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Value Engineering. What does the term mean to you?

Think about it. Let’s decompose the term before seeking out a formal definition. To us, the concept of value engineering when applied to transportation projects, includes the pursuit of cost-effective methods to achieve a desired end result. It includes a suite of tools that would enable project managers to work with engineers and architects to lower the overall cost of the project without sacrificing a particular end goal. In more obscure words, the FDOT defines value engineering as:

“…the systematic application of function-oriented techniques by a multi-disciplined team to analyze and improve the value of a product, facility, system, or service.”

So, if we were to tell you that FDOT was actively seeking to value engineer the structure that will soon replace I-395, how would you feel? Let’s take a look back at the designs presented last year before we dive into our argument on why we shouldn’t cut corners on such a critical piece of infrastructure.

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For the unacquainted, over the past several years FDOT initiated the process to replace the 1.5 mile structure that links SR 836 east of I-95 to the MacArthur Causeway. As the main artery between MIA, the Port of Miami, and South Beach, millions of visitors traverse this scenic stretch annually on the way to a cruise or the beaches. The byproduct of 1960’s urban renewal, I-395 ripped apart neighborhoods and displaced thousands from historic Overtown, today the structure continues to thwart efforts to unite our major public institutions including: The Arsht Center, Art and Science Museums (both currently under construction), and the AA Arena. As such, FDOT’s plans for I-395 will play a critical role in Miami’s ability to reshape the urban core and reunite Downtown, Parkwest, Omni, and Overtown districts.

Side note: Imagine what could become of the corner of N. Miami Avenue and 14th Street if the neighborhood were united with Downtown to the South or the Arsht Center to the east? The Citizens Bank Building (above), built during Miami’s boom years in 1925 could serve as a catalyst for growth in a neighborhood that has largely remained abandoned since urban renewal gutted Overtown. 

In this context, the concept of value engineering contradicts the livable, “sense of place” we’re working to achieve in Downtown. As it currently stands, I-395 and all the other roadways that access our barrier islands are utilitarian structures, serving little purpose other than to move vehicles from one land mass to another.

The challenge with I-395 is that it must satisfy numerous conflicting needs. I-395 isn’t just a bridge (or tunnel, or boulevard). It should serve as an icon; a figurative representation of Miami’s status as the Gateway to the Americas. A new I-395 will, should once and for all, eliminate the physical barrier that has long divided Downtown Miami from the Omni and Performing Arts Districts, encouraging more active uses below while maintaining the flow of traffic above. Not an easy feat. While the DDA and City of Miami recognize the economic value in designing an iconic structure at this site, our experience tells us that FDOT is more likely to think in the terms of dollars and LOS rather than the contextual and neighborhood needs. Simply put, this isn’t an ordinary site where a no-frills structure will suffice.

Cities all across the nation are eliminating derelict highways that for the past 40-50 years have scarred, divided, and polluted neighborhoods. Boston’s big dig for example submerged a 2-mile stretch of I-93 that had cut off the North End and Waterfront neighborhoods from downtown and the rest of the city. The Rose Kennedy Greenway, a 1.5 mile public park now stretches its length. Where the highway tunnel ends, an iconic structure, the Leonard P. Zakim Memorial Bridge takes over, leading traffic over the Charles River to points north. Adjacent to the TD Garden (home of the Celtics & Bruins) the Zakim Bridge is now synonymous with the Boston Skyline. Other notable examples include:

  • San Francisco’s Embarcardero Freeway
  • Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct
  • Hartford’s I-84 Viaduct

While no decision has been made on what final shape I-395’s replacement structure will take, our sources inform us that FDOT is beginning to explore more “cost effective” alternatives. We’ll keep eye on this project as it unfolds and will reach out to the City of Miami, DDA, and FDOT to ensure that Miami receives a replacement structure at this site worthy of its location in the heart of our burgeoning urban core. Moreover, we’ll remind FDOT that their third proposed objective for this project (3. Creating a visually appealing bridge) includes considering the aesthetics of the structure from all perspectives, especially the pedestrians and cyclists we’re trying to lure back into downtown streets.

