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The CUCD was founded in 1992 in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew with the mission of fostering a collaborative interdisciplinary approach that supports the buttressing, retro-fitting and creation of sustainable communities and buildings. The Center seeks to integrate research, teaching, and service, encouraging interdisciplinary thought and action in the areas of historic preservation, urban design & community engagement, and, sustainable & resilient design in the sub-tropics and tropics.  The Center assists or leads faculty, alumni and students in funded research, publications, and community partnerships, workshops and charrettes.
What We Do

We promote a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that supports creation, preservation and retro-fitting of resilient / sustainable communities and buildings.

The CUCD interfaces community and project needs with the core, educational philosophy and goals of the School of Architecture.  

This is accomplished by: integrating research, teaching and service, encouraging inter-disciplinary thought and action in the areas of resiliency, sustainable design and development, historic preservation and civic engagement, alignment with the University’s active commitment towards local and hemispheric neighbors / partners, and, by sharing knowledge, research, project activities and findings with students, faculty, design professionals, civic institutions and the general public.

Who We Are

Assistant Directors: Steven Fett and Ricardo Lopez
Director: Sonia Chao

Who We Serve

We serve the sub-tropical / tropical belt; in particular, South Florida, the Caribbean Basin and Latin America. We engage with communities and leaders striving to achieve sustainable development, addressing adaptation and resiliency challenges due to sea level rise. We work closely with disenfranchised communities that are historically significant and environmentally vulnerable. CUCD's projects typically run from four to 18 months.

Project Highlights, 2013-2015

W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Phase I & II) & Barr Foundation (Phase I)
Haiti Initiative [ Arcahaie Vision ReportAkayé rapó vizyon ]

National Endowment for the Arts
Under the Sun Publication

Overtown Historic Resources Research & Mapping Project

Miami-Dade Housing Finance Authority
Design Guidelines for Affordable Housing Infill in Historic Neighborhoods

J. P. Morgan Chase Foundation & Jessie Ball DuPont Foundation
Opa-Locka Charrette, Allapattah Charrette and Overtown Feasibility and Mapping Study (Phase II)

Focus Areas

Community Engagement; Historic Preservation; Sustainable & Resilient Design; Research, Capacity Building, Technical Assistance & Education.

Tools and Products

Charrettes, Research, Grants, Publications, Code & Design Guidelines; NCARB/IDP Intern Supervision, Conference Presentations & Collaboration with UMSoA Faculty, Students, Alumni, and with the UM Office of Civic and Community Engagement. Participation by: faculty, students, alumni, interns, or other part-time / limited term participants and consultants. UMSoA students can earn Intern Development Program (IDP) hours.

Exhibition and Symposium: “Under the Sun: Sustainable Innovations + Traditions”

2007: A symposium to promote, educate and discuss innovative green building techniques and practices, relating the topic to the traditions of vernacular architecture and sustainable urbanism. The event was held in collaboration with the University of Miami Law School’s Center for Ethics & Public Service and the U.S Green Building Council - South Florida Chapter. The symposium served as a forum for all parties interested in enhancing their knowledge of sustainable architecture and urbanism.

International Outreach: Santa Rosa de Jaregui Mexico Charrette

2006-present: UM/SOA Faculty and CUCD director, Sonia Chao and research affiliate, Gustavo Sanchez-Hugalde were invited by the Instituto Tecnologico de Monterey in Queretaro, Mexico to lead in a week-long charrette. The two-fold purpose was: to assist the impoverished community of Santa Rosa de Jaregui to plan for the re-vitalization of its historic urban center, and to permit students in the Master’s Program in New Urbanism (at the Tecnologico) to participate and comprehend the charrette process. The charrette recommendations were submitted to the local government, residents and stakeholders for implementation.

Local Initiatives: Neighborhood Vision Plan - Grand Avenue, Coconut Grove

2002-present: The project, spearheaded by the University’s Luce Professor Samina Quraeshi with several departments, promotes the social, economic and physical renaissance of the West Grove neighborhood. UM students, majoring in a variety of disciplines, captured the history and spirit of the community by creating oral histories, photographs, cultural maps and architectural drawings of the people and places of West Grove. Their initial work was showcased in an original video documentary. 

One of the goals of the project is to continue assisting the community, increasing the supply of affordable houses. The Master plan proposal was adopted by the City of Miami and build-out was completed in 2007. The study of the neighborhood led to its declaration as an historic overlay district, protecting the original wood frame constructions built by the early Bahamian settlers.

Local Initiatives: Neighborhood Planning Study - Biscayne Park

2005-2006: A charrette was held and subsequently a ‘neighborhood visioning report’ was generated; documenting the results of the charrette findings. The report addressed concerns of local residents / business owners and focused on a number of municipal improvements such as use of public space, expansion of town facilities, signage and traffic improvements. The report was submitted to local government and community development association.

