Florida Architecture School Wins U.S. Building of the Year

John Hill
4. February 2019
Photo: Miami in Focus

Named for the late father of Tom Murphy, Jr., President and CEO of Coastal Constrution Group, which served as contractor on the building, the Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio was inaugurated in November 2018. It was designed by Arquitectonica partners Bernardo Fort Brescia and Laurinda Spear with their son, Raymond Fort, all of whom have served on the faculty of the University of Miami School of Architecture. Under Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury, Arquitectonica designed a 20,000-square-foot building that serves up to 130 students with open studio spaces, fabrication labs, "crit" spaces, and faculty offices.

The dramatic focus of the Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio is the thin-shell concrete roof that overhangs the 18-foot tall glass walls and shades the studio and fabrication spaces from direct sunlight. (Photo: Miami in Focus)

The rectilinear building is defined by 18-foot tall, hurricane-proof glass walls that provide plenty of natural light for the studio spaces ― enough that very little artificial lighting is needed when using the building. Direct sunlight is reduced by the overhanging roof, which droops in the southwest corner as if it were warped by the Florida heat; in actuality the low point shades a small outdoor space near the entrance. Like many architecture schools this century, the design of the Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio is meant to educate students about design: "illustrating some of the basic tenets of modern architecture, construction and sustainability," in the architects' words.

Dean Rodolphe "Rudy" el-Khoury told the University of Miami news last month, "Making the list of the 2018 [Building of the Year] finalists is an achievement in itself, given the illustrious company. Winning would be just awesome." We couldn't agree more.

A concrete wall peels away at the entrance to the Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio, gesturing toward the nearby Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center, behind us in this photo. (Photo: Miami in Focus)
Previous Building of the Year winners on American-Architects:

The 20,000-square-foot Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio is a flexible shed-like space accommodating up to 130 students beneath the wing-like concrete roof. (Photo: Miami in Focus)

The Building of the Year poll on American-Architects featured 43 Building of the Week reviews from 2018. It was open during the month of January and received votes from more than 4,000 people. The Thomas P. Murphy Design Studio Building won by a large margin, with 38% of the votes.

​In second place, with 18% of the votes, is Magazzino Italian Art, MQ Architecture's renovation and expansion of an old warehouse in New York's Hudson Valley.

Second Place: Magazzino Italian Art by MQ Architecture (Photo: Montse Zamorano)

The third place project, with 14% of the votes, is Kasmin Gallery, a new one-story building designed by studioMDA that hugs the High Line on Manhattan's West Side. 

Third Place: Kasmin Gallery by studioMDA (Photo: Roland Halbe)

Lastly, the fourth place project is the McDonald's Chicago Flagship designed by Ross Barney Architects. It received 5% of the votes, twice as much as the cluster of projects behind it.

Fourth Place: McDonald's Chicago Flagship by Ross Barney Architects (Photo: Kendall McCaugherty, Hall+Merrick Photographers)

Congratulations to the winner and runners-up, and thanks to you, our readers, for voting!

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