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Whether you support  Museum Park  or not,  livable streets advocates should take a modicum of joy in hearing that the Miami City Commission has reduced the city’s parking requirements for the proposed civic development. As the Miami Times reports, Museum Park will now have 440 parking spaces, not 480 as originally planned.  Granted the decision was made only because  of a siting/financial issue, I hope  advocates may look to this as precedent for parking reductions in future projects. My guess is that those 40 spaces will not be missed.

Now, let’s see if we can get FDOT to reduce the number of travel lanes along the lower Biscayne corridor so that all those parking spaces marring the once elegant boulevard median can be  moved to parallel parking stalls along the outside sidewalk–a perfectly sane idea that would reduce speeds, increase pedestrian comfort, and restore Miami’s signature thoroughfare. I think Admiral Miguel Grau–Knight of the Seas– would agree, right Admiral?

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Image Credit: John Vanbeekum
  • The obvious headline story today is Miami-Dade County’s decision to purchase 136 new rail cars for metrorail due to MDT’s prior negligence in maintaining the existing fleet (WTG Roosevelt! I’m so proud of that name clearing hearing the County held in your honor.) Larry Lebowitz wrote a phenomenal Herald watchdog report covering nearly every aspect of this story. Aside from the obvious maintenance issues, we’re disappointed to see that the PTP will be raided again to fix issues which should have been resolved with other funds. The County commissioners have repeatedly abused the intended purpose of the PTP and have all but rendered the CITT useless. At the current rate, the PTP will be milked to fix past screw ups, provide free transit use for veterans, and various other road (vehicular) projects which have passed under the radar. Doesn’t anyone care?
  • Meanwhile, the metromover will be receiving its own new vehicles sometime over the next year at a cost of $26 Million PTP dollars. That’s another $26 Million less for new rail projects in case you are wondering. Bombardier will be building the 12 new cars and is slated to be asked to build an additional 17 cars for another $34 Million. Note: should the county back out of the additional 17 cars by July, taxpayers will pay Bombardier $1 million. Who negotiates these contracts? This must be like taking candy from a baby for the Bombardier Sales team.
  • The “plan” to continue fragmenting the County into more bureaucratic layers of fat is progressing nicely with Palmetto Bay’s desire to annex the Falls neighborhood.
  • We’re #1! Forbes magazine has named Miami America’s cleanest City. I highly doubt the achievement is a result of any of our own doing but rather the result of Florida’s flat geography. In any case, our air is clean, whatever that means.
  • New Bike Lockers are appearing on Tri-Rail, making eco-commuting an easy alternative…
  • Miami-Forum covers the Downtown Foam fest caused by a Sony production commercial shoot…

Transport, originally uploaded by blupic.com.

I was scanning through images on Flickr, when I came across the Tram which transports visitors to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I couldn’t help imagine what Miami’s Museum Park would look like if our planners would integrate the existing (currently closed) metromover station with the upcoming structures. Unlike the Getty’s mover, ours would connect the museums directly to the public transportation system rather than a parking lot at the bottom of the mountain. Do our Museum planners have this type of foresight? Or will metromover users disembark in an unsightly and inhospitable delivery bay?

Via artbabee’s Flickr…

To Learn More about the Getty’s Tram, Click Here

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The Miami circle is an attraction, a cultural focal point of our area’s heritage, and will ultimately become a destination for visitors and locals alike. It will provide a glimpse into real prehistoric culture without today’s seemingly artificial representation of Native American Culture. The National Park Service is looking for ideas for what to do with the Miami Circle site and here is what we suggest:
  1. The Miami Circle should be a protected exhibition connected with a local museum (historical Museum of Southern Florida or the new Museum of Science at Museum Park come to mind.)
  2. The exhibition should be located in a passive park with abundant benches, trees, lighting, some sort of protective canopy over the exhibition itself, and little else.
  3. The park should be easily accessible for pedestrians, i.e. no parking, this is downtown and plenty of alternatives exist and are readily available. Those seeking to drive will likely be able to find a spot in the adjacent Viceroy.

