city moves forward on the final design, permitting and ultimately, construction."
Floridians and visitors can show their appreciation for their favorite local community buildings with AIA Florida's 2nd Annual People's Choice Award sponsored by the Florida Foundation for Architecture. From June 29th until July 31st, voters can choose between the 48 state-located buildings and so far 30,000 individuals have weighed in. Killearn Lakes Elementary School in Tallahassee, for example, currently holds the number one spot. This Hoy+Stark designed structure captivates with its crisp, clean-cut modernist appeal that redefines your typical elementary school. In 8th place, South Miami's Dade Cultural Arts Center features multiple facilities that cater to dance rehearsals and community meetings. This Arquitectonica-designed center accommodates outdoor endeavors, too, with its sloped promenade. The design firm can also boast a waterfront view alongside their second People's Choice Award nominated building, UM's Student Activities Center. The People's Choice Award highlights the importance of architecture and commemorates the influence that architects leave in the community. "We are proud to recognize the work of architects, who are truly the designers of Florida's communities," said Bill Hercules, AIA, President of the Board of Trustees of the Florida Foundation for Architecture. Results will be announced on August 1st at AIA Florida's Annual Convention in Boca Raton. To view all the projects and cast your vote, click here.
Known for their playful, cutting-edge facades, Rojkind Arquitectos are adept at transforming obstacles into opportunity. Founded in 2002, the Mexico City–based practice is regularly challenged with delivering a sense of cohesion to unplanned urban chaos. As the literal and metaphorical mediator between a building's interior and its context, the envelope is a crucial starting point for any such endeavor. "Our first approach is through digital design and local fabrication, depending on the geography of the project, time, budget, etc.," explained founding partner Michel Rojkind, fresh from the July 7 groundbreaking of the firm's Foro Boca concert hall in Veracruz, Mexico. "We research local craftsmanship to enhance the final results." Besides considering the more pragmatic elements of design and execution, said Rojkind, "We also try to question what a facade is, in terms of performance or how it can produce other areas that blur the line between building and [exterior]." For him, the most intriguing question facing contemporary designers and fabricators is: "How can facades bring added value to the project—not only in economic terms, but also as social innovation?" Rojkind will deliver the opening keynote September 10 at Facades+ Miami, the South Florida debut of the popular conference series on high performance building enclosures. Speaking of architectural conditions in the conference's host city, Rojkind—himself an old hand at designing for a hot, sunny climate—said, "I think there are great opportunities to really push for interior/exterior living connections and blur those boundaries. [We can] learn from the past while embracing future social interactions as a design [guide]." Hear more from Rojkind and other movers and shakers in the AEC industry, and participate in exclusive local field trips, at Facades+ Miami this fall. For more information or to register, visit the conference website.
Miami is on the rise—literally. The local AEC industry is booming, with dozens upon dozens of projects, including 79 towers, currently under construction and 92 projects in pre-construction. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [pdf], 105,600 Miami-area workers were employed in the construction trades as of April 2015, a 6.7 percent increase from the previous year. Downtown Miami, in particular, is a hotbed of activity, thanks in part to Miami Downtown Development Authority's 2025 Downtown Miami Master Plan. The plan, which aims to transform the urban core from a business district into a thriving live-work neighborhood, calls for residential growth, tourist-friendly local transit, and ground-floor and outdoor dining and retail. Prominent mixed-use projects underway or set to break ground imminently include Brickell City Centre and the 10-block Miami Worldcenter. Want to learn more about Miami's present and future built environment? Hear expert analyses and gain access to exclusive site visits September 10–11 at Facades+ Miami, the premier conference on high performance building envelopes.
