Alumni Spotlights2017-09-25T14:36:41+00:00

Graduates from FIU’s Department of Architecture are Worlds Ahead. Click on the stories below to find out more about our successful alumni family. For more architecture alumni spotlights, events, and news stories, please visit the CARTA News

Adriana Schönhofen '10Alexander Perez ’00Monica Vazquez ’00Alejandro Gomez Stubbs ‘03Gabriel Fuentes ‘05Maria Pellot ‘04Ruben Guiterrez ‘08

Written by: Camila Fernandez

Adriana Schönhofen, ‘10 created intricate models and drawings during her Master’s in Architecture with her six-month-old daughter watching.

Her daughter graduated from Kindergarten the same month she graduated from FIU Architecture.

“So many times when I was drafting by hand or drawing, my daughter was right on my lap,” says Schönhofen, “She would sometimes come with me to the library and lived through my five years of my master’s, too.”

Immediately after graduating, Schönhofen became involved in the architecture scene in southern Brazil. She became the Co-Founder and International Director for the Associação Amigos do Cais do Porto (AMACAIS), a non-profit organization that supports the revitalization of the Mauá Cais do Porto, a section of a lake in Porto Alegre.

The historical port is currently under threat after developers planned to build a shopping mall, towers, and a parking lot. According to AMACAIS, the project will hurt the region by obstructing street door trade and further congest Mauá Avenue that is already heavily polluted. The port has also been forced to stop hosting community events, such as fairs and concerts.

“Since I applied to the Department of Architecture, my goal was always to improve my home city’s living conditions,” says Schönhofen who grew up in Porto Alegre. She also wrote articles against the project on her blog.

She says Brazil needs to improve the teaching of architecture and that it must bring awareness of the importance and respect for the architecture profession and design through public participation. Brazilians who come to Miami from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have connected with her to help Porto Alegre.

To further educate urban designers and the public about the city’s design, Schönhofen introduced the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Washington, D.C. to the Public Minister of Rio Grande do Sul, the Brazilian Council of Architecture and Urbanism (CAU), and other institutions.

“My mission is to enlighten, and to show that a city can recover.”

On her lectures abroad and writings, she uses Miami as an example of how a city with a high number of homicides in the ‘80s now offers a more safe and prosperous quality of living.

She says her professors at FIU had activities that linked with issues in South Florida and around the world. They propelled her to not only be concerned about her own successes, but also be aware of international issues.

“I never had that kind of vision. I came from a very traditionalist school that was more into looking at research and producing inside materials that had little connection to the community.”

She completed a Master of Science in Production Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul prior to attending FIU. “Since I had the degrees in Brazil, my approach to design was completely different because I had never worked with that concept.”

She says her most memorable moment at FIU was a traumatic one when a former professor criticized her mock up models during her Formative Studio II course.

“I was devastated, but in the same way he did a very strong critique, he guided me how to research design and development for a different approach,” she says, “He taught using metaphors to make associations, and I use this technique with my students.”

Schönhofen is currently an Architecture Adjunct Professor at Miami-Dade College.

She thanks Professors Gray Read and John Stuart, as well as Roberto Rovira who taught her also about landscape architecture and visual notation and how to never be afraid of self-expression.

Schönhofen says she has always loved drawing floor plans while growing up around a family of engineers, a father who was a geologist, and a mother who was a geographer.

“I was always good at drawing since I was 10 and my father built three houses, so I never lived in a finished house,” she says.

“He would take me and my sister every weekend to buy construction materials.”

She also says FIU met all her demands during her learning experience at the Department of Architecture.

“Everything I didn’t like I’d address it and they would follow through and they improved. I think that’s why the department is getting so much bigger and better.”

“They want to be better.”

Written by: Camila Fernandez

Miami represents a new frontier on architecture and approach, says architecture alumnus Alexander Perez, 00’ and principal and founder of JAYN Group, an architecture and construction management firm.

Perez says studying architecture New York and European cities are the epicenter of inspiration for building design. Living in Miami meanwhile he sees the city during its infant stages of discovery and evolution.

“Only now has Miami grown to be more aware of beautification and embracing new and different architecture; moreover, music, dance and even urban art are many of the exciting movements ever growing in Miami,” Perez says.

He said he chose to pursue architecture because it allows him to embrace his two passions – creative expression and engineering or technology.

He also said his greatest accomplishment as an architect is opening up his own office with a focus on high-tech architecture and intricate façade systems world-wide. His inspirations came from FIU professors Camilo Rosales, Marilys Nepomechie, John Stuart and Jason Chandler who he said were instrumental during the development of his Master’s Thesis.

