Tag Archive | "school of architecture"

Building Tradition: Making the Presidential Chair

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Building Tradition: Making the Presidential Chair

By Maya Bell
UM News

UMPresidentialChairCORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 22, 2016) — As a master furniture maker, Austin Matheson has crafted dozens of handmade chairs, most of them for dining room sets destined to become family heirlooms. He’s sawed, chiseled, and sculpted them from prized wood in numerous styles—from Shaker to Colonial West Indian to Arts and Crafts—but they all have one thing is common: “As soon as they leave my shop I never lay eyes on them again,’’ Matheson says.

That will not be the case with the one-of-kind University of Miami Presidential Chair that Matheson, an adjunct professor of architecture, created at the request of President Julio Frenk. Known as a cathedra, the chair is a traditional symbol of the seat of learning and will take its place on the commencement stage as a new symbol of the Office of the President.

Matheson, a fifth-generation Floridian whose own rich family history in South Florida predates the University’s 1925 founding, carved and joined what appear to be the seamless pieces of the simple but elegant chair emblazoned with the University seal and the more subtle detail of the ibis from a single slab of highly prized Cuban mahogany wood.

The cathedra, which took Matheson 120 hours of painstaking labor to complete at his Fine Handmade Furniture shop in Miami, will be on exhibit on Thursday, April 28, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the School of Architecture’s Korach Gallery, with a reception at 5 p.m. The exhibit, Building Tradition: The Making of the University of Miami Presidential Chair, will also feature the drawings, models, and patterns chronicling the process of creating the chair from tree to finished object.

Austin matheson works on the prototype of what would beciem theThe Univerisyt of Miami Presidential Chair in his mimi a woofurniute-makign shop.

Adjunct Professor Austin Matheson works on the prototype of what would become The University of Miami Presidential Chair at his handmade furniture  shop in Miami.

Originally weighing 200 pounds and measuring 7 feet long, 33 inches wide, and 4.5 inches thick, the slab of once-abundant Cuban mahogany was salvaged from a tree in nearby Coconut Grove that, fittingly for a University that opened amid the ruins of the 1926 hurricane, was felled decades later by another hurricane.

The fluidity of Matheson’s seemingly seamless design represents the idea that “We Are One U,” while his inventive incorporation of both a contemporary style and traditional flourishes represent the University’s rich past and promising future. “The chair is unique, it has no precedent. It stands alone,” Matheson said.

In what Matheson called “a tricky maneuver,” the Great Seal of the University of Miami was carefully etched by a computerized laser into a place of prominence, on the splat, or back of the chair. Matheson’s teaching assistant, Zach Anderson, performed that honor. “He practiced it about six or seven times,” Matheson recalls.

More subtle are the twin silhouettes of the ibis head, with its graceful beak, that adorn each side of the crest rail. Known for its invincible spirit when hurricanes approach, the marsh bird has been the school mascot since the University opened its doors, just a month after the hurricane of 1926 devastated Miami. And just like the ibis, Matheson and President Frenk hope the University of Miami Presidential Chair will continue to serve as a symbol of the University’s resilience and renewal through its new century, and long after.

“The University of Miami Presidential Chair brings together the intellectual and artistic resources of our faculty, the natural resources of our city, and the rich traditions of our University,” President Frenk said.

“It was a great project and I have to say I like it a lot,’’ added Matheson, who teaches furniture design and fabrication, one of the few non-theoretical, hands-on courses at the School of Architecture. “It was a long process, but since I was only making one, it was an honor to devote that kind of time to it. After all, it is something that will last a long, long time.”





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With Art, Exercise, and Seats, U-Serve Paints a Picture of the Future Underline

Project brings temporary installations to enhance outdoor spaces at four Metrorail stations and the proposed Underline trail

Underline2CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 2016)—Students and faculty from the University of Miami School of Architecture (UMSoA) come together with Friends of The Underline and Miami-Dade Transit on Wednesday, March 30 for the U-Serve day of service featuring the future Underline at the University, Coconut Grove, and Brickell Metrorail stations. A public initiative to foster community dialogue and build awareness around mass transit, alternative transportation and public spaces, the 2016 U-Serve will activate three  Metrorail stations with faculty- and student-led programming, including art demonstrations, semi-permanent seating, and exercise installations that enhance the surrounding space.

Throughout the day, Professor Jaime Correa and students will document the site activations and transit-user experiences via Periscope (@periscopeco), reporting on “a day in the life of” views and experiences from  Metrorail cars, on station platforms, ground-level spaces, U-Serve sites, and areas within a 5-minute walk of future Underline stations.

U-Serve began in 2015 as an effort for the School of Architecture to give back to the community. The inaugural U-Serve involved a smartphone-driven architectural inventory of East Little Havana, where faculty and students donated about 800 labor hours to the City of Miami and inventoried 400 properties.

For the Wednesday, March 30 U-Serve, all design studio classes will be suspended for the day, and all faculty, students, and staff are asked to participate in this unique day of service.

U-Serve 2016 Schedule

University Metrorail Station: Outdoor Living Installation + After Party
8 a.m.-8 p.m., 
5400 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33134
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., students and faculty will build and install temporary outdoor seating and exercise equipment, while also surveying transit users at an information tent. The temporary “outdoor living room” will be in place from March 30-September, 2016. To inaugurate the efforts, students will rally together in a “Flash Mob” style assembly from 5-6 p.m. next to US-1 to signal community activation, followed by an after party  with food and music in the UMSoA Courtyard, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Coconut Grove Metrorail Station: Net Art in Palm Plaza
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
2780 SW 27th Ct, Miami, FL 33133
UMSoA Professor Carrie Penabad, in collaboration with the UM College of Engineering, will lead students in creating a site-specific installation where fish netting will be suspended between palm trees to create “Net Art” in the plaza.

