University of Miami - Virginia Key, Miami, FL
What better place to study the effects of catastrophic hurricanes and rising sea levels than in the middle of a hurricane and flood zone area? This small academic campus has an international reputation for atmospheric and marine research, in spite of aging, makeshift facilities. RSMAS needed to upgrade the buildings to meet the demands of the current and future research needs and address the unique environmental challenges of this vulnerable oceanfront site.
The first floor is raised 15 feet off the ground, protecting classrooms and labs from flooding and transforming the ground level into a covered parking area, reducing the area of surface parking without reducing the number of spaces. A 38,000-gallon hurricane simulator tank is prominently located in view of the main atrium, bringing the stormy research to a wider audience.
The new 86,000-sf complex serves as the campus gateway and is the first step in implementing a master plan to create a more cohesive and inviting campus. It was designed to be resilient to imminent hurricane threat and is better suited to its sensitive, island habitat.
The difference between this building and the many other buildings that we built, is that this is a building about discovery.Donna Shalala, President, University of Miami