“I am forever grateful for the opportunity FIU has provided. Being a part of the original generation that helped build the program, it gives me great pleasure to see how the school has evolved to what it is today.”

“I still recall spending endless hours in the studios in the Viertes Haus building and hosting my thesis in its dance hall block box space. To this day, I proudly acknowledge FIU for providing the foundation of my academic and professional career.”

Perez describes FIU in three words, “Believed in me!”

He says his first memorable moment was having a featured project exhibited and published. It was following a “most inspiring” Design 7 Studio course with Rosales that his project was published in numerous journals, received accolades and featured in several of FIU’s top student project exhibitions.

Perez has also been an architecture professor at Miami-Dade College for the past 13 years from which it has been rewarding to watch his students graduate and evolve to “amazing” young professionals.

“It has been a rewarding experience to be a professor. I just recently had a student reach out to me and sharing the naming of his son after me due to the positive influence I’ve made in his life.”

Perez advises all architecture students to work hard and persevere. Also, he says to embrace technology to the fullest, especially because it has opened him many doors throughout his educational and professional career.

To learn more on Perez and JAYN Group, click here.

monica vazquezWritten by: Camila Fernandez

Alumna Monica Vazquez, ’00 has played an instrumental role in the architecture industry.

After graduating from FIU with a master’s degree in Architecture 16 years ago, Vazquez delivered exceptional work as an Associate at the nationally recognized Rene Gonzalez Architect (RGA) firm. RGA specializes in the design of museums and gallery spaces, hospitality, commercial, retail, and residential projects. Since joining, she has contributed to projects like Glass Residential Tower, the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation,  Indian Creek Residence, and other exclusive residential projects in Miami, New York, Saudi Arabia, and Guatemala.

As an Associate, Vazquez oversees the design, production, and construction process of projects, as well as her team at RGA. She says that her most memorable moments at the firm are when she sees architectural drawings come to life during construction.

Vazquez believes it is important that the firm not only listens to its clients, but also carefully studies the elements around a particular site and how they influence each other. Elements include South Florida’s coastal waters and climate, and its metropolitan life. The result is a meaningful relationship between people, the landscape, and their built environment.

She says Miami’s landscape and climate can significantly influence our local architecture and, while the tendency in residential architecture is quite simplistic, she is focused on developing highly detailed projects that respond to Miami’s exciting landscape.

Before graduating with her degree, Vazquez excelled both in academic and campus leadership. She was president of the Architecture Graduate Student Association and a member of both Phi Kappa Phi and the Golden Key National Honor Society. Vazquez has continued to be active at her alma mater. During the 2004-2005 academic year, she was an adjunct professor at FIU’s School of Architecture and has been invited to participate in several lectures. She strives to change the South Florida architectural perception with creativity and innovation and has presented it through her powerful work.

To read more on Vazquez and Rene Gonzalez Architect, click here.

ghjfgjghjkAlejandro Gomez Stubbs is a dedicated and celebrated young designer.  This native Colombian began his study of architecture at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota. In 2001 he moved to Miami, Florida where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Florida International University in 2003. Having decided to continue pursuing his passion for industrial design, he moved to New York, where he received a Master’s degree in Industrial Design from the PRATT Institute in Brooklyn in 2007.

After graduation, he began his career as a furniture and product designer working at the world-renowned design studio, Clodagh Design. At Clodagh, he was able to utilize his skills for clients such as W Hotels Worldwide (a division of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.), Clodagh Collection, Ann Sacks, and Asiaphile. In 2008 Alejandro was named a winner of Design within Reach’s Design+Modern+Function award in New York.

In 2009, he decided to open his own studio, Malagana Design, which draws inspiration from Latin American culture.  Distinctive designs and vibrantly bold colors meet in elegant high-end furniture. The studio started off designing custom furniture, and launched the Equilibrium bookcase in the fall of 2010. Rapidly catching the attention of the public and the media, the innovative designs gave the young studio an opportunity to create its own design language among the international design community.

In three short years, Malagana Design has garnered impressive press and award coverage.  The studio has been featured in over forty international publications, including two books, and the Equilibrium bookcase has been nominated for the Lapiz de Acero Award (Colombia), the WAN Award (UK) and the Bienal Iberoamericana de Diseño (Spain). Malagana was recently invited to launch its newest balanced system, Equity at Tendence, in Germany as well as at Tokyo’s Designers Week in Japan. Alejandro was featured in the May 2013 edition of Dwell magazine’s second Annual Young Guns roundup, a review of over seventy of the best and brightest emerging international designers.

