University of Miami Housing Design Competition

By: Seth Barnard and Tanner Clapham


We are pleased to present our submission for the University of Miami’s Student Housing Master Plan, Phase 1 design competition. The project is approximately 500,000 GSF, and provides 1,100 new bedrooms to campus. Although not the winning scheme of the competition, this unbuilt project posits an alluring architectural outlook for the future of student housing.

The forward-thinking design transforms preconceived notions of dormitory life on a major university campus. By providing meaningful spaces that foster the relationship of living and learning, the scheme infuses a diverse blend of space types into a cohesive, iconic congregation of buildings.

With the understanding that much learning in college happens outside the classroom, student housing becomes a key instrument in the growth and dissemination of knowledge. In response, the design offers multiple scales of social environments, from a single student room to the university campus at large. The building block for these social scales is the “home.” Each three-story home is composed of private and semi-private program elements juxtaposed to create close-knit communities within the residential college at large.


The room aggregates to an apartment suite that is infused with a communal living room and a terrace. As the “home” begins to stack into larger groupings, it establishes the next scale of sociability: the community.

The rise of web-based learning and instinct to text rather than talk have only increased the need for face-to-face communication and chance encounter. The “home” encourages residents to interact, collaborate, and develop relationships with their neighbors. As the building block of the home begins to stack into larger groupings, it creates meaningful adjacencies, provides shade for terraces, and establishes larger scales of sociability.


The community is introduced to the site, where it is aggregated to create distinctive neighborhoods that comprise the residential college. Communities are lifted to allow the tropical garden to pass beneath.


An aerial view of the design.

Exploded Axon of Terraces_01 UPDATED FINAL

Above: Each home has a living room (shown in red) and adjacent terrace (green). Below: Terraces expand the home to the outdoors, connecting communities to the landscape.


Lifted from the ground, the building allows the university’s tropical garden and its students to pass underneath with a minimal building footprint. The ground level hosts a variety of public program spaces for teaching, study, exhibition, retail, makers, and think-tanks to engage and activate the broader campus culture.



The site allows the building to engage the nearby architecture school, direct pedestrian flow from public transit, screen adjacent parking, and create an urban street within the campus. The project also preserves the precious little remaining green space along Lake Osceola.


A view of the great room, overlooking the lakefront park.

Team members included Paul Zajfen, Tanner Clapham, Seth Barnard, Lilit Tegelecian, Chris Kaiser, Avery Miller, Don Kim, Rachel J. Bascombe, Ali Hakami, Olga Zakharova, and Tyler Morris.

Additional Resources

Read more about CO Architects’ submission for the University of Miami Student Housing competition at Architect Magazine.

Learn more about trends in university housing at Building Design & Construction and Boss Magazine.



You might also like

The new Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine (SoM) will anchor UNLV’s new health sciences campus and contribute to the transformation of Las Vegas’ medical district. The SoM will serve as a beacon to the community and a sustainable model for building in an urban desert environment.

Read More 

The new Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation headquarters repurposes a former 1980s warehouse-turned-office-building, transforming it into a modern research laboratory and workplace. While working remotely and using new methods of collaboration, the design team uncovered existing site conditions and integrated the historic character of the building into the new design.

Read More