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Smart Cities Conference Plans for New Future

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Smart Cities Conference Plans for New Future

Special to UM News


The inaugural conference was held in the Miami Design District’s Moore Building.

MIAMI, Fla. (February 24, 2017)—The inaugural Smart Cities Miami Conference, hosted last week by the School of Architecture and Center for Computational Science, brought industry visionaries, technology experts, government planners, and the public together to focus on the “disruptive power” that the mobilization of new technology will have in our cities and on our lives.

“We are at the threshold of significant transformations in the urban environment provoked by new services and practices that mobilize emerging technology,’’ Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of the School of Architecture said in kicking off the conference held February 23 and 24 in the Miami Design District’s Moore Building. “These disruptive powers, along with more radical disruptions are sure to change the ways we imagine, shape, inhabit, use, enjoy, manage, and govern the urban realm.”

Added Nick Tsinoremas, director of the Center for Computational Science (CCS), “We live in unprecedented times where technology transforms the way we live and interact with the city. This conference is our first attempt to bring together all the stakeholders—government, industry, academic institutions, and the public—to engage in discussions to understand and shape these transformational forces.”

The forum for cutting-edge research and interdisciplinary perspectives was designed to connect UM and the larger community of entrepreneurs and innovators who are rapidly reinventing Miami as an incubator for tech start-ups with the development and planning agencies in the public and private sectors who are guiding the evolution of one of the fastest-growing cities in North America.

The keynote speaker, Antoine Picon, the director of research at Harvard Graduate School of Design and an expert on the Smart City phenomenon, talked extensively about the changes brought to cities and architecture by digital tools and digital culture as well as the need for technology to embrace sociocultural issues. He emphasized that the city of the future will combine human with artificial intelligence and that from this, a new awareness will arise.

In an interdisciplinary collaboration, Joel Zysman, CCS’s director of Advanced Computing, and Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the College of Engineering, led discussions about transformation through datafication, environmentally sustainable technologies, innovation, artificial intelligence, and the best uses of technology solutions.

The School of Architecture’s RAD-UM Lab and several technology companies also shared their demos and start-up innovations, showcasing mixed-use building blocks for a smart city environment.

During the second day of the conference, a Zenciti Workshop, a multidisciplinary team led by Dean el-Khoury examined and discussed a project for a smart city, designed from the ground up on a site in Mexico’s Yucatan, just outside Merida. Zenciti will illustrate a customized city on a unified platform, serving as a prototype of the future.

As Picon suggested, every city, even if not yet identified as a “smart city,” needs a plan.

The conference was made possible with the support of contributing sponsors Zenciti, Intel, DDN Storage, and the Miami Design District.


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Real Estate Impact Conference Zeros in on Disruptive Forces

For the sixth year in a row, South Florida, national and international industry experts converged in Miami for a meeting of the minds at the University of Miami Real Estate Impact Conference. Hosted by the School of Architecture and the School of Business Administration, the 2017 event at the Four Seasons Hotel Miami was standing room only. Top real estate executives were joined by UM’s Real Estate Advisory Board members and the next generation of leaders from UM’s interdisciplinary Masters of Real Estate Development + Urbanism program in the School of Architecture, the undergraduate major, Accelerated MBA and MBA Real Estate programs in the School of Business Administration, and the LLM in Real Property Development in the School of Law.

As in past years, the conference featured global leaders in commercial and residential real estate in one-on-one conversations. Innovators and trendsetters, informing and shaping the industry’s future were also on hand to share their perspectives and insights regarding disruptive technologies and business models that will continue marking the industry.

The event, which drew many of the who’s who in real estate, kicked off with the panel “Finding Opportunity in Disruption.” Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, general manager of the Cambridge Innovation Center, a real estate services company that bills itself as a “community of entrepreneurs,” moderated a discussion exploring how the commercial real estate industry can partner with, and profit from, firms like Amazon, Bonobos, AirBnB and WeWork as they continue to revolutionize their segments.

“There has always been disruption in the industry. Department stores used to be in the downtowns in the 1800s. They moved to the suburbs in the ‘60s and ‘70s. There have always been bankruptcies,” said James Bry, executive vice president of development and construction at Seritage Growth Properties, a self-managed REIT with a portfolio of 235 properties and 31 joint ventures. “If you go to good centers, you see a lot of people with bags. Retail is about the entertainment as well as the shopping experience. We’re all still social. The majority of us want to get out of our house and do things. That’s not going to change no matter what generation it is.”

Bob Gray, a partner at Rockwood Capital LLC, a real estate investment company managing more than $6.5 billion of equity commitments from investors, agreed that the experience is vital in retail. For that reason, he sees many centers working to bring the supermarket, healthcare providers and fitness businesses into the mall. That makes location more important than ever in a retail world that’s seeing increasing e-commerce disruption.

