Florida International University’s new School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) is the proud owner of what is said to be the first green roof in the state, designed by Arquitectonica. Located at the institution’s Modesto Maidique Campus, the SIPA is a bold form that speaks to the body of work often referred to as sub-tropical modernism.
The bulk of the building can be read as a meeting of two key volumes: a classroom wing and an auditorium wing. It is the latter of these two gestures that arguably defines the new form, with its clean lines following the arrangement of raised seating within to form a theatrical void, used by visitors and students as a covered terrace.
As the auditorium wing meets the classroom wing, a grand lobby and event space is generated, referred to by one half of Arquitectonica’s founding partnership, Bernardo Fort-Brescia as a ‘breezeway’. Seeming to counterbalance the rising auditorium wing is the classroom wing which sits flush to the ground.
Two key entranceways are provided for users of the new building: a main pedestrian access point into the triple-height lobby; and a sweeping vehicular drop-off that meets the structure at the acute angle of the two architectural gestures.
The SIPA will be used to host classes, lectures, workshops, performances, conferences and various research projects, and looks to attract visitors from the international academic community. The visual impact of the institution therefore had to be reflective of this global community, as Fort-Brescia explains: “It is the university’s embassy to the world.”
A 9,000 sq ft green roof is laid above the auditorium wing, designed by allied office ArquitectonicaGEO. Enriched with indigenous grasses and groundcover, it adds to the sustainability credentials of the project whilst providing an aesthetically pleasing display with curvaceous patterns swirling across the roof when viewed from above.