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Resiliency Powwow Produces Bold Ideas


Resiliency Powwow Produces Bold Ideas

Hosted by the University of Miami School of Architecture, teams of experts, students, and local policy leaders present solutions to adapt to climate change.

By Jessica M. Castillo
UM News


Speaking in the School of Architecture courtyard, David Snow, City of Miami planner, explains the proposal for the Shorecrest site.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 1, 2016)—Engineered mangroves, amphibious development, subterranean light rail, and water-capture gardens conjure images of a green utopian oasis. But these ideas are more than just dreams; the well-researched proposals germinated during four days of brainstorming and could help southeast Florida adapt to climate change and sea-level rise.

Sponsored by the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, the Resilient Redesign III initiative was led and facilitated by Nancy Schneider, of the Institute for Sustainable Communities, who worked with charrette leader Sonia Chao and the UM Center for Urban and Community Design (CUCD) to guide participants in their visions for a sustainable South Florida. Chao asked participants at the four-day workshop held at the UM School of Architecture in mid-November to focus on the relationship between nature and manmade systems when they developed resilient architectural and urban design plans for five vulnerable sites in southeast Florida.

“We need to think of a new way to exchange with nature, but also contemplate more efficient alternatives for commuting for today and the future,” said Chao, professor of architecture and director of the CUCD, in one example. “We have to think in terms of the above-ground rail systems we’re designing now being encased and essentially becoming subterranean, or subway systems, by the end of the century.”

Breaking into five teams, one per site—Lower Matecumbe Key in Islamorada, Shorecrest in the city of Miami, and three sites across the Arch Creek basin in the city of North Miami and Miami-Dade County—participants considered local historical, cultural, economic, and environmental nuances when creating their resilient redesigns.

Shailendra Singh, a School of Architecture alumnus and the planning section supervisor for Miami-Dade County’s Department of Planning and Zoning, told the group that architects, developers, and others “sometimes ignore what was historically there” when proposing changes to an area.

His team’s designs for the inland site in Arch Creek include systems of open canals, green space, raised sidewalks, and rain gardens for water capture.

“Over the coming century, as flooding events both on coastal and inland sites become more frequent, residents will either adapt or look for alternatives along higher grounds; increased density and intensity of uses in those areas is therefore likely,” said Chao, who also served as design co-lead for the team designing Arch Creek’s transit-oriented development (TOD) site.

Chao’s co-lead, urban designer Gustavo Sanchez-Hugalde, said that although urban patterns seem to have erased natural ones, nature has a memory and, in the face of climate challenges, natural patterns are increasingly re-emerging.

Among the proposed TOD site designs was the use of the TDR, or transfer of development rights, program, a policy tool that can move populations in more vulnerable areas to less vulnerable areas. The designs centered around creating flood-resistant transportation hubs—with “wet-proofed” ground floors—surrounded by mixed-use and multi-family home development.

In presenting his team’s vision for Arch Creek’s waterfront site, Anthony Abbate, professor of architecture at FAU, said the proposed floating docks, engineered mangroves, and raised streets and parking areas were a composite of the Standard Hotel in Miami Beach and the Highline in New York City. He also noted that the challenges sea-level rise and other climate change impacts pose to humans are unprecedented.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” he said. “Sea-level rise is not something we, as a species, have ever dealt with.”

Ajani Stewart, environmental programs manager for the City of Miami and site captain for the Shorecrest site, reminded the audience that some of the neighborhoods vulnerable to sea-level rise are home to low-income populations.

“There is a very clear and present human story here,” said Stewart. “There are very real impacts being felt by economically vulnerable groups already dealing with the effects of sea-level rise.”

The short-term proposals in those neighborhoods include raising roads, installing small pump stations, and raising seawalls to protect against storm surges. In the mid-term, changes in density levels and zoning regulations also would have to be considered. Long-term proposals include creating more “amphibious” development.

The Lower Matecumbe Key team suggested increasing the use of multi-family housing and mixed-used development along the U.S. 1 corridor. Buffers to sea-level rise and storm surge would include restoration of Sea Oats Beach and increasing the use of mangrove islands and man-made offshore reefs.

