November 19, 2020 Studio Explores the Influences of Tropical Condition on Architecture

rendering of botanical center with plants

In fall 2020, Architecture Lecturer and Adjunct Assistant Professor Kathy Wheeler is leading her second-year studio in researching how architecture adapts to a tropical climate and to sea-level rise while still satisfying the cultural and lifestyle needs of a local population.

The students’ work is focused on Miami Beach, Florida, a city particularly vulnerable to and already experiencing sea-level rise. Students are challenged to consider how architecture can adapt to tropical influences as well as what architecture can teach us about lifestyle.

Through the process, students work in teams and individually, learning the power of teamwork, developing new modes of design production and practicing critical thinking about design.

“This course has been helpful in figuring out how to approach a site through a larger context as well as through specific design strategies,” said student Sarina Hermanto. “Learning the importance of site research, considering a site’s physical and cultural attributes and learning to use that research as the basis for a project are major steps in progressing toward meaningful design.”

In the studio, students first are researching and mapping the Miami Beach area to understand environmental and social influences. Using this data, they are developing designs for a sea-level rise education center that would include a multi-cultural facility, a food and gathering place and a botanical center.

“For this project, I chose the botanical center,” said student Tyler Row, “and wanted my building to become a real part of the landscape it was educating on. After discovering hardwood hammocks [in the Everglades], I became interested in their relationship to the surrounding marshlands…and decided to implement this relationship into my design. Just as the hardwood hammocks are embedded in the swampland yet are raised vertically and contain different flora than the areas surrounding, so is the building and its surrounding site.”

As a final project, students are focusing on the art culture in Miami by designing a temporary pavilion for Art Basel 2021, an annual international contemporary art fair in North Miami Beach.

By examining contemporary and critical environmental issues, our students learn to generate practical solutions through design.


Learn more:

Learn how Architecture studios are addressing a critical societal issue of affordable housing.

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