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Festival of the Trees 27th Annual Celebration








This year Festival of the Trees celebrated their 27th year annual run, held at the Coral Gables Museum, December 8th, 2013. The main goal for this yearly Festival is to raise funds for student program enhancements in the Department of Interior Architecture at the College of Architecture + The Arts. It’s a new twist on a Christmas tradition, with the creativity of the design community coming together and sharing their interpretation of Christmas Trees.  Firms all over South Florida par take in this friendly competition for such a great cause, creating and strengthening connections with one another.  The trees were ranked by a juror and guest alike, winning various recognition’s such as: Most Elegant, Most Creative, Most Illuminated, Most Progressive, and People’s Choice.This year, over $20,000 was raised and over 500 people attended this wonderful event.

The rules for the trees are simple; it cannot be no more than 24” in depth and width and no more than 80 pounds, and with not height restrain. Sponsors supply the design teams with materials and it is up to the design team to come up with their interpretation of a Christmas trees with such materials. This year, there were 27 teams with 27 submissions. The winners were:

Most Elegant: #8 Via Design Studio, sponsored by Patcraft.

Most Creative: #11 Mohammed Shanti Design, sponsored by Hansgrohe .

Most Illuminated: #24 Studio 5 Design + Architecture, sponsored by Shaw Contract Group.

Most Progressive: #23 RTKL, sponsored by Humanscale and Bretford Manufacturing.

People’s Choice: #3 G Alvarez Design Studio, sponsored by Haworth Inc / JCwhite.

For more pictures on the event and the trees follow FOT on Facebook!

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Graduate Studio 5 Site Visit: College of Nursing and Health

Understanding complex topics, such as the design of healthcare facilities, can be difficult for students, many of whom have had little or no experience with such environments. Thus, many Interior Architecture professors take their students on site visits to locations where they can broaden and deepen their understanding of client and users needs. One such visit took our students to various healthcare facilities here on campus.

The first site visit, looking into one of the 3 typologies (preventative care), they visited the College of Nursing and Health Science Center on Campus. Located in Academic Health Center 3 building, they toured the STAR Center on the third floor. This Simulation Teaching and Research (STAR) Center, provided nursing students with a new way of learning.  Interacting with mannequins that can behave as a humans can, really helps them when it comes to real world experience.

Interior Architecture students were given a tour around the third floor STAR center learning about the equipment that is needed in these type of facilities and asking questions about what can be done to improve the psychical health of our society through their projects. They finished the tour by viewing the documentary “Supersize Me”, on the destruction that fast food can have on the human body, to get a sense on what they can do about this new kind fast-pace society.


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FIU Interior Architecture Ranked #4!

FIU Interior Architecture Department is proud to announce its recent ranking in the DesignIntelligence’s publication America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools. FIU Interior Architecture ranked number four among the top five interior design graduate programs in the Southern United States. This places it as one of the best graduate programs in over twelve states, and confirms what we have always known – that we are one of the preeminent design and educational centers in the country.

DesignIntelligence® is published by the Design Futures Council, an interdisciplinary network of design, product, and construction leaders exploring global trends, challenges, and opportunities to advance innovation and shape the future of the industry and the environment. The ranking consisted of the  school ability to prepare students on space planning, teamwork skills, sustainability, among others. Along with asking firms leaders, deans and students on which programs they believed best prepared the students for the “real world”.

Students are ecstatic to know that they are part of such a great program who is receiving the recognition it deserves. “I’m so proud to be a panther! When deciding on a school while transferring out of  Miami-Dade, the Interiors Program at FIU really grabbed my attention, and I’m glad to say that I’m part of such a great program and school!” Commented Mitzy Molina, a Graduate Design five student, when she heard about our ranking.


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FOT: Awarding Excellence within the Studios

Every semester the Interior Architecture Department celebrates those students whose projects have exceeded the norm and expectations for the each studio, by awarding them with scholarships such as the Festival of the Trees Scholarship. November 21, 2013, will be the 27th anniversary of the Festival of the Trees, a celebration among students, alumni, and colleagues. Gathering together for one purpose…to raise funds to give back to the students.

Last spring, one of the scholarships was awarded to Graduate 4 student Mary Basile. In her 4th year, Mary won the award for her work in the Cruise Ship and Super Yacht studio. This midterm project consisted of designing a stateroom.  Her concept was carried on successfully throughout the project, inspired by the natural phenomenon, the northern lights. Carrying this idea throughout the design, carrying on the concept that her cruise line of choice (Celebrity Cruise line) already has established, quoting their main philosophy, “Because we believe every moment of your vacation should be measure by just how far it takes you from the ordinary. That’s modern luxury.”


The Festival of the Trees scholarships are funded through the charitable donations of participants in the Festival of the Trees, held annually and coordinated by FIU Interior Architecture department and its Advisory Board. This year’s event will be held on November 21st at the Coral Gables Museum. It is going on strong for their 27th year. For more information on this exciting event, visit our website www.festivalofthetrees.net

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Interdisciplinary Charrette: Rokk3r Labs

This fall the Departments of Interior Architecture and Architecture embarked on a multidisciplinary charette competition that involved teams of students working with Rokk3r Labs to re-invent their company headquarters in Miami Beach. Charettes are short design exercises where students create designs while working under pressure. Collaborating with other disciplines on the charette design promoted creative and critical thinking, along with teamwork, relationship-building, and professional respect between students enrolled in the College of Architecture + The Arts.