Our suggestion is a combination of the National Park services’ options 1 and 4, found here in the Planning, Environment and Comment section of the website. The full plans can be found in this PDF. We’re fond of the integration with the surroundings of Option 1 and the absence of surface parking, facilities, and extreme amounts of pavement. Option 4 presents visitors with a chance to see the remnants of the Miami circle in a protected way and creates a point for guided boat tours on the bay.

Once again, I can relate a scenario in Miami to an existing project in Vienna: The Roman Ruins outside of the Hofburg Imperial Palace. The preservation of the Roman Ruins allows visitors to glimpse back 2500 years to the founding Vindobona. The ruins are encircled by a wall which allows viewers to peer down at the remaining structure, located some 25 feet below street level.

An ambitious plan from City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz . What answer will the commission deliver?

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Financing plan would bypass voters

Miami city and county leaders have forged a multibillion-dollar public-works bonanza that could alter the face of the downtown core — affecting everything from a baseball stadium to a port tunnel to museums.

The plan, coming together with rare speed in the world of governmental red tape, envisions a holiday bounty of projects aimed at garnering support from constituencies ranging from sports fans to arts patrons.

Announced late Wednesday by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, the deal would cover everything from a $914 million tunnel leading to the Port of Miami to finally transforming fallow Bicentennial Park into a waterfront jewel with new art and science museums.

By also shoring up the shaky finances at the fledgling Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, the plan’s framework would free up additional tax monies that could be used to build a $525 million retractable-roof ballpark for the Florida Marlins.

”This is a great opportunity for all of us — all of us — to create an incredible legacy for the urban core,” Diaz said following a long day of negotiating the multi-party pact — and then selling it to individual commissioners.

While Diaz and others in the city embraced the so-called ”global” agreement with the county, many questions remain.

One is whether a deal this complex can actually come to fruition. With so many parts forming the larger whole, it’s possible that criticism of one piece of the blueprint could derail others.

Secondly, the intricate financing has been crafted in a way to sidestep a potential voter referendum — which could embolden critics.

COMMISSIONS TO VOTE

Selling it is key, and the first test comes Thursday when Miami commissioners decide whether to move the multilayered plan forward.

County commissioners would then begin their review of key pieces of the ballpark financing and redevelopment plans Dec. 18.

The framework — hashed out over several weeks of behind-the-scenes talks with city and county managers — centers on expanding the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency to include Bicentennial Park and Watson Island.

CRAs are federally mandated special taxing districts that generate extra cash for areas targeted for revitalization. By aiming to expand the key Omni district, Miami leaders envision new infusions of money that would be doled out for multiple big-ticket projects.

The biggest beneficiaries of this new Omni CRA would be the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and a proposed new ballpark for the Marlins at the soon-to-be-demolished Orange Bowl.

Diaz said the county would essentially receive up to $400 million in CRA revenue over the next 30 years to cover debt service on the arts center.

This will free up somewhere between $160 million and $200 million in tourist taxes from the PAC — that the county and city could then use for the ballpark in Little Havana.

PARKING GARAGE

Less certain: whether the will, and the money, exist to build a 6,000-space parking garage and one of Diaz’s personal projects — a 25,000-seat soccer stadium also proposed for the 40-acre Orange Bowl site.

By expanding the CRA boundaries over the MacArthur Causeway to Watson Island, the city believes it can also use $50 million in CRA money to pay its share of the $914 million Port of Miami Tunnel over the next 35 years.

Florida transportation officials had vowed to move their $457 million share of the tunnel deal to other parts of the state if the city didn’t put up its $50 million piece by Monday.

”I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, no pun intended,” said City Commissioner Joe Sanchez, who represents the Orange Bowl area.

Miami property owners would also benefit from the expanded Omni CRA, city leaders say.

Diaz said the city would pay off its outstanding debt on the troubled Jungle Island construction loans from the expanded CRA instead of general revenues.