Click here to read more about this inspirational FIU alum.

ghdhdgGabriel Fuentes is founder and director of DA|S (Design Action Studio for Research, Architecture + Urbanism) in New York, as well as an adjunct professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). He earned his Bachelor of Design in 2002, his Master’s Degree in Architecture from Florida International University, as well as a post-graduate degree in urban design from Columbia University.

He holds a graduate certificate in architectural history, theory and criticism from FIU, where he was nominated for the prestigious SOM Foundation Traveling Fellowship and awarded the American Institute of Architects Bronze Medal for Excellence in Architecture. In addition to teaching at NJIT, Gabriel has taught introductory and advanced architecture studios at Florida International University, Miami-Dade College, and the New York Institute of Technology (where he co-coordinated the first year studio curriculum for the 2011-2012 academic year).

His design work has been published and recognized with multiple awards including an Honor Award for Unbuilt Design from the Boston Society of Architects and four Design Awards from AIA Florida and AIA Miami combined. He has presented several papers and projects at various academic conferences both nationally and abroad. His essay “Between History and Modernity: Searching for Lo Cubano in Modern Cuban Architecture” has been published in the edited volume of Cuban Intersections of Literary and Urban Spaces (SUNY Press). Additionally, he presented another paper, “Thinking Forward: Preserving Havana Through Design” and design project, “ReFORMing Type” at the 2011 ACSA conference (Local Identities/Global Challenges). These are part of a sustained research agenda centered on the future of Cuban cities post-socialism.

Fuentes has been invited to deliver two papers “In the Making: Gen Z’s Architectural ‘Real’,” which explores the effects of generational shifts and digital/social media on beginning design students, and “Absorb, Analyze, Design…Repeat!,” which details and interrogates NJIT’s first year studio curriculum (co-written with coordinator Dan Kopec) at the 2013 National Conference on the Beginning Design Student at Temple University. He has also been invited to contribute the article “The Real New Urbanism: Engaging Developing World Cities” for an upcoming special issue of the Journal of Space Syntax (JOSS) set to be published this summer, arguing for an expanded form of critical practice capable of theorizing and designing in/for third world slums – a synergy of rapid urbanization (extreme density) and poverty.

To read more about Gabriel and his work, visit his website or Facebook page.

DSC_6665Maria Pellot is an Associate Principal at UrbanWorks, Ltd., a Chicago architectural firm producing socially and environmentally responsible designs with a strong focus on civic and community-based projects. She graduated from FIU with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and went on to get her Master of Architecture degree from the University of South Florida. With a focus on the integration of environmentally-friendly practices, she brings eighteen years of experience to her projects, and is a master of designing low-cost, innovative solutions for clients with limited budgets through careful material selection and detailing.

Pellot is also a dedicated volunteer. She has donated her time and experience to the Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, and the Box City Program, to name a few, and founded an independent student publication while at the University of South Florida.

To read more about Maria and her work, click here.

jhfgjfgjRuben Gutierrez is an architecturally trained creative designer. He graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture in 2006, and stayed to complete his Master’s Degree in Architecture which he received in 2008.

Gutierrez worked and collaborated with a variety of interior design and architecture firms in Miami including J. Mikael Kaul, Alison Spear AIA, and Linea 5 Inc. Ruben has over nine years of experience in designing and project-managing a variety of projects, including complex institutional projects for universities and hospitals, laboratories, high-end residential projects, upmarket retail projects and furniture design. His career has focused on residential interior design, with a special interest in designing and managing socially conscious artistic projects.

He formed Errez Design Inc. in 2009 with his wife, Katie. Errez Design is an interior and architectural design office combining artistic vision with practical logistics. Every project is inspired by the tastes and preferences of the individual client, resulting in spaces that are both beautiful and uniquely representative. In addition to their interior design and architectural projects they have developed a product line, which includes a locally manufactured tile line. They are currently redesigning the lobby and common areas for a condominium in Miami Beach and a product display space for a hotel on Ocean Drive, among other high end residential projects.

This young, eclectic firm has worked on a number of projects to critical acclaim and wide-spread recognition. Their design of a 1910 cottage in Coconut Grove was recently featured in the book “The Tropical Cottage” by Beth Dunlop, and other projects include an artistic high-rise flat that they completed for a couple in Miami and a condo in midtown. They have also appeared on NBC 6 to talk about design choices for the home.

To read more about Gutierrez and Errez Design, visit his website at or check out his Facebook page.