01/29/2010

Still more Duany: The Haiti house

No, Urbanista has not become the DPZ house organ. Andres Duany is just the Eveready Bunny of planning and urban design…

From today’s print edition:

Can a stripped-down, bunkhouse-like structure made of near-indestructible, space-age materials provide a solution to Haiti's post-quake housing crisis?

Famed Miami architect and planner Andrés Duany certainly thinks so.

Duany, who helped developDuany00 Duany MHD ho the prefabricated ``Katrina Cottage'' as an alternative to the widely criticized FEMA trailers, has devised a light, expandable ``core house'' for Haiti's homeless that can stand up to earthquakes and hurricanes. It even meets Miami-Dade's tough building code, he says.

The house (see model at right, photo courtesy DPZ), which would sleep eight in a bunkhouse arrangement, could be easily shipped to Haiti in a package less than two-feet thick, and assembled by local laborers in a matter of hours, Duany said.

The material is a composite that Duany calls ``totally miraculous'' -- thin but strong, durable, fireproof, waterproof and mold-proof. The idea grew out of a project Duany was already working on in Miami's Little Haiti, to erect eight larger prefab houses using the same technique and material.

``You've never seen a house like this,'' Duany said. ``When you build something out of this material, it's like being inside a fiberglass boat. It's absolutely the best.''

Read the rest here. Build the house here.

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01/12/2010

Again, Andres Duany: New how-to manual lays out the tenets of Smart Growth

Never at a loss for words, Andres Duany is. The New Urbanist guru tells the country, and his hometown of Miami, how to plan right in The Smart Growth Manual, the user-friendly sequel – out now -- to Suburban Nation.

The Smart Growth Manual  An

But the co-originator of the charrette is having some second thoughts about public participation. It’s too often uninformed and results inconsistent, he’s concluded. Thus, a manual for the unititiated. (Co-authors are Duany Plater-Zyberk alumns Jeff Speck and Mike Lydon).

“If I did a public process like Miami 21 again, I would be handing it out by the dozen, the idea being, `Read this before you talk.'  ‘’

Indeed. Here is my Q&A with Duany, which ran on the book page in Tuesday’s print edition:

Want to be green? Dump the cul-de-sac. Ban the mall. Leave the Prius at home. The best thing you can do for the environment is to push for dense, compact, attractive and walkable urban neighborhoods that mix homes, shops and offices, just like we used to.

That, in a sharpened nutshell, is the message delivered by The Smart Growth Manual (McGraw-Hill Professional, $24.95), an intentionally slim, readable, well-illustrated and portable how-to guide co-written by Miami architect, planner and pioneering anti-sprawl combatant Andrés Duany.

``The bumper-sticker problem of environmentalism is one of the things we're trying to mitigate, the search for the silver bullet,'' Duany said. ``The idea that we just make all the buildings green, or make every car electric, and we'll be OK -- it's not enough.''

See the whole thing here.

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01/06/2010

Jimbo’s, Miami Dade College and Anderson’s Corner: Some holiday developments

Catching up on some news during the holidays…Here’s what I was working on while you gamboled:

 

Landmark watering hole Jimbo's faces uncertain future

The future of Jimbo's famously ramshackle beer and smoked-fish shack on Virginia Key was cast into doubt Tuesday after city of Miami officials ordered its power cut off, citing a trailer fire they blamed on a jury-rigged -- and illegal -- electrical system.

No one was seriously injured in the Sunday evening fire, which consumed a camper trailer belonging to owner James ``Jimbo'' Luznar's son, James ``Bubba'' Luznar Jr.

Wide 29 Jimbos MHD PAB

But the blaze came in the midst of a city code-enforcement crackdown on the long-unpoliced, publicly-owned site, underscoring inspectors' conclusions that much of it represents a health and safety hazard.

Bubba Luznar, his face seared from the heat of the fire and coughing continually because of smoke inhalation, said he doubted Jimbo's could stay open beyond Wednesday without electricity. It's unclear when -- or even whether -- it would reopen, he said.

Without power to run the fish freezers, beer fridges and ice-makers, he said, Jimbo's would go out of business.

Read more here, here and here.

*******

Miami Dade College embarks on a major new building for its Wolfson Campus downtown

Miami Dade College has announced plans for the first major addition to its downtown Miami campus in years, a $25 million multipurpose building that administrators hope will provide a fresh boost to the city's urban renaissance.

The six-story building, to be erected on a long-vacant lot on Northeast Second Avenue, will house classrooms to ease serious overcrowding at MDC's 14,000-student Wolfson Campus, as well as a wellness center and two public facilities: a food court and offices for the Wolfson Florida Moving Image Archives.

But MDC administrators have broad ambitions for the zysc0602030338building, to be designed by the firm of prominent Miami architect Bernard Zyscovich (right). 