“Real estate is occupied by tenants, and tenants need employees. We are focused on areas that are conducive to growth. San Francisco is a wonderful exporter of talent to other parts of the world because it’s too expensive for people to rent apartments or buy homes,” Gray said. “We’re focused on Boulder, for example, because Google is going from 400 to 1,500 employees right next door. Value of talent is what’s driving location today. In certain locations rent is not a factor, not when the value of the talent can change industry.”

Next, the audience listened intently to a keynote session with Gregg Pasquarelli, principal and co-founder of SHoP Architects, and David Martin, president and co-founder of Terra. SHoP Architects was named Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Architecture Firm in the World,” while Martin has engaged some of the world’s leading architects in distinctive South Florida projects. The duo discussed many of the firm’s innovative projects and how SHoP’s disruptive thinking has impacted the industry.

“Real estate tends to do things the same way until one person innovates and then you all instantly change,” Pasquarelli told Martin. “We’ve found every time, that when we’ve been able to use technology to improve cost control or transparency or lower manufacturing costs in one of our buildings, and we have hard data showing it works, everyone jumps on board.”

In a panel called “Redevelopment Ready: Miami 2.0,” Al Dotson, a Partner at Bilzin Sumberg, moderated a panel about the next generation of South Florida development. Arnaud Karesenti of 13th Floor Investments a presented an intensive, mixed-use transit-oriented development in Coconut Grove called The Link at Douglas, followed by Related Urban Development Group Principal and Vice President Al Milo’s discussion of a mixed-income redevelopment plan for Liberty Square, Miami’s largest Depression-era public housing project. Michael Comras, president of Comras Company, shared how his firm has partnered with Federal Realty Investment Trust and Grass River on remaking iconic retail projects like Sunset Place and CocoWalk, while working to redesign high street retail on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.

Rounding out the day was a keynote session with David Simon, Chairman and CEO of Simon Property Group and Stuart Miller, CEO of The Lennar Corporation. The two discussed growing up as a second-generation real estate leader under powerful father figures as well as the evolution of the retail industry from bricks to clicks and from Wall Street to Main Street.

“We bought Sawgrass Mills in ’07 and had $55 million in NOI. Today we have $150 million in NOI,” Simon said. “People want to say retail is going out of business. There are a lot of negative headlines out there but the fact is if you can diversify the mix—if you can bring in the right retailers—if you can make it a real part of the community you can bring in tourism, and grow your business.” Simon emphasized the need for retail centers to invest in better architecture, diversify their mix of uses, and create a holistic experience and sense of place that cannot be replicated by online retailers.

The lead sponsors for the 2017 Miami Real Estate Impact Conference were Douglas Elliman Real Estate, the Kislak Organization, The Witkoff Group and Fortune International Group, which were joined by dozens of other sponsors representing of the real estate finance, construction and development industry in South Florida and beyond.






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Victor Deupi Tapped as CINTAS President


Victor Deupi Tapped as CINTAS President

UM News

Victor Deupi

Victor Deupi

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 3, 2017)—Victor Deupi, a Cuban-American teacher of architectural history and theory, design and representation at the School of Architecture, has been elected president of the CINTAS Foundation, which promotes the professional development of Cuban architects, writers, musicians, and visual artists.

“Mr. Deupi brings a new perspective with his distinct background while maintaining an emphatic commitment to each of the four disciplines supported by the foundation,” the organization said in announcing its fifth president.

Deupi, who received a B.S. in architecture from the University of Virginia, a M.S. in architecture from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, previously taught at Fairfield University, the New York Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, and the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture in London. He also has been a “Visiting Critic” at the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech.

The principal focus of his research is on the art and architecture of the early modern Ibero-American world, and mid-20th-century Cuba. His book, Architectural Temperance: Spain and Rome, 1700-1759, was published by Routledge in 2015, and he is currently curating exhibitions on Cuban Architects at Home and in Exile: The Modernist Generation at the Coral Gables Museum, and Emilio Sanchez in South Florida Collections at the Lowe Art Museum.

He is also editing a book on Transformations in Classical Architecture: New Directions in Research and Practice that is being published by Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers, 2017.

The CINTAS Foundation, established in 1963 with funds from the estate of Oscar B. Cintas (1887-1957), former Cuban ambassador to the United States, has awarded more than 300 fellowships and grants to Cuban artists achieving national and international renown. Several UM faculty members, including Jorge Hernandez, Jose Gelabert-Navia, Tomas Lopez-Gottardi, and Andres Duany, have been among the recipients.

In 2011, the foundation entered into an extended loan with Miami-Dade College’s MDC Museum of Art and Design of nearly 300 pieces by artists of Cuban descent living outside Cuba who have received prestigious CINTAS Fellowships. The museum is housed at the landmark Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.


