GSD Alumni + Friends Reconnect at Harvard Design: Miami
For the third year running, the GSD recently brought its annual Alumni + Friends Weekend to a new host city—Miami—to explore the vibrant area and meet alumni closer to home. Taking place during Art Basel, the city was awash with creative energy while nearly 100 alumni, faculty, and friends convened from December 6-8 to discuss the exciting research being conducted by the School and extended community.
On the first day, guests arrived at the Viceroy Miami Hotel, the centerpiece of the groundbreaking Icon Brickell complex—a soaring three-story structure known as Miami’s “city within a city”— designed by Bernardo Fort-Brescia MArch ’75. The party began in earnest later that evening when the GSD formally kicked off the weekend with a welcome reception on the fireplace terrace located high atop the 15th floor of the Viceroy.
The following day, alumni and friends embarked on a full itinerary of local site tours related to current GSD pedagogy and research. The first stop was the Miami Marine Stadium, one of the city’s most iconic venues designed by Cuban-American architect Hilario Candela. Closed for over 20 years, but now being rethought as a vibrant public cultural and entertainment venue, the stadium has been recently re-claimed by world-class graffiti artists. Don Worth MCRP ’75, co-founder of the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, led the group on a private tour and discussed the plans for the site’s grand future.
The next stop was the 2014 Design Miami Pavilion, where guests explored the work of designers and galleries participating in this year’s show, including a commissioned piece for the Swarovski booth by Jeanne Gang MArch ’93. Later, at the offices of design firm Arquitectonica, the GSD’s co-chair of the Grounded Visionaries campaign, John K.F. Irving AB ’83, MBA ’89, gave a warm Harvard welcome to the GSD community and introduced moderators Dean Mohsen Mostafavi and Charles Waldheim AM ’09, John E. Irving Professor of Landscape Architecture and chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture. Arquitectonica was established in 1977 and has been widely credited with advancing the shaping of Miami as a design city. The group engaged in a lively conversation on the design past, present, and potential future of Miami, with the firm’s principals, Laurinda Spear and Bernardo Fort-Brescia MArch ’75, and co-founder Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk FAIA.
The weekend culminated in a day-long design symposium titled Coastlines: Architecture, Landscape, and the Construction of Waterscapes. This featured leading local and global architects, landscape architects, engineers, developers, and planners in discussions related to “designing on, in, or near water and the unique challenges of these environments in this era of unprecedented climate change.” Dean Mostafavi provided a welcome and opening remarks, saying that “the city will continue to be rich grounds for future explorations for the School.” Following this, Michael Lehrer MArch ’78 and GSD Alumni Council Chair spoke of the design weekend’s role in the School’s renewed effort to showcase alumni impact in key cities. Addressing the audience, Lehrer asked them “to celebrate design together and believe in the significance of design education, design thinking and research, and its impact on humankind.”
Roberto Rovira, principal of Studio Roberto Rovira and chair of the Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design department at Florida International University, helmed the first panel on the topic of “Territories” with Pierre Belanger MLA ’00, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and co-director of the MDes Program at the GSD; Guy Nordenson LF ’94, Professor of Architecture and Structural Engineering at Princeton University; and Justine Kwiatkowski Vélez MLA ’06, MUP ’06, principal of Urban Robot and Adjunct Professor at the University of Miami School of Architecture. Charles Waldheim led the second session, inviting developer Scott Robins, founder and CEO of Scott Robins Companies, to join him on stage for a conversation about sea-level rise and the significant impact it is causing in Miami Beach.
After a quick break, guests reconvened for “Water & The City” with Kunlé Adeyemi, founder of NLÉ. Dean Mostafavi interviewed the architect about his extensive work and research designing floating buildings as a solution to issues of flooding and overcrowding in Nigeria’s waterside slums. Rodolphe el-Khoury, Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Miami, led the final panel of the day with Chad Oppenheim, founding principal of OPPENHEIM Architecture; Mark Lee MArch ’95, principal of Johnston Marklee & Associates; Carle Penabad MAUD ’98, Associate Professor and Director of the Undergraduate Program at the University of Miami School of Architecture; and Craig Robins, CEO and founder of Dacra, joining him for a discussion on the topic of “Architectures.”
Following the symposium, everyone headed to the closing reception where GSD alumni and friends celebrated and chatted about design and the activities of the weekend. Participants were also invited to explore the newest developments in Miami’s Design District on curated tours led by Mark Lee and Fernando Levy-Hara AMDP ’10.
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