April 2012, Volume 16, Number 2

Making Their Mark

Architects Built Foundations of Success at MDC

Contending with a painful football injury, Robert Chisholm didn't have much of a career plan in mind when he graduated from high school. So, how did the quarterback come to be one of Miami's most celebrated architects? Miami Dade College put him on his path to success.

"Everybody in my family was an engineer," said Chisholm. Undecided about taking up the family trade, Chisholm spoke to an MDC counselor, who encouraged him to try architecture. It turned out to be a perfect match.

"Natural abilities and talents were revealed that I was totally unaware of," Chisholm said.

He obtained an associate degree at MDC and transferred to the University of Florida's renowned School of Architecture. "I had very good teachers at MDC," he recalled. "When I landed in Gainesville, I was ready to tackle anything." He later went on to earn a master's degree in planning and urban design at the University of Miami.

Chisholm has garnered numerous distinctions, including the naming of a service award in his honor by the Community Partnership for the Homeless, which he chaired for five years and for which he designed two facilities, both of which he did pro bono.

"It does no good for me to create beautiful buildings or relish other accomplishments if I am not first a good human being," he said.

Drafting a New Start

Caridad Hidalgo-Gato had aspired to be an architect ever since grade school in Cuba. But speaking little English upon her arrival to Miami in 1974, the young single mom knew there would be hurdles to overcome. With the backing of MDC, a loving family and unshakeable determination, Hidalgo-Gato was able to shape her own American Dream.

First signing up for essential English classes, Hidalgo-Gato funded her studies with grants obtained through the College and by working for MDC's audio-visual department.

"I would often set up equipment for teachers and find it difficult to communicate because my English was still so limited," recalled Hidalgo-Gato. "But everybody at Miami Dade College made me feel so welcome. Never did any of the staff, the faculty or the students make me feel apart in any way."

Hidalgo-Gato soon launched into core courses to obtain an associate degree with honors, paving the way to bachelor's studies at the University of Miami, where she graduated cum laude.

For the past two decades, Hidalgo-Gato has been the principal of her own firm, KVH Architects, largely handling government contracts. She is also an active member of the Association of Women in Architecture and Engineering (AWAE), which she helped to found.

"Thanks to the start I got at MDC, possibilities opened for me that otherwise would have been out of reach," said Hidalgo-Gato.

Cornerstone of Success

Going to college is an exciting time of rapid change for most people, and notably so for award-winning architect and Miami Dade College alumnus Iñaki Muguruza.

Fresh out of high school, he moved from Venezuela to Miami, where his parents owned a modest apartment. He next set out at MDC to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming an architect.

"It was my first time away from home, my first time in a new country, my first time going to college – and studying in a new language," said Muguruza. "There were so many firsts that I think it made me who I am more than anything else."

Professionally, Muguruza has worked for major firms such as Arquitectonica of Miami and New York-based Swanke Hayden Connell. For the past 15 years, he has been a partner in his own firm, Insight Design, winning awards from such prestigious national and global institutions as the American Institute of Architects and the International Interior Design Association.

"MDC was the foundation to practically everything in my life," Muguruza said. "Not only did it teach me the basis of architecture, but it taught me to be a man and be independent."

Industry Leaders

Numerous notable architects got their start at MDC, including:

Ana María Alleguez, AIA
President, Alleguez Architecture

Willy Bermello, AIA
Chairman of the Board, Bermello, Ajamil & Partners, Inc.

Bruce Brockhouse, AIA LEED AP
Principal, Brockhouse Associates, P.A.

Cristina Canton, AIA
Architect and Principal, NC-office (Architecture & Urbanism)

Daphne I. Gurri, AIA, LEED AP
Owner and Principal, Gurri Matute P.A.

Rey Martínez, AIA
Principal, ReyMar & Associates

Ramón B. Pacheco, AIA
Architect and Owner, Ramon Pacheco & Associates, Inc.

Bruno-Elías Ramos, AIA, LEED AP
Principal In Charge,
BEA International

Luis Revuelta, AIA
Principal, Revuelta Architecture International

James W. Piersol, AIA LEED AP
Principal, M.C. Harry & Associates

Angel C. Saqui II, AIA
Partner, Saqui Architects

Bernard Zyscovich, FAIA
President and Managing Partner, Zyscovich Architects

— MR

More Making Their Mark Articles

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