Florida International University to be the first arts and design college to launch a Makerbot Innovation Lab
With 3D printing becoming a major impetus in cultivating startup culture, Florida International University (FIU) is launching a MakerBot Innovation Lab, a 3,000-square-foot makerspace for students and community members to develop product ideas and conduct research. Set to be equipped with 30 state-of-the-art 3D printers and four 3D scanners, the space can serve up to 60 students at a time, with one 3D printer between every two work stations. The school bagged a $185,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to build the facility. “Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has seen enormous growth over the last few years—adding co-working spaces, mentor and funder networks, educational offerings and a host of events,” Matt Haggman, program director of the Knight Foundation, said in a statement. “But there are few established makerspaces where entrepreneurs can experiment and build. The MakerBot Innovation Lab will help to fill this gap, providing the next generation of Miami talent with a space to realize their ideas and inviting the community to connect toward building a stronger startup culture in our city.” FIU’s College of Architecture + The Arts will be the only arts/design college in the nation to house a MakerBot Innovation Lab, according to John Stuart, associate dean for cultural and community engagement and executive director of Miami Beach Urban Studios. The lab’s launch creates abundant educational opportunities as well as a space for public programs. The makerspace will support workshops for elementary and middle school students, dual enrollment programs for high school students, for-credit classes for FIU students and startup programs for recent graduates. FIU’s Urban Studios, a creative space for the performing and fine arts, will work with FIU colleagues and students in hospitality, medicine, and other disciplines to conceive projects to fulfill a community need, such as outfitting homes to be safer for the disabled. The school will also collaborate with Miami Beach–based Rokk3r Labs, a company "co-builder," to hold workshops, seminars and other programming within the Makerbot Innovation Lab.
Digitally-fabricated folded aluminum screen animates a utilitarian structure.In the Miami Design District, even the parking garages are works of art. The recently completed City View Garage is no exception, thanks in part to a folded aluminum facade designed by IwamotoScott. Part of a design team that included developers Dacra and LVMH/L Real Estate, architect of record TimHaahs Engineers & Architects, architects Leong Leong, and artist John Baldessari, IwamotoScott crafted a three-dimensional metal screen for the southeast corner of the garage. Digitally fabricated by Zahner, the skin's gradient apertures and color pattern transform a utilitarian structure into an animated advertisement for South Florida's hottest creative neighborhood. IwamotoScott submitted multiple concept designs to the developers. "We had three really different schemes—they ranged in their complexity," said founding partner Lisa Iwamoto. "The one they came back with was the most complex, the most articulated facade. We were really happy with the choice." The final design was influenced by a series of external constraints, beginning with the desire to conceal parked cars from view. "It's a Miami thing; they don't really want to see the cars in the garage," explained Iwamoto. She pointed to the car park at 1111 Lincoln Road, where architects Herzog and de Meuron solved the visibility problem by consolidating the parking spaces at the center of each floor, away from the periphery. "For us that wasn't possible," she said. "The cars come right up to the edge so we had to find other ways of screening them." Another factor was the location of the property line—a mere eight inches out from the floor plate. This left IwamotoScott with less than a foot for both the skin and its supporting structure. "The strategy was how to create some optical three dimensionality, a facade that wouldn't feel static, visually," said Iwamoto. "That was our starting point. Then it was a lot of tweaking and geometric studies for how we could achieve those effects and make it buildable." The metal panels' geometric folds contribute to the feeling of depth, and add the stiffness necessary to meet Miami's heavy wind load requirements. In addition, the folds create a moving display of light and color under the city's ever-shifting skies, observed founding partner Craig Scott. "The faceting of the facade was a double payoff." The aluminum screen comprises five panel types. All have the same border shape, but the dimensions of the apertures change from type to type. In early computer drawings, IwamotoScott modeled each panel type in a different color to keep track of the pattern. Over time, explained Iwamoto, "the colors became important to us, so that's how we rendered it." The client liked it, too, so the screen was ultimately painted in a custom spectrum reinforcing the aperture gradient. But while the facade is in reality a panel system, "we were interested in having it feel more like a mural than panels—almost like a piece of fabric draped over the garage," said Iwamoto. "For us it was important that the seams did not follow a more conventional pattern of vertical lines." The apertures are arranged in an offset grid, and the architects avoided a simple system of vertical supports. Instead, the skin hangs from a collection of staggered aluminum fins affixed to the garage's concrete slabs. Zahner fabricated the metal facade in their Kansas City factory. Because they were working on a design-assist basis, the architects were able to make multiple trips to the production facility. "It was cool, because they would make a panel, and we'd say, 'that's almost right'" before adjusting the angle of the fold by a fraction of a degree, said Iwamoto. "It's amazing how many ways there are to skin a cat." Happily for the architects, Zahner's in-house analysis resulted in a panel system remarkably close to what IwamotoScott had envisioned. "I'm delighted with how we ended up," said Iwamoto. "We did our due diligence [in terms of exploring alternative fabrication schemes], but it wound up that the best way to build it was the way we had conceived it." IwamotoScott also took control of an adjacent section of the garage envelope: an open entry stair, elevator bay, and multistory office block. "That was a bonus for us," said Iwamoto. "Rather than someone else designing it, it just made sense for us to do it—it was really part of our elevation." Because so much of the project budget went to the garage skin, the architects stuck with a basic storefront system. "We wanted to make something simple that still had a design character sympathetic to the garage facade." To create a similar sense of animation, they slightly cantilevered each floor and utilized glass panes of different widths and opacities. IwamotoScott completed work on the office tower through design development; TimHaahs took the reigns when it came to detailing and beyond. Part of why IwamotoScott was particularly eager to design the southeast corner of City View Garage was that it is the portion of the structure directly facing the heart of the Miami Design District. The developers' vision for the neighborhood is "such an ambitious plan overall," said Iwamoto. It is a vision that is rapidly coming to fruition, as she herself has witnessed first-hand. "From the time we started work on the project to when it wasn't even 100 percent complete, the area was transformed," she said. "That's really exciting."
