Miami is a place of sunshine and gloss, bronzed bodies and signature cocktails. But for architecture critic and author Alastair Gordon, the underlying dynamics—including the harsh realities of income inequality and rising sea levels—are what make the city truly interesting. These dynamics are further obscured by the recent construction boom. "There are these crazy investments from overseas," said Gordon. "A lot is coming from South America, but also Europe, China, and Russia. That's fascinating, but it's completely in denial of what else is happening in Miami." Architecture can play a role in bridging the gap between the real and the ideal, said Gordon, pointing to Herzog & de Meuron's Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) as a prime example. Gordon will be on site at the museum on Friday, September 11, leading a tour of the Faena District, Miami Beach, and the Design District on the second day of the Facades+ Miami conference. "PAMM is great architecture and a great museum, but it's also a great piece of urbanism," said Gordon. "It shows you what the rest of the city could be" through its relationship to a proposed bike bath and water taxi system. "It suggests a whole new paradigm not just for how a museum operates, but for the city," concluded Gordon. On Thursday, September 10, Gordon will moderate a panel discussion on "Miami: Buoyant City" as part of the Facades+ Miami symposium. Panelists include Zaha Hadid Architects' Chris Lépine, Ximena Caminos of the Faena Group, and Glavovic Studio's Margi Nothard. The three speakers each represent a different approach to facades, said Gordon. Zaha Hadid's 1000 Museum is more about "the building as pure facade, very high end," he said. "That building, more than any of them, is really state of the art in terms of structural integrity." Then there's the Faena District, which Gordon characterized as a "compromise, trying to do architecture with community involvement." Caminos, he explained "is the brains behind the cultural immersion they do. It's not just fancy architects parachuting into Miami. They really live here, they're extremely involved in community affairs." As for Nothard, Gordon says he is "a fan" of her work. "She has done extraordinary things with building affordable housing and senior housing on a level you can't believe." Gordon finds the topic of facades especially fitting for Miami. "It's always been a city of facade-ism," he said. "It's so much about appearance; people don't want to know what's going on behind the facade." But as the work of his co-panelists demonstrates, Miami's reputation for superficiality may be on the brink of a transformation, said Gordon. "In that way the city's changing in a really good way." To hear more from Gordon and his co-panelists, and to sign up for an exclusive field trip to the Faena District, Miami Beach, and the Design District, visit the Facades+ Miami website.
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When it comes to navigating Miami’s zoning codes, Tecela principal Andrew Frey brings an experience-based advantage to the table. Before transitioning to the business side of development in early 2011, he spent six years as a zoning lawyer. “I always wanted to be a developer, and I learned a lot from my developer clients,” recalled Frey. Frey will moderate a panel on “Creative Facade Solutions: Responses to Local Zoning” at next week’s Facades+ Miami conference. Panelists include Arquitectonica founder Bernardo Fort Brescia; Carlos Rosso, president of The Related Group’s condominium division; City of Miami commissioner Marc Sarnoff; and Shulman + Associates founding principal Allan Shulman. From the perspective of the Miami-area developer, said Frey, the two most important factors in facade design and fabrication are moisture penetration and attractiveness. As an example, he pointed to an apartment building project in Coral Gables, completed while Frey was with his previous employer. To tackle the moisture issue, the development team paid special attention to the window assemblies, and to any areas where water could penetrate the stucco. On the aesthetic side, they worked within the city of Coral Gables’ incentives for Mediterranean architecture to design a complicated envelope articulated to break up the plane of the front wall. In general, observed Frey, the facade is “extremely important” in an urban environment. For an attached product, in particular, “it’s the only differentiation that the building will have, because you don’t see the sides or back,” he said. “Townhouses, row houses, brownstones—for that kind of a building, the facade is all it has.” With respect to how Miami building regulations impact envelope design and construction, Frey mentioned two potential problem areas. The first concerns Miami-Dade County’s hurricane code, which requires special approval for every product used. “The state of Florida and national building codes don’t count, so you’re somewhat limited in your choices,” he said. Frey cited Frank Gehry’s New World Center as a case in point. “When going through conceptual approval, they were proposing a very minimally supported glass wall,” he said. “What they wound up being able to build had very thick structural members.” (Frey acknowledged that other factors, including cost, may have led to the change in design.) Second, and more troublesome for Frey, is the subjective design review process. From his point of view, the existence of stringent design standards without an underlying commitment to fine-grained urban development reflects a confusion of priorities. “A lot of jurisdictions want to put in place very complicated facade design guidelines, but what they really need to do is to make small-scale urbanism developable,” explained Frey. “If your zoning just encourages super tall towers where the ground floor is an afterthought, of course you’re going to get monotonous, throwaway lower facades.” Hear more from Frey, his co-panelists, and other leading voices in facades design and fabrication at Facades+ Miami. Learn more and register today on the conference website.