Campus president Mercy Quiroga says the building presents an opportunity to fill in the gap in the block and markedly better the public realm along a critical stretch of Second Avenue, now a corridor of fast-moving traffic that divides the college and downtown.

Read more here.

**********

Redland's Anderson's Corner store at center of historic preservation battle

The Anderson's Corner general Historic Anderson's Corner store, a modest, two-story wood-frame building on a corner in the rural Redland, doesn't look like much. The white paint is peeling, porches sag, shattered windows are boarded up, and the Dade County pine siding is badly splintered where a hit-and-run motorist took out a chunk of wall last month.

Yet the long-vacant country store, built around 1911 by a Redland pioneer, is one of Miami-Dade's oldest and most resonant buildings -- and also one of its most endangered.

And now it's a test case in a county effort to boost enforcement of an ordinance meant to save historically designated buildings from what is happening to Anderson's Corner, a phenomenon commonly described by preservationists as ``demolition by neglect.''

Read more here.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 07:11 PM
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12/17/2009

Miami commission delays Miami 21 zoning code

BY CHARLES RABIN AND ANDRES VIGLUCCI
Miami's three sitting city commissioners agreed Thursday to delay implementation of the sweeping Miami 21 zoning code for three months, setting the stage for what could be significant changes sought by activists and developers.

Mayor Tomás Regalado, who requested the delay, attempted to allay Miami 21 supporters' fears that he intends to kill the new code, which was approved in October after four years of vetting and hundreds of public meetings, and which he strenuously opposed as a commissioner.

But Regalado made it clear he will reopen the plan for changes, including amendments that would allow for greater public say on specific projects. Such amendments, sought by Miami Neighborhoods United, an activist group, were rejected by planners and a commission majority when the new code was approved. Some of the group's leaders strongly supported Regalado, the lone ``no'' vote on Miami 21, in November's mayoral vote.

``I will pledge to you,'' Regalado said, ``Miami 21 will be implemented, but with the input of the new commissioners.''

With no public comment, commissioners Marc Sarnoff, Francis Suarez, and Frank Carollo voted to delay the code's effective date from Feb. 19 to May 20 after about 45 minutes of discussion. The item was a last-minute addition to the agenda for Thursday's regular commission meeting.

Suarez cited the need for input from the ``business community,'' though developers and their lawyers have had dozens of meetings with city planners and officials and have testified repeatedly in public hearings on Miami 21 over several years.

Carollo said he could use more time to study what he said were complex new rules developers would have to follow under Miami 21.

However, the new commission could be setting itself up for further delay in trying to reconcile often mutually exclusive changes sought by neighborhood activists and developers. Attempts by planners and city leaders to balance competing interests was one reason Miami 21 took so long to win approval.

Read the rest here.

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12/16/2009

UM med school building gets green building certification, first high-rise in Miami-Dade to do so

If there was a race to be the first tower in Miami to win the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED seal of approval, it appears the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Clinical Research Building (now that’s a mouthful) is the winner. It may in fact be the first in South Florida, according to George Valcarcel, project manager for Perkins + Will, the building’s designers.

Though a number of high-rises here haveUM18709_web been  pre-certified based on building plans, many if not most have not gotten off the ground. Unusually, UM applied for LEED certification after the CRB was well into construction, when those involved realized the building qualified. The building was finished in 2006, but LEED certification was just awarded last month. Expect a flood of others if banks start lending to developers again. UM and Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus have announced other LEED projects as well.

The CRB scored for energy efficiency and water conservation features, including an anti-heat-island effect roof, as well as use of recycled materials, among other green-building techniques.

The building is also, if this amateur can venture an opinion, an elegant addition to a UM/Jackson campus whose buildings have for the most part been anything but. Do I imagine an echo of Mies’ famous Chicago towers in the Chicago-based Perkins + Will’s design for Miami? If so, Less is More turns out to be a surprisingly good fit for a place that prizes over-the-top design.

Clarification: This post previously said LEED did not exist when the CRB was planned. That was incorrect, a result of my misunderstanding. Valcarcel notes LEED was in place, just not on anyone’s radar screen yet locally. Also, a further thought: Spillis Candela’s classic raw-concrete building for Jackson’s Mailman center is an obvious exception to my comment above.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 06:47 PM
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North Beach MiMo makes the National Register of Historic Places

From the Miami Herald print edition:

The unusually intact collection of 600 mid-20th century garden-style apartment buildings, schools and places of worship that make up Miami Beach's North Shore district -- South Beach's funky, forgotten little brother -- now has something of its own to boast about.

It's been accepted for inclusion in the Nationaltwo00 mimo MHD Register of Historic Places, an honor that city officials and North Shore boosters hope will sharpen the district's profile, allowing it to step out from its better-known sibling's long shadow.

