New Studio will 'Fuel Innovation'

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.

New Studio will 'Fuel Innovation'

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.
The School of Architecture breaks ground on a new Design Studio that will change the way students are taught and learn.

It was only a few months ago that Thomas P. Murphy got one of those phone calls one never forgets. Bernardo Fort-Brescia, founding principal of one of the world’s largest architectural firms, was on the line, trying to sell Murphy on the idea of supporting the construction of a new design studio building for the University of Miami’s School of Architecture.

Fort-Brescia told Murphy about all the bright, talented students who were enrolling at UM to study architecture, but that the school lacked the kind of large studio that would allow them to see and collaborate with their classmates.

“That’s what really got to me,” recalled Murphy, chairman and CEO of Miami-based Coastal Construction, who was a student at UM in the late 1960s.

Fort-Brescia's pitch “wasn’t a song and dance,” said Murphy. “It was the truth.”

The clincher would come a few days later, when Murphy, while touring the School of Architecture grounds, saw for himself how the existing Marion Manley-designed cluster of classrooms, originally built as housing for returning World War II veterans, didn’t allow students to work together in large groups.

School of Architecture ground breaking

Soon, thanks to Murphy's generosity, that will all change. The School of Architecture broke ground Wednesday on the 20,000-square-foot Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio Building—a structure, said Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury, which “will fuel innovation” and “forever change the way students are taught and the way students learn.”

Made possible by a $3.5 million pledge from Coastal Construction, the building will accommodate more than 120 students who will design mixed-use developments, homes, office buildings, and other structures using such high-tech features as a fabrication lab and workstations that enable advanced digital production. A computer lab, presentation areas, review spaces, and a student lounge will also be included.

World-renowned Miami architecture firm Arquitectonica, which Fort-Brescia and a team of others started in 1977, designed the building, which is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2017 and is being constructed to LEED-certification standards.

But it is the facility's spaciousness that will be its distinctive attribute. Once the building is completed, students will be able to “immerse themselves in the studio culture we value here,” said el-Khoury, noting that the New Urbanism concepts for which the school is known are now being aligned with interdisciplinary research and emerging technologies to address some of the environmental challenges architects must consider during the design phase.

“The next great leap forward for the School of Architecture” is how Stuart Miller, chair of UM’s Board of Trustees and CEO of the Lennar Corporation, described the facility.

Noting some of the projects the school has undertaken in places like Haiti and Japan, UM President Julio Frenk said the new studio will further the school’s reputation as one “for which the world is a classroom."

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Murphy regaled the audience with stories of his days as a UM student, including being offered a job as a carpenter foreman when he was only 19 and being hired by the president of his fraternity to renovate their frat house. When the renovations started, fraternity members had to move out of the house, but unbeknownst to them, Murphy continued living there, taking up quarters in the fraternity president’s suite because Murphy kept the power turned on to that part of the house.

He said he struggled with having his named being placed on the new building. But noting that he is named after his father, he said the studio will really bear the name of the man who used to take him and his brother to the Orange Bowl to watch the Hurricanes play.