Adapting Modernism to local cultures and climates has been a driving force behind the work of Pat Bosch. The design principal of Perkins+Will's Miami office, Bosch studied 'critical regionalism' with Kenneth Frampton at Columbia University, then attended the ETH in Zurich when Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were teaching assistants, and went on to work for Richard Meier on projects in France and Germany in the 1990s. Such training helped when Miami Dade College (MDC) asked her to design a 130,000-square-foot student center and classroom complex for its Kendall Campus, the first and largest of the school's seven hubs.

With more than 165,000 students'and a leader, Eduardo Padr'n, named by Time magazine in 2009 as one of the 10 Best College Presidents'MDC aims to provide quality, affordable education to an ethnically diverse population. Bosch's challenge was to design a building that would point the school in a new direction, while extending its legacy of Floridian Modernism.

Asked what she thinks critical regionalism means, Bosch says, 'It's the abstraction of references,' both in terms of formal building elements and social context. At Perkins+Will, she has applied her ideas on the topic to a research headquarters for L'Oreal in Brazil, a hospital in Ghana, and an enormous women's university campus in Saudi Arabia. Bosch inherited her design gene from her parents. Her father, who was born in Spain and raised in Cuba, worked for Vittorio Garatti in the 1960s on two of Cuba's National Art Schools, which represented a radical fusion of Modern design, Catalan brick vaults, and Latin American exuberance. Her mother was an architect too.

The MDC project began not with a building but an investigation into how the college should move forward. 'We were hired to look at the big questions, such as, 'How do we build the future?'' says Bosch. Because the school wants to keep growing, while keeping costs low, Perkins+Will developed a thick set of standards and a kit-of-parts approach to be applied to future buildings. The research identified everything from the dimensions of different types of classrooms, prototypes for various spaces, and ways for all the pieces to come together. By using prototypes, the college could build faster and cheaper, while bringing coherence to seven campuses that had each developed in its own quirky fashion.

Having put together the rule book, Perkins+Will got the chance to test it out on the Kendall student center. According to the firm, the project took 18 months to build and cost $23 million, or $177 per square foot.

The building serves as a new gateway on the east side of the campus and will anchor future growth there. To the west, the school's original low-slung buildings spread out around a series of plazas connected by covered walkways. Designed by Hilario Candela and built in the 1960s, the exposed-concrete structures provide lots of shaded outdoor spaces and show how Brutalism could work with the southern Florida climate.

At five stories, the new student center is much taller than its neighbors. But like its predecessors, it flaunts concrete as both a structural element and a means of expression. Bosch emphasized the material by literally framing each of the long elevations in poured concrete and recessing the non-load-bearing facades, mostly precast-concrete panels on the south and glass on the north. An impressive concrete roof hovers above the south portion, sitting on slender columns and turning what could have been a heavy plane into something that almost appears to float. Flat-plate concrete construction allows floors to rest directly on columns, eliminating the need for beams and simplifying the building's visual expression.

Driven by the project's main programmatic components, the architects designed the building as a sandwich: a long wing on the south containing spaces for student services (such as registration, financial aid, and counseling), a similar wing on the north with classrooms, and a long atrium in between. Bosch treated additional functions'such as a vertical circulation tower on the east and a double-height multipurpose space emerging from the upper part of the southeast corner'as sculptural elements within the larger composition.

Most people approach the building from the south and enter on the east near the circulation tower. Inside, they find a five-story atrium glazed at its east and west ends and animated by a grand stair connected to landings and bridges that act as social hubs. Students hang out there and at the clusters of colorful furniture on each floor. Queuing for registration and other services is electronic, so students get a number and can relax until a text tells them it's their turn.

Flexibility was a critical concern for the university, so most internal partitions are nonstructural and can be moved when needed. In fact, as the project moved forward, its uses kept changing, with the business school and other programs moving in after design had been done. So the architects' kit-of-parts strategy was tested, and it passed, says Vicky Owles, the college's dean of students. The building has changed patterns of behavior, she says, with students lounging here instead of dispersing around the campus.

Bigger than MDC's original buildings, the new student center seems a bit out of scale right now. Future buildings nearby, though, will temper that impression. And its heroic brand of Modernism connects it to Candela's tropical Brutalism, while striking out in its own direction.


Miami Dade College

Perkins + Will
806 Douglas Road
Suite 300
Coral Gables, Florida 33134

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Pat Bosch, Design Principal
Gene Kluesner RA, Managing Principal
Carlo Chiu RA, Project Director
Angel Suarez RA, Project Architect, Senior Designer

Denise Gonzales
Ruben Ramos
David Chamberlain
Alejandro Branger
Sihui Ma
Elizabeth Torres

Architect of record:

Interior designer

Structural Engineer: DDA Engineers, P.A.

MEP-FP Engineers: Johnson, Avedano, Lopez, Rodriguez & Walewski Engineering Group, Inc.

Civil and Landscape: Miller, Legg & Associates, Inc.

Landscape: Miller, Legg & Associates, Inc.

Lighting: Johnson, Avedano, Lopez, Rodriguez & Walewski Engineering Group, Inc.

General contractor:  Kaufman Lynn Construction

Robin Hill Photography, 305 785 6538

Construction cost:

$23 million

Project cost:

$32 million


130,000 square feet

Completion date:

January 2013



Structural system
Concrete Cast in Place

Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project: Baker Concrete

Exterior cladding
Metal/glass curtain wall: Alumiglass_ 561-750-2300

Precast concrete: Metromont Corporation

Moisture barrier: Dow Corning

Built-up roofing: Firestone

Metal frame: Alumiglass_ 561-750-2300

Glass: Guardian (SunGuard Super Neutral 68 on CrystalGray)
Fabricator: Tecnoglass

Entrances: Alumiglass_ 561-750-2300

Metal doors: Ingersoll-Rand

Wood doors: Lambton Doors

Operable Partitions: Hufcor


Closers: LCN

Exit devices: Von Duprin

Pulls: Burns

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: Armstrong

Suspension grid: Armstrong

Demountable partitions: Teknion

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Watson Woodworking Inc.

Paints and stains: PPG

Wall coverings: Maharam

Plastic laminate: Formica

Resilient flooring: The Mohawk Group

Carpet: Tandus

Raised flooring: Irvine Access Flooring, Inc.

Wall Tile: Betona

Toilet Partitions: Global

Office furniture: Teknion

Reception furniture: Teknion

Fixed seating: Teknion

Chairs: Teknion

Tables: Teknion

Upholstery: Teknion

Interior ambient lighting: Cooper Lighting, Ecosense

Downlights: Cooper Lighting

Exterior: Cooper Lighting, McGraw-Edison, Luminarc, Beacon, Spectrum

Dimming System or other lighting controls: Lutron

Elevators: Kone

American Standard

Energy management or building automation system: Delta Controls

Other unique products that contribute to sustainability:
Cistern: Olcastle Precast