Student-designed pavilion celebrates the unbuilt at Design Miami

The annual Design Miami fair traditionally features an entry pavilion designed by early-career architects, a public installation that serves as a beacon for the fair and that provokes consideration and curiosity among the thousands of visitors who visit the fair’s programs and galleries. For the 2015 pavilion design, Design Miami announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Revealed in T: The New York Times Style Magazine in September, the chosen design, titled UNBUILT, was selected in May through a GSD-wide competition that drew 32 teams comprising 100 GSD students. The competition jury included members of both the GSD and Design Miami.

Fabrication of models for Design Miami Pavilion at the GSD
Fabrication of models for Design Miami Pavilion at the GSD

“It is a privilege to partner with Harvard GSD, one of the most amazing sources of creative thinking in the world of design,” said Craig Robins, Design Miami’s founder. “We are excited to see the students’ vision realized at Design Miami—a platform that has always been committed to presenting the work of emerging talent alongside material by established and historic designers.”

The UNBUILT team comprised Joanne Cheung, Jenny Shen, Steven Meyer, Doug Harsevoort, and Yiliu Shen-Burke (all MArch ’18). The team was advised by Luis Callejas, lecturer in architecture and landscape architecture; Hanif Kara, professor in practice of architectural technology; and Dan Borelli (MDes ’12), director of exhibitions.

The students of the UNBUILT team
The students of the UNBUILT team

As Borelli told Wired magazine, the jury chose UNBUILT because “we felt it really reflected the identity of who we are: a graduate center for Masters, Doctoral, and PhD candidates, and architects, landscape designers, practitioners, theorists, historians, all coming together in one environment.”

It is a privilege to partner with Harvard GSD, one of the most amazing sources of creative thinking in the world of design.

Craig Robins Founder, Design Miami

UNBUILT’s design features a range of experimental and speculative projects designed by members of the GSD community, presented as a canopy of foam models. As the name of the pavilion suggests, most of these projects may never be built—but for the participating students especially, they represent important manifestations of their emerging skills, research, and design imagination.

In its coverage of this year’s fair, T magazine called UNBUILT “a fitting symbol for this year’s program, which promises a more inclusive look at design.” Wallpaper magazine offered a full look at the conceptual and design process in its December issue.


To collect the approximately 200 designs that comprised the pavilion, the UNBUILT team solicited digital design files from students, faculty, and alumni across the school’s disciplines: architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and urban planning. Each submitted design was then fabricated in foam by a team of students.

“It wasn’t this team’s vision of a monolithic gesture,” Borelli told Wired. “The idea is that our built environment is often built upon many unbuilt aspirational ideas that never came into existence.”

“The aspiration of the unbuilt is an important thing, a vehicle to the future of design,” GSD Dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design Mohsen Mostafavi told T.

“It captures something that is so often unseen,” Design Miami’s executive director Rodman Primack said. “Most people never work with architects or see how things get designed, so this exposes the inner struggle of getting to something that finally gets made.”

UNBUILT in the News

“Class act: Harvard students honour architecture’s unrealised back catalogue with a pavilion for Design Miami,” Wallpaper.

“This Year’s Design Miami Pavilion Has Odd Looks—and Unexpected Creators,” Wired.

“The Most Interesting Projects From a Newly Inclusive Design Miami,” T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

“200 concept models form a pink canopy in harvard GSD’s UNBUILT pavilion for design Miami,” DesignBoom.

“Harvard students create pink pavilion of 200 elevated models outside Design Miami,” Dezeen.