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BEST NEW BUILDING Miami 2003 - Miami Rescue Mission Community Activity Center

You know immediately that something is different about this warehouse. It's the same height as the others but the roof forms some nice angles. The tri-color scheme -- terracotta, olive, and clay -- on its tripartite front wall tells you maybe it's not a warehouse at all. "It's about uplifting you," architect Marilyn Avery says of her creation, located in a downtrodden section of the Wynwood warehouse district. And who needs more of a lift than someone who has spent a little too much time on the streets (like a homeless mom). Rather than plopping down a bizarre-looking "object-building," Avery drew from the zone's indigenous warehouse vernacular. "I took that form and just made it exuberant," she explains, looking up from the sidewalk at the richly colored front wall. The parking lot is hidden in back so as not to clutter the exuberance of the entrance. When they step inside, parents and kids look up to a 40-foot-tall ceiling gently illuminated by outdoor light streaming in through the clerestory windows. There is also something soothing, even primal, about the natural materials. Shiny black granite and glossy medium-brown birch form a large reception desk. Waist-high birch panels run horizontally along the slate walls, and there's more wood inside the four classrooms in the form of cabinets and window panes. Then there's the Zenlike beauty of the smooth concrete floors. Much thought went into the indirectly illuminated basketball gym, with the help of lighting guru William Lam. Thanks to more clerestory windows and the reflective properties of various white surfaces (the walls and the fabric suspended from the ceiling), there are no glaring bulbs to mess up someone's game. All the lighting is indirect. "You never lose the ball up there," Avery affirms.

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