Charette Success Story

South Pointe Charette June 16-21, 1993

Thomas Kramer, TK, was invited to a new year’s party in the early nineties by the Trump family, founders of Williams Island. He visited Miami Beach for the first time in his life and heard opportunity calling.

During the 1980’s s he was a trader with offices on the 102nd floor in the World Trade Center and saw a Battery Park Plaza of the southern tip of Manhattan being transformed from a stagnant landfill to a prosperous residential and office waterfront community.

He recognized that South Pointe could be the Battery Park Plaza of Miami Beach.

South Pointe is unique in area and on the southern tip of Miami Beach that enjoys exceptional commanding water views on three sides. It is conveniently located near major tourist attractions and one of the most important US seaports is very well connected to Downtown Miami and the third largest international airport via the MacArthur Causeway.

TK immediately recognized South Points’ potential and helped by the savings and loan crisis and collapsing real estate prices, TK began acquiring as many properties as possible. By the end of the buying spree he had gained control of more than 45 of the 80+ acres that comprise South Pointe. TK’s focus was on the prime bay and waterfront parcels to execute his vision and turn his dream into reality.

TK organized a collaborative design workshop, called a charette with nine of the leading architectural firms, city planners, marine experts, politicians and concerned citizens at Joe’s Stone Crab, one of America’s most popular restaurants.

On June 21st 1993 , renowned architect and city planner Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil opened the South Pointe Charette. This marked the opening of an intensive six day conference for which Joe’s Stone Crab opened its door to talk international architects local and national politicians and all citizens.

“Mr Kramer first came to Miami Beach a year and a half ago. Since then he has committed himself to South Points’ future. Thomas understands that with the properties the Portofino Group is aggregating, he can have an enormous positive effects on all of South Beach. So it is appropriate, that he convened ten of the best architectural firms to propose how to do this.”

Those six days in 1993 change the destiny of South Pointe and Miami Beach forever. In order for the architects to fully understand the unique qualities of South Pointe, TK showed the land he acquired via a bird’s eye view tour from one of the penthouses on South Pointe Tower. At that time this was the only high-rise condominium in the South Pointe neighborhood.

TK then took the architect on a bus tour of the area so they could observe firsthand the current architectural and social state of South Beach. TK believed he could inspire and execute a turnaround for the blighted area. Over the years South Pointe had slipped from being the first city center of Miami Beach in the early 20th century. Originally, it housed a dog race track, a huge gasoline storage facility, army barracks, a meat factory and the city’s only affordable housing. The one hundred thousand people who found refuge on the beaches as a result of the Mariel boatlift in the eighties were responsible for the high crime rates, vagrancy, the dilapidated buildings and vacant lots that were so representative of the area in the early 90’s. As result,  the area was designated a redevelopment district.

TK’s final vision proposed a complete overhaul and numerous upgrades that would transform South Pointe into a world-class luxury location the likes of Monaco,Portofino or St. Tropez. After 14 years of titanic struggle with politicians, lawyers and developers living through countless lawsuits, spending millions in revising plans and all legal fees a good part of TK’s original vision is today Miami Beachs’ reality. TK came to town and transformed slum into one of America’s most sought after locations.

The Charette – The Whole Story


Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil

Also taking part in the charette was Egyptian architectual star Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil (b. 7 August 1943 in Cairo) who designed over 15 mosques in Saudi Arabia and is considered by many as the foremost contemporary authority in Islamic architecture.

With Prince Sultan, the Saudi astronaut, he worked on developing and restoring a the old Al-‘Udhaibat traditional farm in the Wadi Hanifa in Diriyah on the western outskirts of Riyadh.A book ‘Back to Earth’ recorded the project.

Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil’s work is not confined to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, though. He has, in fact, designed and constructed a number of buildings elsewhere in the region and abroad. He designed the Kerk Street mosque in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa, the Houghton Mosque and community centre on the outskirts of Johannesburg, and the Yateem Mosque in Bahrain. He designed and constructed the mosque in Brunei, in the style of traditional Malay architecture, and the Muslim Community Center in Miami.

In 1991, El-Wakil was invited to University of Miami as a visiting Professor, and remained there until just after the events of September 11, 2001. El-Wakil has since been commissioned to design Oxford University’s Center for Islamic Studies.

Currently, El-Wakil divides his time between a number of major Middle Eastern cities, and continues to work within the style of traditional but contemporary architecture. He has received a number of awards including two Aga Khan Awards for Architecture (1980 and 1989), the King Fahd Award for Research in Islamic Architecture (1985), an award and trophy for his achievements in the city of the Medina (1994), and the Richard H.

El Wakil continues in vigorous professional activity, dividing his time between Middle Eastern capitals.In Beirut, Lebanon, he has designed three projects including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a prominent downtown site within the Solidere master plan; a town house re-interpreting traditional Levantine architecture to accommodate contemporary usage; and the Bank of Kuwait in the downtown Solidere district.

In Qatar he is undertaking the Master Planning of a city quarter, integrating best contemporary low-energy planning practice with climate-tempered Islamic built form. El Wakil has recently designed a boutique hotel in El-Gouna, Red Sea, Egypt, and a mixed-use residential quarter within the Solidere International project Cairo Eastown.

El Wakil, empowered now with third generation CAD programmes, is very technologically savvy. He retains his aim of designing, one day, in homage to Fathy, a sustainable village retaining the culture and forms of tradition. He avows that green architecture need not look industrial.

A Historical Note — Origins of the Word “Charrette”

The term “charrette” is derived from the French word for “little cart.” In Paris during the 19th century, professors at the Ecole de Beaux Arts circulated with little carts to collect final drawings from their students. Students would jump on the “charrette” to put finishing touches on their presentation minutes before the deadline.


Leave a Reply