With over 280 acres of contiguous land located in Coral Gables, Florida; The University of Miami’s vision for their growth includes giving careful consideration to key program areas for expansion, campus connectivity and pedestrian circulation, the creation of outdoor living spaces, and activation of the public realm.

Studies have shown that students that live on campus perform better academically, graduate at an accelerated pace, and rate their college experiences better that those who live off-campus. The University of Miami Housing and Residential Life Department developed a three-phased housing master plan which core focus is to create new and inviting spaces for students to live and learn throughout their career at the University. The three phases include the construction of 1,115-beds in Phase I – Lakeside Village.

The new 12.5-acre (544,500 SF), mixed-use student housing complex comprised of 25 interconnected buildings and several outdoor spaces is the home to 1,115 students alongside classrooms, music practice rooms, meditation rooms, study areas, a 200-seat auditorium, offices, an exhibition hall, outdoor gym, flexible use sand volleyball court, a package and mail center and food/beverage options. What used to be a waterfront parking lot was replaced with a large common outdoor garden and green space. The idea of reclaiming the ground floor for students, common use, and outdoor tropical space suggested the importance of raising the living units and the building above the ground plane. The proposed design eliminates vehicular traffic in exchange for pedestrian centric major and secondary walkways connecting key nodes and buildings through the landscape. Lakeside Village fronts Lake Osceola (the core and heart of the Gables Campus) and is filled with a lush and native tropical garden.

The unique array of interconnected buildings and gathering spaces – sleek, geometric volumes seven stories tall, interlaced by lush gardens and topped with flowering perennials that peek over the building’s sloped green roofs. The project is a bold experiment in low-impact development in part because of the threat that climate change and sea-level rise pose, made it a much more involved multi-disciplinary design process to design and build a highly functional and resilient complex that houses learning spaces of various types within the common areas of the environment to create collaborative shared living and learning environments. Special consideration was given to communal spaces that provide varying degrees of social, learning, and activity programming potential and that will activate the ground level.

The design objectives included delineating natural paths of travel, affording covered movement systems, creating plazas and courtyards, reinstating a tropical landscape and designing a building that feels synchronous with the natural environment using scale, repetition, structured irregularity, and natural materials. The project site is 70% pervious and it includes 25 sloped extensive green roofs that encompass 60,000 SF, custom-designed to withstand 200mph winds. They are designed to be uninhabitable but become visible as you move through campus and they tilt toward your view. They provide several sustainability benefits: reducing stormwater runoff, improving air quality, reducing the urban heat island effect, providing extra insulation for the building, and offering a destination for pollinators. Due to the scale of these planted rooftops that extend across 25 independent structures, maintenance had a lead role in plant selection. The design intent was to “set it and forget it” by simply setting the state for a wildflower meadow on the rooftops, which seeds and reseeds itself with little human intervention. Grass seed paired with container-grown native flowering plants that attract pollinators were planted with the understanding that over time, the green roof will evolve into an even more complex, organic ecosystem as seeds disperse onto the rooftops.

A vibrant and lively space at the epicenter for academic and cultural interaction on campus, Lakeside Village transforms into more than just a place to sleep. Unlike a traditional housing building, the village includes active indoor and outdoor spaces to facilitate engagement among the entire campus community. In a 12.5-acre site with planting on three different levels, the range of microclimatic conditions varies greatly, warranting an equally varied range of plant species that can bolster the landscapes resiliency and ecological value. This also becomes an opportunity to expand the palette and create a variety of experiences throughout the project. Green roof planting is more specific, driven mostly by full-time sun exposure, shallow soil depth, and structural limitations. Level 2 planting is more dynamic and richer, with varied conditions and design goals. The palette at grade is by far the most biodiverse and complex of the three levels, due to the very large footprint, coupled with a wider range of program and design goals.

An overarching effort was made to blend environments. Most of the interiors seamlessly transitioning from indoor to outdoor spaces through tropical landscapes that integrate South Florida’s natural environment and contribute to the University’s own sense of community. While major programming, such as exhibition, recreation, retail, welcome and study centers maintain an amoeba like footprint at the ground level, the housing units are connected by landscaped walkways and elevated gardens.

Established student-created pathways were worked into the landscape and building layouts, implying a very natural pedestrian circulation as it meanders through the breezy, naturally lit communal spaces, much of it sheltered from the weather. Integrated rain gardens provide a habitat for native plants and wildlife as they collect rain water through downspouts coming from the green roofs.

The design functions not only as a living environment, but as a hub for campus and student activities.

Three on-site nurseries and limestone quarry were a highly developed initiative developed by ArqGEO. The strategy of sourcing from the site was highly effective in terms cost, time, effort, and the desired outcome of using matured trees. Over 100 trees were harvested from the site before construction began and replanted at on-site nurseries surrounding the site that contributed to more than 74,000 SF of relocated tree canopy, which is equal to 1.5 football fields. Existing trees and plant life were evaluated and, when possible, were incorporated into the landscape of Lakeside Village or located elsewhere on campus or in the surrounding local area.

The limestone boulders placed throughout the grounds came from the site. These boulders came from the excavation of the building’s foundations. A plan envisioned from the start while studying the site and understanding the available resources. This became an ingenious way of creating iconic pieces for the site’s character. Some of the limestone boulders became benches, others are featured in the rain garden, and some of the stone have crevices cut into them so that plants can grow in the rock, as so often happens in natural settings. They are porous, inviting subtle intervention by the designers to create a space for plants such as bromeliads to grow.

The village activates the surrounding area and highlight the lush greenery of the campus and it adds to the sense of place and belonging for those who live, work and learn there.


Entire project has native and adaptive planting.

More than 74,000sf of relocated tree canopy.

Innovative design features such as rooftop green spaces, a rain garden and expected LEED Gold Certified construction will support the sustainability initiatives of the campus and local communities.

Improves biodiversity and ecology on the ground level, elevated gardens as well as on the green roofs at approx. 70 feet height.

Showcase of environmental sustainability

Enhances the human experience and relationship between nature and the built environment.

Multi-discipline coordination and construction administration as main drivers of a successful design intent implementation.

Architecture offices involved in the design: ARQUITECTONICA

Project location: 1280 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146

Design year: 2017

Year Built: 2020


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