“Getting the historical beach to its former glory is of particular interest,” said Chris Bergh, South Florida conservation director for The Nature Conservancy’s Florida Keys office. “So is interconnecting the system of waterways that is currently poorly connected.”

Bergh described how Lake Iseo in Italy is artistically dealing with sea-level rise and how those designs could be implemented in Lower Matecumbe Key. Even if homes are on stilts, he explained, we need to rethink how people access them. He suggested some areas can borrow Italy’s design of floating piers, or walkways, for people and light vehicles such as golf carts.

“Redesigning this area requires rethinking what we’ve been accustomed to thinking about with luxury homes, to something that’s a bit more humble and responsive to the environment,” said Steven Fett, lecturer at the School of Architecture and assistant director of the CUCD.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Katherine Hagemann, the sustainability officer for Miami-Dade County’s Office of Resilience who served as site captain for all three Arch Creek sites. Hagemann’s office recently oversaw a report by the Urban Land Institute and she worked closely with the three teams to ensure recommendations by the institute were considered in the designs.

One panelist, Islamorada Mayor Deb Gillis, noted that “the problem is how to incentivize people to increase density development, to move whole neighborhoods, and give up their individual access to coastal areas.”

In response, Stuart Kennedy, director of program strategy and innovation at the Miami Foundation, suggested emphasizing pilot projects in adaptation action areas.

Schneider, senior program officer with the Institute for Sustainable Communities, reminded the group that “we have to remember that we’re all in this together and, unlike the siloed developments of the past, we need to work together to tackle this head on.”

Also participating in the charrette were Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of the School of Architecture; faculty from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the College of Engineering; members of the Resilient Miami Initiative and the Florida Climate Institute; local environmental design architect German Brun; Max Zabala, School of Architecture alumnus; Ricardo Lopez, lecturer at the School of Architecture and assistant director of the CUCD; David Snow, planner with the City of Miami Department of Planning and Zoning; Susan Sprunt, environmental resources program manager for the Islands of Islamorada; and FIU faculty members Marta Canves and Marylis Nepomechie. Other panel discussion members included Jack Osterholt, Miami-Dade County Deputy mayor and director of regulatory and economic resources; and Mike Roberts, senior administrator of environmental resources in Monroe County’s Planning and Environmental Resources Department.


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College of Engineering, School of Architecture Receive NSF Grant to Study Resiliency of Coastal Cities

UM and Virginia Tech researchers will collaborate and investigate the resiliency of neighborhoods

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 5, 2016) – How resilient are Miami and Miami Beach? Could they survive the brunt of a major natural disaster? Could the built environment and infrastructure in those coastal cities withstand Category 5 hurricane-force winds and rising sea levels?

The answers to these questions and many others could soon be found by a team of researchers from the University of Miami’s College of Engineering and School of Architecture, who, along with scientists from Virginia Tech, have received a $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to assess the infrastructures of those two municipalities and perhaps make them more resilient.

Starting in January and with the help of a social scientist and a computer scientist from Virginia Tech, the UM researchers will study neighborhoods in Miami and Miami Beach to determine how they work from both a physical and social perspective.

“We will look at how neighborhoods work and see what their typical features and structure are and how they contribute towards or against resiliency as well as quality-of-life objectives,” said UM Professor of Architecture Sonia Chao, one of the principal investigators on the Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes (CRISP) project.

The goal is to create new holistic paradigms of resilient urban and community design for coastal cities through the development of a human-centered computational framework, Chao added.

“We will integrate the social science and the urban design to create meta-models and achieve anticipatory resiliency,” said Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos, assistant professor in the College of Engineering’s Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, and lead investigator of the project. “Our goal is to address the questions of what could happen if an area is hit by a major disaster and what will the effect of anticipatory measures be.”

An innovative flexible modeling and computational framework for simulation and optimization will be developed to help answer those questions, according to Wangda Zuo, assistant professor in the College of Engineering.

“The project is highly interdisciplinary,” said Chao, director of UM’s Center for Urban and Community Design. “That cross-pollination and its implied layering of data and of vantage points, naturally yields a more robust and comprehensive product, which in turn can better afford community leaders with effective resiliency strategies.”

