The Miami Times project is located in the Liberty City area of Miami-FL. Liberty City is a historically African-American community. The Miami Times, the largest and oldest African-American owned newspaper; represents, advocates, and fights for the rights, civil liberties, and interests of South Florida’s black community . The Miami Times project proposes three main components: the interior renovation of the existing building, the new construction of a distribution building on the northwest portion of the site, and the overall landscape improvements to the entire campus.
The original building is an Alfred Browning Parker design from the late 50s. Though not regarded as a historical landmark the Reeves family, the founders of The Miami Times, have approached their plans for the structure as though it was a landmark.
The family requested the team design a distribution building on the northwest corner of the lot. BC3 sought design cues from the existing building without trying to upstage it. We identified what were the dominant architecture features:
1) the three chimney-like skylights
2) the strong horizontality of the deep overhang
3) the prominence of the green metal fascia and roof
4) the monumentality of the cast-in-place concrete planters and walls forms
5) the controlling interaction with the landscape elements: the planters and the original placement of the tree in the northwest corner of the building extremities.
These five features established the vocabulary of the existing architecture. Our team wanted to speak the same words using a more contemporary language of architecture, rather than aping the the mid-century modern aesthetic.
The design of the distribution building carries over the horizontality with the cantilevered beam encircling a proposed tree on the northeast corner of the building, it seeks to use the architecture to more forcefully define a space for an important landscape feature. Indirect natural light is an important feature of Parker building so rather than recreate the strong geometries of the skylights, the distribution building flattens the element and conceals the skylight below the roof line tapering it away from the entrance to the east where natural light is needed the least, while sloping it towards the north to increase indirect light.The planters feature prominently in the Parker design but in the distribution building they, much like the skylight, are hidden below the roof line to allow vines to grow from above down to the ground –seemingly enveloping the architecture and inverting the controlling relationship expressed in the older building. Lastly the materiality of the new structure draws its inspiration from the old. The cast-in-place concrete forms the entirety of the structure while key cladding elements are made of perforated metal screens matching the green of the fascia panels and roof of the main building.
The design team worked on three schemes to present to the client: private, semi-private and semi-public. The preferred scheme was the semi-public solution, where a portion of the outdoor area becomes public space and serves as a public plaza, which is interpreted as a way to give back to the Liberty City community. Other possible uses for the public space is for community events such as farmer’s market, book fair or private events.
The new design of the campus grounds and the addition of the distribution building work to unify the entire city block in a way that reasserts this newspaper’s role as an institution within the community. The Miami Times preserves the work of a regionally famous architect while burnishing its brand with a new building that roots itself into the landscape and reorganizes the surrounding open space to provide a well need amenity for the community it serves.