By expanding the boundaries into Bicentennial Park, the city would also use $68 million in new CRA revenue for the development of Museum Park — including a planned underground parking garage. The CRA money would not be used to build the museums.

OVERTOWN IMPACT

Another question mark: whether city officials will be legally permitted to spin another $2 million a year out of the CRA to pay for ongoing capital improvements inside the park.

A second, more hard-pressed, special tax district would also benefit under the city-county pact.

The Southeast Overtown/Park West CRA, which generates considerably less revenue than the Omni, would be extended to year 2030 and its boundaries expanded to 20th Street on the north and Northwest Seventh Avenue on the west.

The city would spend up to $80 million for affordable housing, infrastructure, parks and job programs in the economically depressed Overtown neighborhood, and it would set aside $35 million for the city’s struggling streetcar plan.

Diaz said Miami planned to adopt a pay-as-you-go approach when spending the CRA money on these big-ticket items over the next 30 years, rather than floating bonds to bankroll the projects.

The unstated reason: The projects wouldn’t have to face voter approval.

In previous years, the city had contemplated issuing CRA bonds that could net perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars up front, to be used on large public-works projects.

But the Florida Supreme Court ruled in September that any bond issue local governments do with CRA money needs voter approval. Miami responded by abandoning its bond-issue plans.

This plan would sidestep those concerns.

DETAILS

As in every public project, the key is in the details, and literally hundreds of them still need to be hashed out.

First: Does Diaz have the three commission votes to pass the plan when the body meets this morning?

”God willing, [Thursday] we will approve possibly the most exciting — largest, certainly — package of projects in city history,” Diaz said late Wednesday.

Commissioner Sanchez said of the ”global” agreement: “So far, it looks good. . . . It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

Herald staff writers Charles Rabin, Andres Viglucci and Matthew I. Pinzur contributed to this report.

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I was perusing through the internet (as usual) when I came a cross an idea which would likely work well if integrated along Biscayne Bay in Museum or Bayfront Parks; the Zadar, Croatia Sea Organ. The premise is simple: holes of varying length, size, and shape are cut into the seawall to create an organ which plays random and somewhat harmonic melodies as the tide and waves crash along the wall. Water, forced into each opening, compresses the air out of a perpendicular opening which thus produces the sound. The Croatian seawall is the centerpiece of the Nova Riva redevelopment plan in Zadar and since its 2005 public debut it serves as a gathering place for locals and tourists to enjoy the breathtaking Mediterranean sunset. The pictures and movies below depict how the organ allows people to interact with the coastal space of Zadar:Click here for the Sea Organ Audio only…

Via Tekenstein

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With several of our readers expressing doubts (some outright disdain) about the recently revealed design for the new Miami Art Museum, I recommend attending the exhibition at the present day MAM for any of those interested in finding out more.

Although still a work in progress (and the title of the exhibit) there is much to be gleaned from the show, including insights into the process of the architects. One element I was excited to see was the detailed, artful execution for the roof. All of the residents along the Biscayne corridor should be happy to see this, in light how little consideration is usually given to the roof of any building. The American Airlines Arena was good enough to employ a plane graphic making the roof acceptable and advertisement. The new MAM however will read more as a modernist composition from high above. Significant even for planes flying in to MIAMI International Airport. The path of this growing institution gets more and more interesting.

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A collective sigh of relief can be heard as the unveiling of this intriguing new building for the home of the Miami Art Museum is commenced. Recent memory cannot recall a time when so much anticipation over a new civic structure has captured the imagination and concern of so many. I for one am completely ecstatic. As is much reported with Herzog and DeMeuron, one never knows quite what to expect, but can usually rest assured that something of great beauty will transpire, and they do not disappoint.
The initial model and renderings for the building depict an elegant, entirely contemporary building, that manages to embrace and incorporate many of Miami’s architectural histories, and issues. With the first and third floors sheathed in glass the 2nd floor galleries appear the levitate. The generous canopied roof provides a huge amount of shaded exterior public space that will be punctuated by sculptural indigenous plants, some climbing the columns, others hanging down through a beautiful abstraction of skylights that perforate the roof. These features will go a long way to ensure the capture of bay breezes for natural cooling.

