Prototypes for urban neighborhoods

communities / Article

September 3, 2013 by Jason Chandler

Share:

Photo credit: Hermann Gonzalez, FIU graduate, Master of Architecture, 2012

Jason Chandler, a licensed architect and an associate professor at Florida International University, writes about a joint studio course with the not-for-profit Townhouse Center that is supported by Knight Foundation.

Miami has built to the sky and horizon with towers and subdivisions but lacks neighborhoods of a middle scale. In other cities—like Boston’s North End or New York’s West Village—those places are often the most vibrant. To help Miami start developing such neighborhoods, Knight Foundation funded an architecture studio course at the Florida International University School of Architecture about the neighborhood building block: small, adaptable buildings.  

This spring semester, students visited and documented small urban buildings in downtown Miami and Savannah, Ga. Then each student designed a new, small, adaptable prototype for Miami. The effort produced more than 100 designs, which have been curated into a book, “Infill Housing.”

The course and book were produced in collaboration with Townhouse Center, a not-for-profit that promotes urban neighborhood development. 

“‘Infill Housing’ is an easy-to-follow roadmap of how Miami can draw from the past to develop the small, adaptable buildings that add up to great middle-scale neighborhoods,” said Andrew Frey, Townhouse Center’s executive director.

During the visits to downtown Miami and Savannah, students experienced how small-scale infill buildings create resilient urban environments. The Savannah visit took students far out of the studio, to places and buildings that they had never seen before. Immersing students in cities so that they can experience buildings in person is critical to architecture education. It teaches students to “see” architecture and to appreciate its scale, materials, use and context.

“Infill Housing” was published after two months of culling, editing and formatting. It begins with student drawings of their inspiration—the small urban buildings in Miami and Savannah—and continues with their new designs, interspersed with photos of the students at work in Miami and Savannah. It provides a clear vision of what the students produced and experienced and is available in paperback or as a free e-book.

Chandler and Frey will present the book at a LAB Miami book talk on Oct 10 at 7 p.m.  The students’ work will be exhibited at BFI in Miami from Nov. 1-17.  Chandler and Frey will lead one of BFI’s Weird Miami bus tours on Nov. 10, taking riders through exemplary—but sometimes overlooked—Miami urban neighborhoods.

Sign up for our newsletter

Submit your email. Receive updates and the @knightfdn newsletter.

Subscription Options

Creative ‘collisions’ inspire grantees at Silicon Valley gathering

technology / Article