On a perfect October day on the palm-studded University of Miami campus, Jaime Correa's students can be found deep inside a Bauhaus-by-way-of-South Florida 1940s studio block, trawling Google Earth for promising sites for a zero-energy town—the eventual object of The New Town Studio, part of the School of Architecture's post-professional M.Arch. in suburb and town design.
Prior to this exercise, the 11 students began the semester by carefully documenting the pre-1920s conditions of four American cities that Correa calls "prototypical": Annapolis, Md.; Nantucket, Mass.; Newport, R.I.; and San Antonio. Correa, who has been teaching the class since 1989, encourages his students to integrate traditional urban design methods with contemporary technologies and ecological awareness.
It's no surprise that, under the deanship of Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the school at Miami has become a hub for aspiring New Urbanists. However, the appeal of American New Urbanism—which, after all, celebrates the regional and vernacular—turns out to be broadly international. Teamed up to research town sites on the day of my visit are Sara Hayat, who hails from Iran by way of Germany, and Palak Gandhi, from India. Both say they were drawn to Miami in search of solutions to ramped-up urban development and sprawl in their home countries.
Later, the class moves into the Leon Krier–designed gallery next door for a pinup of their meticulous pre-1920s town maps (the school is known for its fine hand drawings). Student Jeffrey Hall, from Nashville, tells me he left his advertising career to pursue an architectural education in Miami and feels at home with the pedagogical approach here. Evidently, the school that marches to its own drum attracts simpatico students: "We don't have to brainwash anybody," Correa jokes.