Monday, December 3, 2012

planning FIU

The Perkins + Will master plan for FIU’s Maidique Campus is good. There are some particularly good places in the plan where the architects have laid out new courtyard spaces that echo the scale of the campus’s more successful outdoor spaces. The new courtyards promise to help foster and sustain discourse by creating gathering places for the academic community. There are, however, some limitations to the plan:  

FIU should be more urban. The edges of the campus are where we physically interact with the neighboring communities, and this is where the university needs to reach out to our neighbors through architecture and landscape. We should invite them to our side of the street, which should thrive with pedestrian activity. The buildings along SW 8 Street and SW 117 Avenue should come out to the sidewalk. They should not sit behind strips of grass, hedges, fences or walls. The buildings along these two public streets should offer public uses at street level, especially uses that are shared by both the university and local communities, such as stores, restaurants, galleries and other public spaces. It would be optimal for the buildings along SW 8 Street and SW 117 Avenue to offer shade to make them more appealing to pedestrians, and to include integrated waiting areas to encourage public transit use.  

The FIU campus should promote discourse by creating outdoor spaces that enable, encourage and accommodate study and discussion. The spaces between buildings should play as large a role in fomenting discourse as the buildings themselves. Throughout the existing campus, benches – especially those in the shade – are in constant use by students and faculty. We should ensure that new outdoor spaces are designed to enable individual study and group discussion.  

FIU should promote sustainability more visibly. Building new facilities to meet LEED standards (or other benchmarking systems) is an important start, but we should also embrace our ability to shape public attitudes by adopting sustainable technologies in highly visible ways. Prominently located photovoltaic panels, for example, would help demonstrate the importance of these technologies to the South Florida public.  

FIU should be wilder. Three of the best features of our campus are the nature preserve, the lakes and the extensive collection of palms. We should expand our plantings of native species to create additional habitats that support native wildlife. The campus as a whole should teem with native plants and animals.  

FIU should bring back its sculpture. The Margulies Collection was fantastic, and should come home to MMC. We should collect and commission new works, particularly by artists with ties to the university and the city, and they should be integrated into the campus plan.

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