Exploring and Challenging The Notion of Place

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Exploring and Challenging The Notion of Place

Cúre & Penabad



Sela Square

Vibrant neighborhoods rely on a rich offering of public amenities that support diverse urban experiences. Public spaces, including parks and plazas, are particularly important urban rooms that provide opportunities for individuals to gather collectively, creating a sense of community.


The project proposes a new dog park for a burgeoning community just north of Miami’s Design District. The street edge is lined with a thin, pink, metal building that houses both a small café and public bathrooms. A large passage at the center of the building (modeled on the covered space of the traditional dog-trot typology) provides a covered entry as well as a space of gathering. At the center of the parcel is the dog park, developed with a secured edge composed of fixed seating and landscape. The spaces surrounding the dog park are flexible and meant to be used for a variety of activities including temporary food festivals, art exhibitions, movie nights, etc. The overall project is defined by a pink, metal, screen wall that serves to define a new, public, outdoor room for the city.


Train Lane

Located within Miami’s Little River neighborhood, the project sets out to redefine the edges of the train line that bisects the area by proposing a continuous covered colonnade that creates both a covered pedestrian path as well as a new urban elevation to the existing abandoned warehouses that line the underdeveloped corridor. This new urban fragment creates a modular structure that becomes an instantly recognizable figure within the otherwise unmemorable urban landscape.









MAG Corporate Headquarters

Can a building change the culture of a company; and can the design of the physical environment impact the way that we communicate? These are but a few of the questions that the project for the new corporate headquarters analysed and attempted to address.


Currently, the company is housed in a series of detached structures situated on a large tract of agricultural land in southern Guatemala. This configuration reinforces a separation of departments and limits the individual employee’s ability to understand his or her role within the company. To reverse this condition, the new building is designed with a large open room, capable of accommodating all employees. Flexible desk arrangements create a collaborative working environment that minimized the current hierarchy, with directors seated in open desks alongside employees. The plan also provides for a variety of work spaces, including enclosed semi-private meeting rooms, exterior courts, open terraces, archives and reading spaces that provide a variety of work environments (both interior and exterior) for productive individual and/or collaborative work.


The overall form of the building is inspired by both vernacular and industrial building typologies seen throughout the Guatemalan countryside.




The new MDO building is situated along southwest 84thStreet, one lot south of Tamiami Trail. Its immediate context is defined by a myriad of strip shopping malls and speculative office buildings set hundreds of feet from the main street to accommodate expansive surface parking lots. The result is a cacophony of structures that is emblematic of Miami’s suburban landscape.

We began this project at the height of the Great Recession and from the onset we had to face the challenges of a limited budget, a less than optimal site and a stringent building and zoning code. Nevertheless, we wanted to engage the project because we found common ground with an unconventional client who was interested in developing a building to redefine their retail brand and in so doing transform their existing context. In addition, we were interested in engaging a real and not an idealized Miami Main Street with the aim of confronting the aesthetic challenge of working within the quotidian commercial landscape, recomposing and transforming the elements of Miami’s commercial vernacular including signage, shopfronts, the suburban lawn and even the painted asphalt that covers most of the city’s streets.


The final project reverses the typical urban patterns of the area by pressing the building close to the street and placing the surface parking lot along the rear of the property. Moreover, it sets itself in sharp contrast to its immediate neighbors by developing an architectural language of abstraction and restraint- where a few important elements, such as the recessed entry with its shopfront window are set within large expanses of mute stuccoed walls that house nearly five thousand men’s suits within.


The main double-volume, retail space is the central focus of the building. Its thickened walls are lined with stacked rows of merchandise and it’s ceiling is composed of modified pre-fabricated double tees. The heightened volume is an unexpected spatial experience flooded with natural light and in direct opposition to the cavernous, artificially-lit interiors.




Who influences you graphically?

For us inspiration is everywhere.  It is in the vernacular and the academic, in the ancient and the contemporary, in the commonplace and the extraordinary.  As such, we are inspired by a multitude of references that are difficult to group under one category.  If we had to highlight a few, we would include: Latin American folk art painters such as Noe Leon and contemporary Latin American artists such as Fernando Botero and Frida Kahlo.  These individuals did not abandon the figure in pursuit of modernity and relied on folklore for inspiration.

We are also inspired by the powerful representations of architect|scenographers including Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Karl Fredrich Schinkel, and are simultaneously interested in the graphic power of street art including works by Keith Haring, Shepard Fairey and countless unknown artists that populate the urban landscape.


How do you explore your commitment to material culture through the drawings? 

While uniformity has become the global standard and placelessness is now an integral part of our everyday lives, the attitude that shapes the direction of the drawings that we produce is conceived otherwise.  We are interested in exploring the potential to create drawings, spaces, and buildings of cultural specificity where tradition and invention, the colloquial and the academic, the regional and the universal, participate in the composition and construction of the contemporary city.  As such, the drawings search to represent the context (both physical and cultural) in which the projects are conceived.  For instance, ElDiadelaZafra, places the new MAG corporate headquarters amidst the sugarcane fields, set against the backdrop of the volcanoes that define the Guatemalan countryside.  The time and place are Escuintla, Guatemala on the day of the harvest, when villagers, dressed in local attire, march into the fields, holding the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to which the harvest is dedicated.  This depiction is not a colonialist conceit but rather a commitment to celebrating the specifics of place, both old and new.