Local Outreach: San Sebastian - An Academic Village

2005: UM/SOA Faculty and CUCD directors, were invited by the University of Miami’s asset management consultants to analyze the feasibility of developing land in South Dade as a ‘sustainable academic village’. The project integrated the ideals of traditional town planning, the typologies of Florida’s vernacular architecture that previously characterized the region, while preserving the valuable natural preserve that surrounded the site. The project also incorporated innovations of green design and technology. Assuming the university would maintain control over 45 acres of land in the Village of San Sebastian, the Financial Benefits Analysis of Green Building suggested an estimated savings of $98,010,000 over a 20-year period (over typical suburban building designs and developments). The sustainable design recommendations (produced by the team) were later incorporated as part of the Request for Proposals (RFP) issued for the site’s design development.

International Outreach: Santa Barbara, Dominican Republic

2005: CUCD faculty collaborated with their peers from the Universidad Jose Antonio Echevarria in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to lead a design studio with students in both countries. This was focused on the historic neighborhood of Santa Barbara, north of the city’s historic colonial center. The first African slaves brought to the New World settled here, and to this day, it maintains its cultural identity. The studio proposed sustainable infill projects meant to build on the rich architectural traditions of the place and their adaptation to the tropical climate. Each site focused on a different problem / opportunity afforded by the site. This international studio allowed students and local residents to collaborate and learn from each other. The final projects were submitted to local non-profit agencies for their use and reference.

Local Outreach - Design Build Studios: West Coconut Grove

2002-2005: The success of CUCD's work on the Grand Avenue Plan convinced the City of Miami to offer vacant lots for the development of affordable housing. In 2002, architecture students were assigned to produce three new designs for affordable homes on select lots. Students studied and documented traditional southern U.S. homes and were asked to reinterpret these precedents to accommodate a three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,300 square-foot program for two infill sites. The students arrived at three model house types, (that served as a basis for new residences in the area: the bungalow, the dogtrot, and the conch house). Students completed their experience by collaborating in the construction of the homes under the supervision of local developer, Wind & Rain. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development [H.U.D.] funded the construction of the affordable homes.

Local Initiatives: Neighborhood Planning Studies – Buena Vista

2003-2004: Study goals were to improve the infrastructure, character, and livability of the Buena Vista Historic District and neighborhood, and to suggest methods for the preservation of its historic and cultural assets. The City of Miami Planning and Zoning Department was asked by the City Commission to conduct a charrette to address these issues and the CUCD was commissioned to lead the process and produce a report. Subsequently, the adjacent Buena Vista Heights neighborhood approached the CUCD and requested a study. Following a second charrette, a separate report was submitted to the residents and local government for their implementation.

Local Initiatives: Neighborhood Planning Studies – Coconut Grove

2002: The City of Miami commissioned the CUCD to document the historic neighborhoods of Coconut Grove, first settled by ‘northeasterners’ and Bahamians in 1873. A series of drawings illustrated the most salient aspects of the built, the natural inheritance of the neighborhoods and the characteristics of its original residents. Additional drawings were made to evidence its architectural heritage, the transformation of the neighborhood and its potential for sustainable growth and the preservation of its historic fabric.

Local Initiatives: Regional Planning Studies – New South Dade Planning Charrette

1992: This charrette was sponsored by “We Will Rebuild” and led by local universities, government agencies, non-profits and professional associations. After Hurricane Andrew, residents convened, to plan a sustainable, rebuilding strategy for the communities of South Dade. The projects focused on a wide range of issues from the macro to the micro scales. Issues addressed were urban planning, transportation, historic preservation and natural resources and site-specific neighborhood revitalization plans. Many of these plans served as the basis for re-development of neighborhoods and future regional scale recommendations, related to water management, transportation-oriented development, and the preservation of buildings and open space in the Redlands. 

Since then, the CUCD has continuously served South Florida communities in efforts to build a sustainable and livable region, aware of social, economic and environmental pressures which define sustainable development. The Center has more recently established new partnerships with universities and non-profits located in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The New South Dade Planning Charrette Report

Center for Urban and Community Design Publications

Reimagining West Coconut Grove [edited by Luce Professor Samina Quraeshi, 2005] This collection of essays recounts recent efforts by the CUCD, university and local partners to devise an interdisciplinary approach to strengthen the community in a distressed inner-city neighborhood. This poses a hard look at the problems of community-building, the potential of interdisciplinary and place-based curricula and the intricacies of University-Community partnerships. A holistic perspective emerged, emphasizing the importance to envision a neighborhood from many disciplines.

The Living Traditions of Coconut Grove [published by Initiative for the Urban and Social Ecology (INUSE), 2004] The CUCD envisions building our society, family by family, block by block, through design. As a first step, faculty, students and community partners jointly identified the neighborhood of West Coconut Grove, while exploring the social built and ecological issues that would be the focus of research, study and practice. This book analyzes the process and illustrates the multi-disciplinary approach.

The South-Dade Watershed Project [1995] The report was a product of the South Dade Watershed Project, commissioned by the South Florida Water Management District. It was executed in collaboration with former CUCD Director, Dan Williams. The report analyzed the relationship between land and water in South Miami Dade County. The report outlined a strategy for a sustainable, water management plan.