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With Pencils and Drones, Architects Put Informal Cities on the Map


With Pencils and Drones, Architects Put Informal Cities on the Map

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News
01-09-17-informal-cities-390CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 09, 2017)—The children play soccer barefoot on a dirt field, and when they aren’t imitating the flamboyant striking and passing skills of their country’s greatest footballers, they roam neighborhood streets, playing other games or sometimes just looking for something to eat.

If not for the efforts of a woman named Julia, many of them would go hungry. A 50-something community elder with an energetic spirit, Julia helps keep their bellies full, working with a group of other women to prepare meals that feed as many as 100 kids a day.

Life in some parts of Las Flores, a 5-square-mile shantytown near Barranquilla, Colombia, often presents a multitude of challenges. Food can be hard to come by; sewage, water, and electrical systems are nonexistent in most areas; and residents build shotgun-style homes with whatever materials they can find—in this case, mostly wood.

The local governments where slums like Las Flores are located see these places as eyesores, electing to leave them off of official maps. But two University of Miami School of Architecture professors, Carie Penabad and Adib Cure, believe slums should not only be recognized, but also given the assistance they need.

So with tools as simple and archaic as pencil and paper, and as advanced and high-tech as camera-equipped drones, the husband-and-wife team has made its mission to map some of the poorest and most vulnerable places in the world.

They started in 2006, using traditional surveying techniques to map the slum of Shakha near Mumbai, India. The following year, they traveled to the Cape Town, South African township of Langa to map the informal settlement of Joe Slovo, one of the largest slums in that country. “Then we realized something,” recalls Penabad. “We’re based in Miami, and we’re traveling to the other side of the world to study these informal settlements, when, in fact, we have at our doorstep Latin America and the Caribbean, where an urban population is growing. So why not turn our focus closer to home.”

And they did, beginning with Las Flores. For every spring semester between 2008 and 2015, Penabad and Cure have taken students from their School of Architecture upper-level design studio, and starting two years ago software engineers from UM’s Center for Computational Science, to this 60-year-old settlement to map its 75 neighborhood blocks and seven barrios. While CCS engineers operated the drones that produced highly detailed aerial maps of Las Flores, Penabad, Cure, and their students walked the streets, studying the slum’s building and construction patterns, peering into its simple wood and clay brick homes, observing neighborhood social interactions, and talking with  some of the 10,000 residents who live there—all as part of an extensive effort to better understand the settlement’s structure and inner workings and, perhaps, help cure what ails it.

“When these cities that are literally off the map are documented and studied, you begin to not only understand them but get a much bigger picture of their problems,” said Penabad. “Where would it make the most sense to bring in water and sewer lines? Where are they disconnected in terms of transportation? Where would it make the most sense to build a medical clinic? The potential for progress becomes more tangible and possible when you can see everything mapped out.”

Penabad compares the maps to “X-rays that allow us to diagnose a settlement’s condition.”

Here’s what their “X-ray” of Las Flores shows: Newer barrios where small sheet-metal roofed houses are built so close together that hardly any light and fresh air penetrate, older districts where, over time, wooden houses have been replaced by concrete homes, few if any public gathering spaces, and unpaved streets.

Las Flores is compact, mirroring on-the-grid Barranquilla only in having a clearly delineated pattern of streets and blocks. “Houses come up to the edges of streets,” explains Penabad, “and there aren’t many automobiles, so people walk to get to where they need to go.”

Usually where they need to go is to the larger metropolis, where shantytown residents frequently work in factories and hotels. Some of the women toil as housemaids. Only Penabad and Cure’s direct interaction with residents reveals that aspect of life in Las Flores, making their on-the-ground research just as eye-opening—and important—as the images the drones produce. What that research has shown is that Las Flores and many other such slums are surprisingly sustainable.

“There’s a well-structured network of families,” said Cure. “Older, more established families usually become the leaders, creating daycare centers and micro businesses that help the community.” One woman, he notes, even started a mobile clothes-washing service, wheeling a portable manual washing machine door to door.

“Everyone living in an urban slum isn’t necessarily worse off,” said Justin Stoler, an assistant professor of geography and regional studies in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences, whose own research on informal settlements has taken him to Accra, Ghana, to explore links between neighborhoods, the environment, and human health. “Living in a slum has been shown to not only hinder growth, but sometimes aid it via tight-knit communities that offer better resilience for overcoming stressors, and communities where residents take care of one another and provide buffers from all the problems they’re dealing with on a daily basis.”

Penabad and Cure’s goal is to make UM a center for the collection of data on informal settlements throughout Latin America. “We’ve found a way to map these in a pretty distinct way,” Penabad explains. “We’d like to acquire enough funding to deploy this toolkit more systematically and make it entirely open-sourced.”

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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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