The district's inclusion also cements recognition of the once-derided architectural style that has popularly  come to be known as Miami Modern, or MiMo -- the breezy, geometric designs that predominate throughout North Shore. (Photo to the right of Temple Menorah’s addition by Morris Lapidus courtesy of Arthur Marcus.)

It becomes the second mostly-MiMo district to be included on the National Register, which is administered by the National Park Service. A year ago, a companion district on adjacent Normandy Isle was included in the National Register.

Read the rest here.

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12/10/2009

Miami Mayor Regalado to seek delay in Miami 21 implementation

Miami’s new mayor, Tomas Regalado, will ask the city commission’s three sitting members next Thursday to delay implementation of Miami 21 by 60 to 90 days to accommodate at least one big development project.

Regalado told my colleague Charles Rabin today that a planned Publix in Little Havana cannot be built under the Miami 21 zoning code. He also said the new code still needs cleaning up.

But Miami 21 supporters fear Regalado’s move doesn’t portend much good for the new, urban-oriented “smart’ code, approved at the end of October following four years of intensive vetting and revision. Regalado was the lone vote against the measure, a cornerstone of former Mayor Manny Diaz’ administration, and is clearly no fan of Miami 21.

City planners have been working to implement the code, which was to go into effect in February, but word is developers and their lawyers continue efforts to alter the code, which is designed to tame the overscaled development that has plagued the city for years.

Now Regalado – who sharply criticized Diaz’ penchant for big projects and receptiveness to developers -- is in charge. And several other developers also appear to be trying to get big projects in before Miami 21 goes into effect, some insiders say. 

Don’t know yet what new Commission Chair Marc Sarnoff thinks yet. Sarnoff, the only surviving member of the commission that approved Miami 21, was a strong supporter of the measure.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 06:48 PM
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New World Symphony aces test of the projection wall on Frank Gehry’s unfinished concert hall

From Friday’s Miami Herald:

First up on the side of the building was the gigantic head of Michael Tilson Thomas, seven stories tall, hair and baton flying on the podium before the New World Symphony.

Then came an old favorite, Bugs Bunny, conducting a cartoon orchestra. And, finally, sharp and luminous,  came a mash-up of sparkling streams, incandescent forests and billowing abstract shapes in pungent color.

Two new 09 World MHD PAB

The eye-popping outdoor show that took place Wednesday night in Miami Beach was a sneak peek at what will be free daily fare once the New World inaugurates its new Frank Gehry-designed rehearsal and performance hall in January 2011.

From four synchronized projectors, each the size of an old VW bug engine, the symphony will beam a nightly, ever-changing program of concerts, videos, movies -- maybe even
sporting events -- onto the front of its new hall just off Lincoln Road.

The 70-by-100-foot projection wall, conceived as an integral part of the building, will face a planned new 2.5-acre park that symphony and Beach officials hope will become the city's new central gathering spot.

From the projectors, and a companion state-of-the-art sound system, will pour forth live broadcasts from inside the New World hall, or from concert halls around the world, as well as a steady diet of recorded performances, art videos, movies and anything else of a fitting cultural nature to divert the crowds expected to gather in the new park. (No advertisements, city and symphony officials promise.)

New World Symphony executives tested the powerful projection system, mounted on temporary scaffolding in what is for now a parking lot, over three nights this week. The projectors, manufactured by Christie, pour out a massive 30,000 lumens each, the brightest available, they said.

After trying several projection modes, they settled on having each projector simultaneously beam out just one section of the 7,000 square-foot digital image, with software erasing any seams between the four quadrants.

That arrangement seemed to provide the brightest image and best resolution, said New World spokesman Craig Hall -- One new 09 World MHD PAB and it appeared to dazzle visiting Miami Beach city commissioners
on Wednesday.

“For the first time they saw the magnitude of this and began to think of all the possibilities, the same thing that happened to us Monday when we first switched it on,'' Hall said.

The new park, being designed by cutting-edge Dutch firm West 8, will include an open viewing area in front of the symphony hall. In a presentation last week, firm principal Adriaan Geuze said he envisions the projection shimmering through a screen of trees as visitors stroll through the rest of the park.

As bright as Wednesday's demonstration was, Hall said it will only get better once crews are done applying stucco and paint to the exterior wall, which flanks the new concert hall's main entrance.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 05:41 PM
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12/04/2009

For Bicentennial Park Metromover station makeover, DawnTown picks a winner

 

Here's how to transform a bleh Metromover station, courtesy of Miami's mold-shattering DawnTown architectural competition: Place a multi-faceted, shell-like ‘’diaphragm'' over the Bicentennial Park station tracks, and let it glow.

