The following "Letter to the Editor" is reprinted here courtesy of
The Coconut Grove Times where it first appeared in their May 2000 edition:
The university setting is one of limitless opportunities. During one's stay at an upper-level academic institution, students participate in a wealth of extra-curricular experiences such as volunteering at homeless shelters or attending lectures by notable and renowned speakers. A very tangible form of learning has codified my education and experiences art the University of Miami.
Professor Richard Shepard offered an affordable housing studio to the students at UM's School of Architecture in the fall of 1999. The semester involved a series of charettes and meetings with the citizens and some officials of West Coconut Grove. The CG Local Development Corporation, along with Wind & Rain, Inc. (a development company), provided an avenue and a focus for the studio. The need in this predominantly African-American community for affordable housing is eminent.
By the end of the fall semester, the original programmatic dilemmas were solved and six house designs were prepared for three different sites in the area. One team of four students (Jason Bush, Michael Justice, Tony Sosa, & Troy Ballard) was selected to have their design built on a fifty-foot by one hundred-foot vacant lot at 3644 Thomas Avenue. The solution emulates a Key West-Caribbean home with a very prominent front porch, both on the ground floor and second level.
This semester has certainly been exciting. The design and permitting process itself was a worthwhile experience. However, the most phenomenal part of this whole adventure is that the students would be building the house.
So spring 2000 arrives and we break ground at the Thomas Avenue site. In theory, this is a wonderful way to interpolate a five-year education into a tangible operation. In reality, none of us could have counted on so many exclamations of expletives, not to mention the numerous smashed thumbs.
We hope that this prototype studio will be available for upcoming students at UM. Another house is currently being considered for Florida Avenue. This was a terrific way to go from drawing board to built reality. And without the community's welcome and support, none of this would have been possible.
Jane M. Lanahan
University of Miami