Ponder this: You're at work, juggling the obligations of your thriving practice, and then you hear the chirp, squawk

Alex Gorlin, FAIA
Dacra Alex Gorlin, FAIA

of the fax machine. Once you recover from your surprise that anyone still faxes anything, you take a look. It's an invitation to drop everything you're doing, buy a triple-shot espresso, and start pulling some all-nighters. The task? Design a new townhouse model for Aqua, the first major modernist new community in 30 years, on 8.5-acre Allison Island in Miami Beach, Fla. The fax came to Hariri and Hariri and Emanuela Frattini Magnusson in New York City, and to Allan T. Shulman Architect, Suzanne Martinson Architects, Brown Demandt Architects, and Albaisa Musumano Architects in Miami. The developer was Craig Robins, whose Dacra company rehabilitated the Miami Design District, and the planner was New Urbanist guru Duany Plater-Zyberk. At a press conference, Gisue Hariri recalls her reaction to the mysterious missive: “We hadn't worked with any of these people before,” she says. “A fax came through, and it had one paragraph, five sentences. We had one day to decide, five days to hand over the project.”

Alison Spear, AIA
Dacra Alison Spear, AIA
Hariri and Hariri
Dacra Hariri and Hariri

Architects Alison Spear, AIA, and Walter Chatham, FAIA, came in at the beginning, brainstorming with Lizz Plater-Zyberk, FAIA, and her team on how to handle the tricky little interstitial island, formerly occupied by the hospital where Robins was born. The plan called for 46 “tropical urbanist” townhouses and three mid-rise luxury condo buildings. Spear, Chatham, and Alex Gorlin, FAIA, designed the mid-rises, which are named after them. Gorlin and Chatham also designed townhouse models. DPZ arranged all the houses, including one of its own design, like puzzle pieces for water views and lot variations. Wolfberg Alvarez & Partners devised the working drawings. The result, says Gorlin, “puts to rest that New Urbanism is about traditional styles. It's not about style.” “We were very suspicious of this kind of planning,” says Hariri. Seaside, another DPZ plan, “is very sugar-coated,” she says. “But Aqua is not Seaside. It's come a long way.”