So goes the winning idea from a cutting-edge firm from Australia, Office 24/7, who propose turning the station into a big covered plaza while turning the wall facing the planned new art and science museums into a giant video screen:

diaphragm_o

Or there's this, the second-place entry from See You Sunday, a partnership of two young architects from Bangkok: A simple, curling, white strip of structure that would envelop but not touch the Metromover guideway:

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Or this from the third finalist, DoubleKatya, from St. Petersburg, Russia: An angular, tent-like "Fish Frame'' placed over the mover platform that would glisten in the sun like, well, fish scales:

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The three winners, selected by a high-powered jury from among 90 international entries, were announced Friday morning at an event designed to draw some of the blazing Art Basel/Miami Beach limelight to Miami's renascent downtown.

It's the second consecutive year for the international competition, the brainchild of Andrew Frey, a young Miami zoning lawyer with a planning background and a zeal for design who says downtown Miami's often-uninspired built environment could use a good,
invigorating jolt.

That means infusing ‘’human spirit'' into necessary engineering infrastructure by melding art, architecture and nature, said the event's keynote speaker, Dutch designer Adriaan Geuze, whose rising international reputation rests on an uncanny ability to do
just that. music00 symphony wknd CH

“It creates such euphoria, people go nuts,'' said Geuze (right, gesturing), whose firm is designing a new Miami Beach park to accompany architect Frank Gehry's new building for the New World Symphony.

Unlike last year's almost purely whimsical winner -- a conceptual makeover of the ugly downtown sewage pumping station that would have sheathed the plant in a writhing orange, anemone-like creature -- you could almost see this year's finalists getting built.

Jury members, including former Miami Art Museum director Terence Riley, Miami Science Museum director Gillian Thomas and architect Luis Revuelta, said they were looking for functionality married to originality.

The winning entry met the goal especially well, Thomas said. The Melbourne-based firm's proposed station would not only seamlessly deliver visitors from the Metromover platform to a planned plaza between the two new museums, but also reconnect the station and park to
the streets to the north, now sundered by the access ramp to the MacArthur Causeway.

“It's exciting and engaging, and it's both iconic and practical,'' Thomas said. “”For Miami, it's a wonderful opportunity.''

Not that Miami-Dade transit is promising anything, though the organizers pointedly put agency director Harpal Kapoor on the jury.

The goal of the competition is to gather creative -- and potentially iconic -- ideas that might encourage those in charge of such things to try something new and different. Last year's competition led to meetings with Miami-Dade water and sewer administrators, who seemed open-minded, though nothing to date has come of the effort.

“”Hopefully, it will inspire what happens downtown,'' Frey told attendees at the Marquis condo tower, whose meeting-room windows looked directly over the empty Bicentennial Park and the Metromover station.

The organizers picked the Bicentennial Park Metromover station, which has been closed for years, because it will soon become a principal arrival point for the new Miami Art and Science museums.

Those dazzling new structures seemed to call for something more simpatico than the inoffensive but purely serviceable existing station, 3832102825_d0bd66826c Frey said. Miami-Dade Transit has set aside more than $1 million to reopen the station, but that would likely not cover a major do-over, he said.

Funding from the Knight Foundation is already in place for a third competition next year, Frey said.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 12:41 PM
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12/03/2009

Best local urban plan of 2009? Downtown Development Authority’s new master plan gets AIA Miami’s nod

Amid a torrent of ambitious urban designs and master plans approved in the past year, it’s a so-far unheralded document that won the AIA’s urban plan of the year award – the DDA’s clear, sensible and achievable 15-year plan to gradually improve the public realm in downtown Miami.

The plan was guided to completion by DDA manager of urban planning and transportation Javier Betancourt (here picking up the award from AIA chapter president Natividad Soto), who’s been at the agency barely a year.5-Urban Design Award The plan’s chief virtue may be that Betancourt built on multiple existing plans and considerable strengths – Museum Park, the Burle Marx paving design for Biscayne Boulevard, the waterfront -- instead of attempting to reinvent downtown.

Inevitably, perhaps, some aspects of the plan are mainly aspirational: Attracting new businesses and national retailers, attracting global institutions and a big international event.

But its best parts focus on the nitty-gritty: New plazas and urban focal points, plus connecting all the disparate pieces already in place, or soon to be, into a cohesive whole, including enhancement of Brickell Avenue, Flagler Street, South Miami Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard into the cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly gems they should be – goals that may seem obvious but somehow have eluded past leaders.

Also in the document are some news nuggets, including plans to roll out a rubber-tire trolley service and install tall-ship berths at the deep-water slip just north of the AA Arena.

Long maligned for misplaced priorities and muffed chances, the DDA -- a quasi independent city agency that’s supposed to improve downtown Miami – appears on the way to a comeback under director Alyce Robertson. Hiring Betancourt – former principal planner for Coral Gables’ planning department -- appears to have been a savvy move. It won’t hurt that he also has political experience, as a one-time aide to former US Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla.

Naturally, the true test for the DDA will be actually implementing the plan.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 04:55 PM
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