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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 examine design challenges of the area, and showcase the projects of regional alumni. Taking place during Art Basel, the city was awash with creative energy and nearly 100 alumni, faculty, and friends convened from December 6-8 to discuss the exciting research 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 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.


Welcome reception at the Viceroy Hotel.

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, the stadium has a rich history as a vibrant cultural facility, but in its disrepair, has been reclaimed by world-class graffiti artists as a public art space. Initiated in the spring of 2014 to draw attention to and raise funds for the restoration of the stadium, the Art | History Mural Project has generated extensive buzz in the street art community internationally. Curator Logan Hicks, a highly regarded stencil artist known for exploring the dynamics of the urban environment, spoke to the group about the project alongside Don Worth MCRP ’75, co-founder of the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, who led everyone on a private tour and discussed the plans for the site’s grand future. 


Touring the Miami Marine Stadium. 

The next stop was the 2014 Design Miami Pavilion, where founder Craig Robins welcomed everyone and gave an overview of highlights in this year's fair, including Jeanne Gang’s MArch ’93 commissioned piece for the Swarovski booth, an exhibition that featured Bil Ehrlich’s BArch '67 jewelry, and the celebration of Zaha Hadid’s work, which Patrik Schumacher, former John C. Portman Visiting Professor in Architecture, presented to the group. 

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, Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design, 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 FAIA and Bernardo Fort-Brescia MArch ’75, and co-founder Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk FAIA.

The weekend culminated in a day-long design symposium named 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,” and offering updates from the GSD’s recent Miami-based studios. 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; Carie 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.”


Kunlé Adeyemi and Dean Mohsen Mostafavi.

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.

To see more great pictures from the weekend, visit our Facebook page.