Twelve students from an upper-level studio class spent the semester working on how to turn 16 acres into an area with a town hall, police station, community center and park.
Students from the University of Miami School of Architecture have partnered with the City of Cutler Bay in a unique project to help design a new civic complex and park on 16 acres of land in the heart of this community.
The project area is on a tract of land on Old Cutler Road, north of SW 212 Street, which the city acquired in a land swap. Cutler Bay hopes to build a town hall, police station and community center next to the park on this land.
“We want to not only turn this into a park and civic complex, but for it to become the emotional heart of our city and a central gathering place for our community,” Mayor Tim Meerbott said in a video message posted to Instagram. . “I am pleased to announce that we have partnered with the University of Miami School of Architecture to help us conceptualize our vision.”
Twelve graduate and undergraduate architecture students enrolled in an upper-level studio class spent the fall semester researching, speaking to Cutler Bay residents at town hall meetings, and designing how to transform the now empty lot into a place to see and use. They aim to design public buildings that are genuinely intended for daily use by the public.
“Collaborating with Cutler Bay immerses students in a real-world scenario where they learn a lot by meeting the complex and sometimes competing needs of various stakeholders with their designs,” said Rodolphe el-Khoury, Dean of the School of architecture.
Erick Valle, adjunct visiting professor and practicing professional who teaches the studio course, said the project is interesting because students have to reimagine what a modern municipal complex would look like, keeping in mind the needs of residents and the requirements wildlife in the area.
“This kind of experience is as real as it gets,” Valle said. “Students can interact with many of their clients through workshops held in Cutler Bay. The General Manager and the Mayor want as much interaction as possible.
This interaction with residents is what has fueled many student projects.
Sarah Ercia, a fifth-year student, said that when interacting with the residents, she realized that they were focused on creating recreational areas, but also wanted to keep a much of the surrounding nature and native vegetation.
Ercia’s design did just that by incorporating pine trees into its model, which also included a man-made lake with surrounding walkways that could be used by visitors to enjoy the pine forests and drive their golf carts, which many locals of Cutler Bay do regularly.
In addition to the municipal buildings, Ercia also included a pavilion and several spaces for families to enjoy – a playground, a paddling pool for children and a dog park.
One of the challenges of the project is that the land is in a flood zone, so buildings need to be raised to withstand flooding. All of the students designed their buildings 10 feet above the sidewalk to allow for this, according to Valle.
“I put all the buildings left on the site where there is less flooding,” Ercia said. “I built an amphitheater and a lake to the right of the property. The amphitheater creates another basin. If there is flooding in this area, it will eventually drain.
The amphitheater also provides another gathering place for residents to watch plays and concerts and hold other community events.
Miranda Posey and Christelle Vincent are both fourth-year architecture students. For their design, they were inspired by the Everglades. They envisioned several water features in the Cutler Bay complex that are hugged by buildings with rounded corners that appear to be fully integrated into the landscape.
“The water is our focus, and the buildings hug the water,” Vincent said. “There is also a lot of greenery everywhere, since Cutler Bay is known for its greenery.”
Additional steel tree structures will be added to the design to provide shade from the sun during the day and provide a colorful light show at night, Vincent noted.
To solve the environmental problems, Vincent and Posey built green roofs on each of the buildings with grass, solar panels and trays for water retention.
“I think the project will have everything a family needs,” Posey said. “There are places for children and places for adults to organize events and meetings.”
On Saturday, December 4, students will present their final projects for critique to faculty, architects, and government and community members of the Town of Cutler Bay. The meeting will take place at Glasgow Lecture Hall on the university’s Coral Gables campus.