What defines the drawings through which you chose to explore the different projects?

We produce a variety of drawings at different stages in the design process.  Some, are internal and meant for us to better understand the architectural proposal and work through the details of the design.  These drawings typically range from quick sketches to more detailed, freehand drawings that explore both the constructive character as well as the phenomenological aspects of the work including the play of light, shadow, and color.

Other drawings are meant to present ideas (in a more complete sense) to an external audience.  These vary from technical drawings used for construction to pictorial drawings used for presentations. The latter is preoccupied with the careful choreography of the project (typically drawn in perspective) set within a particular place and time and designed for specific individuals.  As such, these drawings construct a narrative specific to a given project and the cast of characters that bring the work to life.


What are your main objectives when constructing an architectural image? 

We believe in drawing as a means of acquiring architectural knowledge, and are interested in recording and presenting the oftentimes overlooked aspects of place associated with context, light, shadow, materiality, and color.  In part, the drawings inform and highlight our preoccupation with creating works of architecture, both in teaching and in practice, that are sensitized to the particulars of place and time. The drawings challenge the division of high art and popular culture and promote a more fundamental understanding of architecture that includes the relevance of type, the notion of permanence, the idea of craft, and dare we say, the pursuit of beauty.

How important is the architectural model? What is its relationship to the drawing? 

While virtual reality and digital simulations are increasingly becoming the norm in contemporary architectural practice, the physical model continues to serve a vital role in both envisioning and representing architectural design.  The immediacy of the physical model and its ability to present a tangible reality is unparalleled by any other medium.

In our own practice, the physical model has served as a powerful tool of persuasion, permitting clients, colleagues, and ourselves to imagine a built reality before it exists.  We develop models at a variety of scales, ranging from small massing studies to full scale mock ups, to evaluate and test our design ideas.  Moreover, the physical model facilitates our ability to critically analyze a project and more precisely understand both the spatial and phenomenological characteristics of the work.



Founded in 2001, Cure & Penabad aspires to create an architecture of place. The practice seeks to find beauty in differences and is drawn to what makes an environment unique. Inspiration is found in both the vernacular and the academic; in the ancient and the contemporary; in the commonplace and the extraordinary. As such the architectural output of the firm is eclectic, molded by the particular circumstances of each setting and client.

The portfolio of projects, both domestic and international, displays an intense commitment to the discipline of architecture, its material culture, and constructional conventions. The work challenges the double tyranny of program and diagram that have come to dominate the design process today; relying on a broader understanding of history and typology for a looser- and therefore more sustainable- fit between program and form. Projects are invested in building techniques that are culturally relevant as much as performative, searching to capitalize on the intelligence sedimented in building morphologies that have evolved over millennia to tackle the challenges of the environment and sustainability with the ultimate goal of creating new buildings and places of identity and wholeness.

The practice has won recognition, receiving numerous national awards, among them over ten American Institute of Architects design awards and a Silver Medal at the Miami Biennale.



Carie Penabad is a founding principal of CURE & PENABAD. She received her Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Miami School of Architecture and her Masters of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard University.

She, alongside Adib Cure, lead the design team in developing projects ranging from small buildings to large urban design projects. Beyond her role as principal of the firm, she is an Associate Professor and Director of the Bachelor of Architecture program at the University of Miami School of Architecture and has taught at a variety of institutions including the Boston Architectural Center and Northeastern University. In 2013, she was appointed the Louis I Kahn Visiting Assistant Professor at Yale University.


Adib Cure is a founding principal of CURE & PENABAD. He received his Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Miami School of Architecture and his Masters of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard University.

He, alongside Carie Penabad, lead the design team in developing projects ranging from small buildings to large urban design projects. Beyond his role as principal of the firm, he is a Professor in Practice at the University of Miami School of Architecture and has taught at a variety of institutions including the Boston Architectural Center and Northeastern University. In 2013, he was appointed the Louis I Kahn Visiting Assistant Professor at Yale University.


Received his degree in architecture from The City College of the City University of New York (CCNY). Prior to joining Cure & Penabad he was architect and project engineer at Morrison Knudson Corporation where he worked on large scale architectural and urban design projects inclusing the General Motors Assembly plant in Silao, Mexico, Cerrejon Mining Town Project in Colombia and King Khalid Military City project in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Prior to this experience he worked in the office of Paul Rudolph. He is a registered architect and Certified General Contractor in the State of Florida.


Catherine O’Sullivan is a senior designer at CURE & PENABAD.  She received her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Miami School of Architecture.

She, under the tutelage of Carie Penabad and Adib Cure and in collaboration with the design team, develops projects ranging from small buildings to large urban design projects. Beyond her role as senior designer, she is the co-founder and designer of Wee Rock Toy Co., a company offering a line of premium rocking toys into the burgeoning green toys market.  The company began from a desire to design a gift utilizing modern fabrication technologies, sustainable materials, and assembly without tools, glue or hardware.  For more information visit www.weerocktoyco.com


Carie Penabad

Adib Cure

Carlos Berrios

Catherine O’Sullivan

Victoria Pineros

Michael O’Neill

Michael Galea

Melodie Sanchez

Jiang Zhongzhou

Nicolas Delgado Alcega

Taylor Brophy

Gerardo Delgadillo



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