Oolite Arts, the Miami-based nonprofit arts hub that hosts exhibitions and provides resident artists with free studio space, is planning a massive, green new headquarters in Miami’s Little River neighbourhood. Designed by Barcelona-based architecture firm Barozzi Veiga and expected to cost $30m, the new space is scheduled to open in 2024.
The complex will feature environmentally-conscious strategies including harvesting rainwater, using vegetation to cool the space, using skylights to illuminate it, and incorporating solar chimneys and wind catchers to mitigate energy use. The compound is expected to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.
“The climate-responsive concept for Oolite Arts focuses on the integration of passive and active strategies that mitigate Miami’s hot summers and take advantage of its mild climate during the winter months,” the firm’s founders Alberto Veiga and Fabrizio Barozzi say. “The project aims to introduce nature into the urban context [by] proposing a process of ‘re-tropicalisation’. Respecting the local constructive and climatic restrictions transforms them into architectural tools. Under this aspect, the vivid sunlight, the rainwater or the wind orientation are considered as important as the usual high temperatures, the presence of humidity and the restrictive level of the underground water horizon.”
At 26,850 sq. ft, the new grounds will be home to 21 studio spaces for resident artists as well as exhibition spaces, a theatre and classrooms. The organisation plans to hold over 200 art classes that will be open to the public, as well as hosting lectures and other public programming.
“The individual interior spaces are organized around separate clusters which protect the secluded public courtyard,” Veiga and Barozzi say. “Inside of them, intermediate areas formed as covered enclosed gardens provide shelter from the exterior temperature. Wind catchers introduce fresh wind into them and simultaneously provide the possibility of passively ventilating the interior spaces. Skylights permit ambient light of various orientations to carefully enter specific areas of the project and naturally blend with the framed views of the garden. Solar chimneys function in conjunction with the rest of the towers and as heat collectors assist the cross ventilation of the complex.”
The architects add that the compound’s towers will “produce an artificial microclimate that benefits both the natural and the mechanical operation of the building” and that vegetation will be used to mindfully protect against the sun. “The thermal mass of the used materials increases the inertia against the constant temperature fluctuation of the local climate and the rainwater is harvested for the irrigation of the gardens,” they say.
Despite Florida regularly being ranked the state most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, its Republican governor Ron DeSantis—often seen as the front-runner behind only Donald Trump for GOP nomination in the next presidential election—has been criticized again and again for doing little to mitigate the existential threat. The new Oolite centre is joining the ranks of other architectural projects in the state whose designs integrate those concerns and considerations into their very foundations.
“We are creating a cultural centre that will benefit future generations of Miamians, and we wanted the architects to design with sustainability and accessibility at the forefront,” Oolite president and chief executive Dennis Scholl says. “Each architectural decision has been carefully considered—from the lush community garden to the skylights—with artists, neighbors, the city and the environment in mind.”