Coconut Grove, Fl - 2008
In an interview with METROPOLIS magazine, architect Max Strang takes a reverential view of the Kampong, a botanical garden and research center on the shores of Miami’s Biscayne Bay. “I consider it sacred space,” he says. The Kampong’s collection of rare flora alone might qualify it for that descriptor but Strang is also talking about history. The Kampong occupies the former estate of horticultural explorer David Fairchild, who in the 1930s sat in his living room with fellow conservationists Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Ernest Coe and planned the creation of Everglades National Park, South Florida’s greatest ecological treasure.
It was with that legacy in mind that Strang designed the garden’s new education center. Strang adopted the old estate’s local material, oolitic limestone, to create a clean-lined, environmentally sensitive structure. The new pavilion, which opened in 2007, is a multi-purpose space which hosts symposia, exhibitions, concerts and fundraisers. Strang also seized the the chance to contribute to the long-overdue conversation about water use. The rooftop terrace doubles as a rainwater catchment area, channeling water through pipes concealed within the support piers into underground cisterns. It takes about four weeks of average rainfall to fill up the two 10,0000-gallon tanks, which irrigate the garden during dry spells. “This project demonstrates how easy it is to reduce our reliance on the municipal water supply,” Strang says, “So water can be redirected to places that need it most, such as the Everglades.”