Renovations to the School of Architecture’s library doubled its footprint, offering students space to study and exchange ideas.

New Architecture Research Center provides more space, amenities

By Barbara Gutierrez

New Architecture Research Center provides more space, amenities

By Barbara Gutierrez
Renovations to the School of Architecture’s library doubled its footprint, offering students a place to interact, share ideas, and learn.

The University of Miami School of Architecture students knew the drill. Every time they needed a library book to begin a class project, they would dash across the courtyard, check out the book from the Paul Buisson Architecture Library and march right back down to the courtyard. 

The library was not conducive to lingering. Housed in a 1947 building originally designed as veterans' housing by noted architect Marion I. Manley, the library was rich in resources but poor in space. All that changes on Thursday when the School of Architecture celebrates the addition of a second floor to the Paul Buisson Library to create the Architecture Research Center, including eight new rooms where students can study, talk, conduct meetings, and do research. 

The Architecture Research Center, also known by its acronym ARC, doubles the original library’s footprint, going from 2,700 square feet to 5,400 square feet. 

“Libraries are no longer needed primarily for access to books and reference materials; they now increasingly perform as platforms for interaction and exchange,” said Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of the school. “The ARC is a big step in this direction: it supplements the Paul Buisson Library with social spaces, classrooms and other amenities that expand the scope and purpose of the traditional library.” 

The library – which houses over 10,000 books, published monographs in architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, technology and environmental responsibility in architecture, and design, and over 80 current, international architecture and design related journals – is quite complete. But the expansion’s additional space will allow for more material to be brought together, such as the Special Collections, which includes rare materials that cannot be checked out, said Gilda Santana, head of the Architecture Research Center and Art and Art History Librarian. 

“Libraries have been a sanctuary for me since the age of five,” she said. “I realized as I got older, that the library was a seat of democracy. When you are in the library no one can tell you what or how to think. All people should have access to information.” 

Santana has been at the library since 2007. She has been instrumental in developing print and digital architecture and art collections, and archival materials with a focus on Latin America, the Caribbean, and South Florida, but also on Europe and Asia, as well as sea level rise.  

The Buisson Library also houses a considerable number of tomes on New Urbanism. The Archive of the New Urbanism is a collection of materials documenting the history of the development of the New Urbanism movement. It consists of designs, manuscripts, correspondence files and ephemera. This urban and development approach was spearheaded by former School of Architecture Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. The archive also keeps volumes written by Architecture faculty. 

The library’s collections also extend to the digital realm. Students can access numerous digital materials on the “intersection of architecture and technology,” or the Internet of Things, which is how technology is used and integrated into everyday life—an area that highly interests el-Khoury. 

Santana sees the ARC as a conduit for more participation from students. They can not only book rooms for study circles, but eventually guest speakers could be invited to small group classes, she said. 

For Cecilia McCammon, a third-year student who uses the library constantly to research buildings and architectural trends, the expansion is extremely positive. 

“It is a wonderful library and there is a great variety of material,” she said. “This change will encourage us to spend more time there. It offers us a place to sit and browse books.” 

Dean of Libraries Charles Eckman is thrilled with the renovation. 

"We have found in Dean el-Khoury an enthusiastic partner in reimagining the library with an expansive role in research and learning,” Eckman said. “We hope to build on this collaboration by deepening connections between the ARC and new UM Libraries' programs such as the Creative Studio and Learning Commons.”