Brickell Metrorail Station: Performance Art
10 a.m. -4 p.m., 
1001 SW First Ave. Downtown Miami, FL 33130
Under the guidance of UMSoA faculty members Christina Canton and Jorge Trelles, students will display a blowup rendering of The Underline and activate the space with temporary dance and music demonstrations.

 About The Underline

The Underline is a planned 10-mile urban trail, linear park, and living art destination that will span from the Miami River, north of the Brickell Metrorail station to Dadeland South and feature dedicated bike and pedestrian paths, amenities, art, lighting, native vegetation and safety features and improvements at road crossings. The Underline will be built in phases, the first of which will begin in the Brickell area.

For more information, visit www.theunderline.org, and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @theunderlinemia.

About Friends of The Underline
Friends of The Underline is a 501C3 non-profit organization advocating to transform the underutilized land below Miami’s Metrorail into a 10-mile linear park, urban trail and canvas for artistic expression to create a safer, healthier, more connected, mobile and engaged community.


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Students Document City’s Great Spaces

Merrick Elevation of Door

Students are documenting elements of the city of Coral Gables’s great spaces, including the front door of founder George Merrick’s house.

School of Architecture lecturers Steven Fett and Edgar Sarli have been awarded a City of Coral Gables Cultural Grant for the publication and traveling exhibition of  drawings and research of city’s architecture, titled “Drawing and Place.” Directed by Teofilo Victoria, Jorge Hernandez, and Adib Cure, the students enrolled in ARC 101, ARC 111, and ARC 121 have been, for the past four years, thoroughly documenting the great public spaces within the city of Coral Gables in the manner comparable to those included in the Manuale del Recupero del Comune di Roma.

The Rome drawings diligently analyze the nature and evolution of the constructive elements found in the traditional buildings of the city. Architectural elements such as walls, roofs, stairs, vaults, fixtures, and ornaments are rigorously documented and drawn, constituting a complete guide to be used in the work of maintenance and restoration of historic buildings. So too, UM students set out to record elements of the greatest public spaces in Coral Gables. Locations include the Granada Plaza, the loggia of the Biltmore Hotel, the Coral Gables Merrick House, the Books & Books courtyard, and City Hall’s covered loggia.

The documentation process has yielded scaled field sketches on graph paper, pencil on velum hand-drafted drawings, and computer generated ink on mylar prints. The exhibition is scheduled for Fall 2016.

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School of Architecture Breaks Ground on Design Studio that Promises to ‘Fuel Innovation’


School of Architecture Breaks Ground on Design Studio that Promises to ‘Fuel Innovation’

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

Murphy Studio Rendering

The 20,000-square-foot Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio Building will accommodate more than 120 students and will feature a fabrication lab and workstations that enable advanced digital production.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 22, 2015) – It was only a few months ago that Thomas P. Murphy got the kind of phone call one never forgets. Bernardo Fort-Brescia, founding principal of one of the world’s largest architectural firms, was on the line, trying to sell Murphy on the idea of supporting the construction of a new design studio building for the University of Miami’s School of Architecture.

Fort-Brescia told Murphy about all the bright, talented students who were enrolling at UM to study architecture, but that the school lacked the kind of large studio that would allow them to see and collaborate with their classmates. Read the full story

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Professor Helps Place Cuban Churches on Watch List


Professor Helps Place Cuban Churches on Watch List

By Bárbara Gutiérrez 
UM News


La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen is among the dozen churches of Santiago de Cuba on the World Monuments Watch List. Photo by Carlos Domenech.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 15, 2015)—When the World Monuments Fund (WMF) added the Colonial Churches of Santiago de Cuba to its World Monuments Watch List last Thursday, it recognized that the historic structures are worth preserving for posterity. In large part that designation was gained with the help of University of Miami Architecture Professor Jorge L. Hernández.

For the past two years, Hernández, who has done extensive work in preservation in his academic and professional engagement, has been working with the Archbishop of Santiago, Monsenior Dionisio Garcia Ibañez, as an advisor and advocate to help restore a dozen churches, which include the Cathedral of Santiago, built in 1515.

Other churches include Las Iglesias de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Cristo de la Salud, and Santo Cristo. Hernández was the proponent of nominating the ensemble of eight urban and four provincial churches from Oriente for the special distinction, which could help garner much needed funding.

“Beginning in the early 1500s these 12 churches and their plazas formed the skeleton of an urban and territorial infrastructure which has served as the social, cultural, and religious vessel for the rich history of this city, region, and nation. They are treasures,” said Hernández. “Since they are now part of the World Monuments’ Watch List, the spectrum of their value is elevated to an international audience. It will be easier to raise awareness of their uniqueness and in turn raise funds to restore them and bring them back to their former glory.”

Every two years, WMF accepts nominations for sites in need of international awareness. For many historic sites, inclusion on the Watch List provides an opportunity to raise public awareness, foster local participation in preservation, leverage resources for conservation, advance innovation and collaboration, and demonstrate effective solutions for global stewardship.

In its news release announcing this year’s Watch List, the WMF said, “The Twelve of Santiago de Cuba’s historic churches—the vessels for the social, cultural, and religious life of the city for centuries—have suffered from the impact of natural disasters and are currently in need of preservation.WMF was launched in 1996 with support from founding sponsor American Express to call international attention to cultural heritage around the globe threatened by the forces of nature or the impact of social, political, and economic change.”

For a complete list of historic structures on this year’s World Monuments Watch, see the 2016 Watch Sites at a glance.



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