Throughout the two-year study and after its completion, researchers will hold a series of seminars in collaboration with decision-makers and practitioners from the cities of Miami and Miami Beach. They will also hold an exhibition at the Miami Frost Museum of Science to raise awareness and promote research on coastal resiliency.


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UM to Design Smart City in the Yucatan

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UM to Design Smart City in the Yucatan

ZencitiSpecial to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 12, 2016)—In March, the University of Miami announced a hemispheric collaboration between its Center for Computational Science and the Yucatan State Government’s Information Technologies Innovation Center, which is known as Heuristic and located in the Yucatan Science and Technology Park. Taking that collaboration a step further, the UM School of Architecture, its Responsive Architecture and Design Lab, and the CCS will come together to design Zenciti, a smart city next to the science park.

“Instances where smart cities are designed and implemented from scratch are very rare,” said Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of UMSoA and director of the RAD-UM Lab. “We are fortunate to have the opportunity to design a hyper-connected city where urban infrastructure, municipal services, and social activities are orchestrated into a vibrant and sustainable environment.”

Zenciti came about when a group of developers and leaders in the IT industry joined forces for an opportunity they saw in the growing knowledge economy of Yucatan, spurred by its strategic geographic location and various other social and economic circumstances, including the Yucatan Science and Technology Park, located 30 minutes from downtown Merida. Zenciti will bring into play, among other things, a hub for tech startups that should create a synergy with the science park and fuel development.

Dean el-Khoury and his team think of Zenciti as a startup city: “Just like startup firms create something innovative that is hard to accommodate within existing companies, a startup city prototypes from the ground up a new way of life, something that departs from existing cities and the lifestyles, transactions, governance, and culture they enable,” he said.

Zenciti will occupy roughly 650 acres and will provide 6,000 jobs in the area, on top of the 4,000 that will be created by the science and technology park. The multidisciplinary team working on the smart city includes the following:

School of Architecture:
Rodolphe el-Khoury, PI/RAD-UM
Adib Cure – Architecture and Urban Design
Carie Penabad – Architecture and Urban Design
Juhong Park – Computation, Machine Learning, and Smart Systems
Mark Troen – Real Estate Development and Finance
Veruska Vasconez – Digital Media

Center for Computational Science:
Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury – PI/CCS Program Director Smart Cities
Chris Mader – Software Engineering
Joel Zysman – Advanced Computing

College of Engineering:
Wangda Zuo – Energy and Infrastructure
Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos – Responsive Structures

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Professors and High Schoolers Brainstorm on a More Resilient South Florida


Professors and High Schoolers Brainstorm on a More Resilient South Florida

UM News

architecture charrette 3

Students from Miami-Dade magnet programs work on potential responses and designs for climate-related challenges.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 2, 2016) — Under the guidance of students and faculty from the School of Architecture, high school students from five Miami-Dade Magnet Programs participated in a half-day charrette to craft innovative responses related to building a resilient South Florida.

Teams were composed of a School of Architecture upperclassman or graduate student, a high school faculty member, and participating high school students. Each team focused on the charrette themes and the challenges presented for their school’s host neighborhood. Themes included: Investing in People and Communities for Upward Mobility, Securing Housing Options for All, and Responding to Shocks and Building Resilience.

“Through our partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we were able to empower our leaders of tomorrow,” said Sonia Chao, director of the Center for Urban and Community Design at the School of Architecture. “Students from different areas of Miami-Dade had a unique opportunity to come together and envision potential responses and designs to climate-related challenges, which their communities will be increasingly facing.”

At the culmination of the charrette, students presented the work of their teams and discussed concerns such as sea-level rise, flooding, community wellness, and alternate transportation.

Building a Resilient South Florida is one of five regional convening sessions cohosted by HUD in collaboration with civic, governmental, educational, and philanthropic partners in advance of the U.N. Conference Habitat III, which will take place in Quito, Ecuador, in October. This is the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. Its goal is to provide a New Urban Agenda or roadmap for sustainable urban development for cities across the globe.


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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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