UM architecture alum’s vision for the future of Miami Beach embraces rising sea levels by harmonizing the built and natural environments.
Isaac Stein’s strong interest in architecture stems from his upbringing in the Florida panhandle and his close family connection to design—his father is a site contractor, his grandfather is an engineer and his uncle is a carpenter.
Growing up experiencing major storms nearly every year, University of Miami School of Architecture alumnus Stein, B.Arch ’14, “grew to respect and admire nature’s desire for an undulating coastline and saw firsthand how every storm reshaped the social, environmental, and economic landscape,” he says.
Moving to Miami to attend UM, Stein “became fascinated with the ‘man over nature’ approach of engineered water management strategies” that are quite ubiquitous in South Florida. This confluence of natural and built landscapes piqued his interest and led him to delve deeper into learning about the region from a historical and natural sciences perspective.
Stein combined his interests in climate change and design to develop his architecture senior capstone project—a thorough reinventing of one of South Florida’s key economic hubs.
Stein’s redesign of Miami Beach, with a focus on fifth to 15th streets, has a back-to-the-future feel with his merging of old and new. His vision includes restoring and replanting native storm surge-reduction flora such as mangroves, building large sand dunes between the ocean and waterfront properties, and reducing reliance on cars by bringing back trolleys, widening bike paths and building raised walkways through natural ecosystems.
His design work has been featured in several local and national news sources, including a piece in Vanity Fair in November 2015.
Since graduating from UM, Stein has been working for West 8, an urban design and landscape architecture firm, based in New York City and Rotterdam, Netherlands. He splits his time between the two and recently gave a presentation on mitigation and adaptation strategies for Miami Beach to the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, Netherlands in February 2016.
Stein’s work with West 8 has taken him all over the world. He has worked on resilient design projects in Miami Beach, the Mississippi River Delta, and Shanghai, all with a foundation of “promoting logical designs and solutions with the advent of climate change.”
This global travel has helped Stein enhance his cross-cultural perspective on design and architectural implementation. From the Dutch, he’s learned the importance of local buy-in and understanding the cultural mindset when pitching and designing projects that will be beneficial to the whole community. Harnessing local ingenuity to address climate change impacts is crucial, he says, for the survival of society.
- Jessica M. Castillo / UM News