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Project 09

Fisher-Fienberg Media Center Addition by United Architects



This historic building which dates from 1910 created a great challenge for our Miami firm, United Architects.  Without any existing as-built plans we had to field measure almost the entire school. For the heights we got surveyors to take rooftop elevations.


The client insisted on putting the library in a courtyard surrounded by buildings on three sides. This presented special challenges. 

The additions and remodeling to Fisher-Fienberg Elementary School in Miami Beach was a challenge because it entailed adding to a historic building from 1905 which had almost no existing drawings for the large campus facility.  This institutional project by Miami architects, United Architects, consisted of incorporating parts of the existing buildings while demolishing other parts.  The client had very specific ideas on where it wanted to put the library - in the existing courtyard.  This presented several challenges: 

1.   How to remove the water on the roof? 
2.  How to get all the floors to match their elevations and not have sidewalks or ramps which were too difficult for the handicap to traverse or violate accessibility codes?
3.  How to integrate adjacent structures which were to be part of the new library, while at the same time removing walls so as not to have too many columns? 

The final design had three bays.  The eastern bay was part of one of the existing adjacent buildings.  The middle bay was a new addition, higher than the other bays, which allowed for clerestory windows on the south side.  We drained the roofs through piping in fake columns which were larger than the actual structural columns.  Except for a couple of short ramps, most of the floors were at the same elevation.  The pendant lights that we used had an Art Deco quality to them which blended with the school's original architecture.

Floor plan and interiors of the media center

The media center (library) addition consists of three bays.  The northern bay is part of an existing building.  The other two bays are part of the addition.  The middle bay has a higher ceiling.  This allowed for the addition of clerestory windows on the southern side of the library in the high area.  The columns hide rainwater leaders which run adjacent to the actual structural columns.   


Floor plan and interiors of cafeteria

This cafeteria was originally built in the 1940's.  It was designed to serve one elementary school.  However, the school board now wanted to merge Fisher and Fienberg so the cafeteria had to be enlarged to serve double the population.  

It was a complicated addition.  The cafeteria equipment which was to be reused after the addition and remodeling had to be stored until the construction was completed.  The addition was to be on piles and there was an existing electrical ductbank where the addition was to be built.  The FPL vault had to be expanded and the ductbank relocated.  The entire facility had to be reconfigured.  Movable partitions divided the space into smaller areas.  The new roof had to match the existing roof.  The entrance had to be handicap accessible.  The electrical and plumbing lines had to be upgraded and relocated.  Once the facility was built, all the old equipment that had been saved as well as the new equipment had to be installed.

The entire design had to be approved by the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board as well as the Florida Department of State, Division of Historic Resources.

If you have a school you would like to design or re-design, call me, Maria Luisa Castellanos, principal of the firm at

305-439-7898 or email me at

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