The ultimate goal was to create an open, inventive workplace that reflects Rokk3r labs’ values, eclectic personality and innovative organizational structure. Rokk3r Labs provides many services and digital experience to entrepreneurs and businesses, such as creating software that will make business owners more successful, prosperous, and efficient.  The design specifications were to create an environment that houses between 20-30 people flexibly (so that space can be rearranged for different team interactions), a state of the art conference room, and space for possible expansion. In short, the objective was to design a workplace for 21st century creative, technology driven, knowledge workers.

 The winning charrette was Team 5, with their concept of: “The Garage: A place where tinkering on an idea has provoked innovation.” Team 5 members were Gabi Gonzalez, Giovanni Guadarrama, Kevin Villar and Dina Karimullina.


Congratualations to Team 5 on their winning design, and thank you to all the students, faculty and staff who participated in this competition, with special mention to Rokk3r Labs!

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Designing Spaces, Inspiring Empathy

How do you teach empathy? Perhaps you can’t teach it but you maybe can inspire it. Empathy requires putting oneself in a position to understand another person’s experiences and ultimately their needs, and in any classroom that is no simple lesson to learn—but it is exactly what Interior Architecture Professor Sarah Sherman is attempting to do in her Graduate 5 Healthcare Studio.

“In order to design a healthcare facility a student must deeply understand the users of the space,” Professor Sherman explains.  She emphasizes that the design of healthcare facilities provides a unique opportunity to affect people at a critical point in their life.

As a requirement of the studio, Sherman created a series of learning experiences to foster empathy. Tours of various healthcare facilities, Q & A sessions with outside consultants, and provocative films were used as a way to start this substantive dialogue and empathetic design process. Local professionals and healthcare practitioners visited with the Graduate Design Studio to interact with students on topics ranging from Hospice Care to Mental Health and finally Preventative Medicine.  Students were exposed to the needs of those suffering from mental and physical ailments.

Guest speaker Ryan Hill, a Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Science at FIU, discussed the issues concerning depression and suicide.  His insight on how his patients would benefit from an empathetic design gave the students a lesson that they would not learn anywhere else.  Hill also discussed one of the most prevalent traumas a college student could face; untreated depression leading to suicide. By relating medical topics to an issue that is closer to the students, Hill hoped to motivate them to invest in empathetic design.

The second guest practitioner was Sylwia Hodorek, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Resident in Counseling and Psychological Services. She instructed the students about often overlooked conflicts regarding mental health and illness, and explained how many patients can be return to being productive and healthy members of society through the process of counseling.

The final guest was Betty Rice Bel, Senior General Manager of  VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, who exposed the students to the phases of hospice design projects, in addition to sharing what hospice care involves. Although a difficult topic for most students, the goal was that a better understanding of hospice would result in more empathetic designs.

As the talks concluded and the books closed, the Graduate Design 5 Studio students left with more than a learning experience about paint and carpet.  They were exposed to the pain and discomfort of illness, but hopefully also learned, by infusing their designs with depth and empathy, how they could inspire hope and healing.

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Graduate Student Workshops: Teaching Through Experience

What better way is there to learn a new skill or hone your existing skills than to be taught by someone who has been in your shoes? The Department of Interior Architecture embraces this idea in order to build a supporting community for its students. A series of workshops has been created that will be taught by Graduate 5 students Ilanit Cohen, Antonella Jahn, Peta Walker, and Mitzy Molina.

During the workshops every Wednesday from 1:00pm to 2:00 pm in room PCA 216, these students advise and assist Graduate 1 students in learning tips and tools to enhance their educational experiences in the semesters to come.

The first workshop of the series was held on August 28,2013. Taught by Ilanit Cohen, it covered Model Making basics for study models. This workshop covered how to cut and glue neatly, what types of materials are best suited for different projects, and how to incorporate plans to create and abstract model.

“The students were motivated and engaged to learn, and wanting more insight,” said Ilanit when asked about the success of the workshop. Since the workshops are a continuing success, Interior Architecture hopes all of its students will take advantage of this opportunity to be taught by their own peers.

Other workshops are scheduled throughout the semester and will cover topics such as verbal presentation techniques, rendering sections and elevations, photographing models etc.

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Interior Architecture Internship Spotlight: Marilys Delavega

Learning through experience is the hallmark of internships. FIU’s Interior Architecture program, as part of the College of Architecture + the Arts, has a prime location in the heart of Miami which affords our students the opportunity to engage in rich learning experiences with South Florida’s design community. One such example is Marilys Delavega, a 4th year Interior Architecture student who interned with ADD, Inc. over the summer semester. ADD inc. is a premier architecture and design firm dealing primarily in corporate and work space projects, and Marilys reported directly to Senior Assoc. Principal Eric Holland and Assoc. Principal Barbara Savage.

Some of the tasks she performed were familiar to those she had already experienced in her education such as space planning, layouts and presentations, materials boards, and other office administration tasks. On being prepared for the internship, Marilys said “I think I was generally good in terms of task preparation, but I always say there is always room for improvement.”

Upon reflection, Marilys offered the following take-away from her first design job: “Open communication within the team is vital for a successful project, welcoming criticism allows for development and evolution of a project, being polite is key, and at the end of the day, the client is the one paying for the job so the point of the business is to make money.”

Marilys was able to enjoy the challenges of the internship, while learning how to work in a professional office culture. Her advice to current students is “there is a lot you will not learn until you are working in the industry. It’s not that you wasted your time in school, because you didn’t, but the REAL learning starts the second you land your first job in the field.”


Congratulations to Marilys on her successful internship experience!

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