Even in a city like Miami, this twisting, LED-emblazoned tower seems a bit over the top. The curious 633-foot structure, called the Miami Innovation Tower, is the work of SHoP Architects, a firm known for adventurous designs, from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to skinny supertall skyscrapers in Manhattan. But even with that reputation, this one takes us by surprise. The Miami Herald reported that the tower is part of developer Michael Simkins' plan for a four-block scheme to be called the "Miami Innovation District." The massive complex would sit between Miami's booming downtown and Overtown, which the Herald noted is one of the poorest parts of the city. Last week, SHoP reportedly submitted plans to the city for the Innovation District. But let's circle back to that twisting tower for a second. The basics: it has three sides, each of which can sport a digital sign up to 30,000 square feet. These massive walls will be put to good use, flashing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are also two more billboards on the tower's podium. So, to recap, in total, the Miami Innovation Tower is poised to include two acres of advertisements. Along with this advertising acreage, the tower will also have lounges, restaurants, gardens, plazas, and observation decks. In a statement to the Herald, Simkins said: “The iconic tower will elevate the city’s brand on a global level, enhance the city skyline, and complement and enhance the surrounding community." That could be true, if by "enhance the surrounding community" you mean flash glowing ads around the clock. The tower definitely has some hurdles to pass before its billboards are switched on, but Simkins' vision might actually happen. "Miami’s zoning administrator gave [Simkin's] Miami Innovation Tower plans a nod in March 2014, and in December the developer signed a covenant with the executive director of the redevelopment agency, which has to sign off on his sign application because it lies within the agency’s boundaries," reported the Herald. While the project will surely be controversial (the non-profit Scenic Miami has already said it is "appalled, truly appalled" by the plans), large-scale digital ads are not new to Miami. Just ask the dancing LED woman on the side of the Intercontinental Hotel (below). https://youtu.be/ic7mJtOQLr4
New towers seem to be cropping up in Downtown Miami every 15 minutes. But with the growing housing supply of apartments, and the impressive Perez Art Museum by Herzog & de Mueron, the area continues to be seriously lacking when it comes to walkability and open space. Now, that could change if a proposal by the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) gets the green light. The plan, called Biscayne Green designed by Behar Font & Partners, would completely overhaul six blocks of Biscayne Boulevard—a nearly 200-foot-wide roadway that runs between downtown and Bayfront Park. The most significant change would be replacing the existing surface-level parking lot in the middle of the boulevard with a series of parks and plazas. This linear park is intended to become a human-scaled public place that offers easy connections to the waterfront park. And a whole lot more. The DDA said it would support the existing sidewalk design by world-famous landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. And it would add to it with new paving technologies like solar pavers that light up when people step on them. There would also be programmable lighting systems to illuminate the new landscape, art installations, building rooftops, and water features. This influx of light would, according to the official plan, lead travelers flying above Downtown Miami to say things like this: "What are those lighted colors on the sidewalks/pavers below? – let’s visit [Downtown Miami]." Along with the cool lighting fixtures, Biscayne Green would also house exercise areas, markets, cafes, sports courts, and retail kiosks. Kids would get a sandbox and their parents, a "grown-up playground." To make room for the grown-up playground and all the rest of it, the DDA creates a below-grade parking lot. CityLab noted that while surface-level parking spots would be reduced from 400 to 200, the new subterranean lot would have space for 357 more cars, giving Downtown Miami 150 new parking space. So far, Florida's DOT seems generally supportive of the plan. A representative from the department told Miami Today: “As state transportation partners, we find the DDA’s vision to be pedestrian friendly, aesthetically pleasing and in line with the department’s Complete Streets vision."