Facades+, the premier conference on high performance building envelopes, stands out as an exception to the rule of generic meet-and-greets. The series delivers targeted information on and stimulates dialogue about specific, location-based issues in the fields of facade design, engineering, and fabrication. Facades+ attracts leading industry experts and sponsors for symposia and experiential activities, including workshops and/or field trips. This September, Facades+ makes its South Florida debut with Facades+ Miami. The conference kicks off September 10 with breakfast and check-in, followed by a welcome from co-chairs William Menking, AN's Editor-in-Chief, and John Stuart, Associate Dean for Cultural and Community Engagement at FIU College of Architecture. Between keynote addresses by Rojkind Arquitectos' Michel Rojkind ("Habitable Facade/Tactical Necessity) and Oppenheim Architecture + Design's Chad Oppenheim ("Harmonizing Facades to the Environment"), attendees will hear from speakers and panels on topics ranging from "Creative Facade Solutions: Responses to Local Zoning" to "Miami's Next Steps." Presenters include Vincent J. DeSimone, Founder/Chairman at DeSimone Consulting Engineers; Tecela Principal Andrew Frey; architecture critic and author Alastair Gordon; AIA Miami + Miami Center for Architecture & Design's Cheryl H. Jacobs; Rodolphe el-Khoury, Dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture; FIU College of Architecture's Marilys Nepomechie; Shulman + Associates Founding Principal Allan Shulman; and many more. In addition to earning 8 AIA HSW CEUs for attending the symposium, conference participants can register for one of two exclusive field trips (4 AIA HSW CEUs) on September 11. Both field trips depart from the new Pérez Art Museum Miami. The Downtown and Brickell tour, led by Allan Shulman, is sold out. The second field trip is led by Alastair Gordon and focuses on Miami Beach and the Design District, including the massive mixed-use Faena District. Faena District highlights include the Rem Koolhaas/OMA-designed Faena Forum and Foster + Partners' Faena House. The tour will also make stops at or drive by new and retrofitted Miami Beach resorts as well as high-end retail destinations in the Design District designed by David Chipperfield, Sou Fujimoto, and René Gonzalez. Register today for Facades+ Miami, a one-of-a-kind chance to dig deep into the triumphs and tribulations of designing and building facades for South Florida and beyond.
When it comes to development, said Allan Shulman, principal of Miami-based Shulman + Associates, "Miami has always been a true 'boom and bust' city, with the cycles highly compressed in comparison to other North American cities." In that sense, then, today's construction extravaganza is just another iteration of a familiar pattern. One thing that is different, however, is that the current trend in South Florida development favors urban over suburban growth patterns. "Miami is filling in and densifying in a continuous arc from Brickell up to Edgewater, and along major road and water arteries toward the west," noted Shulman. "Urban life will be better and more connected in the urban core." Next month, Shulman will lead an exclusive field trip through two local development hot spots—downtown Miami and the Brickell Corridor—as part of the Facades+ Miami conference. "The downtown core is in the midst of a renaissance," he explained. "It has had a kind of low-key vibrancy in the 20 years I've lived in Miami, typically extremely busy during the day and quiet at night." That has begun to change recently with the opening of new restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, creative offices, and cultural destinations including the Miami Center for Architecture + Design. "There is great building stock downtown, and it's fantastic that many buildings are finding new lives with new uses," said Shulman. The pace of growth in the Brickell area is even more remarkable. "Between megaprojects like Brickell City Centre and the crowd of towers rising to the south, it's just exploded," said Shulman. "It seems that most open or underutilized lots are in some phase of development." Much of the new construction, he observed, includes a residential focus. And because both downtown and Brickell offer easy access to rail transit, "it will be interesting to see if this transit-oriented development sets new patterns for the rest of the city," he said. As is often the case, Miami's present building boom benefits some segments of the local population more than others. "There is little development in the middle-tier market, and for affordable housing," said Shulman. "We still haven't broken through significantly to housing types other than single family homes and high-rise towers. It's a mixed story." Yet he remains optimistic about the overall picture. "Miami continues to be a vibrant urban and architectural laboratory," he said. "Developers and architects take risks, and there seems to be a positive reception in the market." In addition, "Miami has been bullish on infrastructure lately," observed Schulman, with new rail extensions to the airport, and a second multimodal central station being built downtown. "Add to this the new port tunnel, museums, park improvements, river and bay walks, and we are starting to build a more robust civic realm," he said. "Way more needs to be done, but the trend has been positive." Join the conversation about present and future development in Miami and beyond at Facades+ Miami September 10–11. See a complete symposium agenda and sign up for a field trip on the conference website. *Seats to both tours are extremely limited—get your tickets today!
In South Florida, where hurricane "season" occupies a full six months of the calendar, AEC industry professionals are especially attuned to the challenge of designing for high winds. Vincent J. DeSimone, chairman of DeSimone Consulting Engineers, has been there—and knows just where to look for answers. "The most useful tool that structural engineers have to determine the forces on the building skin is wind tunnel testing and the ensuing results," said DeSimone, who will deliver a talk on "Innovative Facade and Building Design Through Modern Wind Tunnel Engineering" at September's Facades+ Miami conference. During a wind tunnel test, explained DeSimone, engineers place a scale model of a building inside a tunnel, then vary the wind speed and direction to determine the pressures on the structure. Sensors detect these pressures, which are then translated into forces acting on the facade. Forces on the facade vary from low to high, he noted, and some "hot spots" on the building envelope can achieve local forces in excess of 200 pounds per square foot. The load for the structure as a whole are generally determined by average these minimum and maximum forces. Per the applicable building codes, Miami-area structural engineers base the wind forces used in wind tunnel strength tests on maximum wind forces for a 50 year wind cycle. Building movement is another matter, said DeSimone. For architects and builders in Miami, the allowable lateral displacement—the height of the floor divided by 360—is determined using a 25 year wind cycle. In a building with a story height of 12 feet, in other words, the allowable movement is 0.4 inches. "In seismic zones where movement is expected to be much higher during a seismic event, facades are allowed to be much more flexible," observed DeSimone. "Knowing that facades do not determine the allowable movement of a structure, doesn't it stand to reason that here in Miami we are designing buildings much stiffer than they need to be?" Recalculating allowable movement according to a 10 year wind cycle, for instance, could reduce the building's shear walls by 22 percent. "This reduction—which, by the way, is used all over the country—results in a true sustainable reduction in material," he said. "Remember, the most sustainable building is the building you don't build and, conversely, the building which uses the least material." Learn more from DeSimone and other experts in high performance envelope design and fabrication at Facades+ Miami September 10–11.
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.
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.
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.