The sheltered plaza should be all that is necessary to alleviate the concerns of massive buildings overrunning the park. The visual lightness of the structure as well will serve to maintain that the natural elements of the bay and the park are heralded.

The building could well be described as quiet. Herzog and DeMeuron are known for creating architecture that is subtle restrained and delicate and yet absolutely brilliant, even scintillating, at the same time. It brings to mind other recent important museums that, while also great architecture, could be seen as boisterous and some would go as far as to say gauche, by comparison, and yet no more aesthetically satisfying.

This is an exciting time for architecture and design in Miami and we could now well have a crown jewel.

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Via the Miami Herald:

”It’s an original Miami building,” said museum director Terence Riley. “It’s not New York; it’s not London. Right away, it has an iconic quality. But what I’m really excited about is that it appears it’s going to be a fantastic museum.”

The design also was inspired by what Riley referred to as a classic example of South Florida ”folk architecture” — Stiltsville.

Inside, visitors will find a museum that does not, in Riley’s words, ”aspire to be a mini-MOMA or a mini-Tate,” alluding to museums with encyclopedic collections of modern art. Rather, Riley wants to build a collection that focuses on specific artists and offers broad overviews of artistic movements.

We’ll be back with some commentary and thoughts once we have the chance to review the plans over the weekend…Stay Tuned…

Click here for the Video

I seem to be having some technical difficulties with my internet connection, please be patient while I work to sort out the kinks. In the meantime, I have chosen to republish an article forwarded to me by Michelle of Museum Park Forum. The article extensively covers the happenings of last week’s Museum Park planning meetings:

MuseumParkForum.com
October 5, 2007

The City of Miami held its first of three scheduled “Museum Park” public meetings last night at the Orange Bowl Athletic Club. Two additional public comment sessions are proposed for the end of October and the end of November.

Local 10 News covered the event:
View Story Here

One major image of the proposed “Museum Park” was posted at the meeting. Of particular note were the changes made to the rendering from its previous form, and those that were not made, all of which was addressed at the outset of the meeting. The city and the architect have elected to change the prior holistic approach to the development of Museum Park (which was to include the FEC Slip and Parcel B), and rather have opted to break the design process into two distinct phases. “Phase I” includes all of the land north of the FEC Slip – and was presented for public comment last night in the identical form presented earlier this year.

The Architectural rendering displayed at last nights meeting included both the FEC Slip and Parcel B (“Phase II”) – but left them virtually blank. All of the elements previously shown in the FEC slip (the cantilevered platforms, the man-made “island” and boat docks as well as the elevated/operable bridge are now gone – and they left “Parcel B” blank – no “Bay Of Pigs Museum,” no soccer field, nothing…blank canvas for both the FEC slip and Parcel B.

Perhaps our words from a few days earlier were heard – though left for future designers to solve?:

“As for the existing Museum Park rendering, note that the bridge over the mouth of the FEC slip is NOT proposed to serve as the solution to Bay Walk, as the grade/elevation required to transit the bridge would preclude barrier-free use, a requirement for public facilities. This bridge is proposed to be operable, though the costs and maintenance and method of operation seem not to have been articulated. What is the actual cost of the proposed improvements to the FEC slip? What would all of the proposed cantilevered decks do in the event of a hurricane-driven tidal surge?

If the City is truly interested in public input, let’s all make it a point to read the results of the Parcel B Study in the context of the broader vision for Bay Walk, and try to arrive at solutions that will draw the most people to actually use the waterfront, serving as a tourist attraction and most importantly, PAYING ITS OWN WAY, in perpetuity.” LINK TO FULL STORY HERE

Last nights “Phase I” vision of “Bay Walk” actually requires that people circumnavigate the entire (8 acre) FEC slip by walking (for example) from the waters edge at Parcel B all the way back in to Biscayne Blvd. – then proceed north to the main park, then walk all the way back out to the Bay before proceeding north on your “Bay Walk” journey.

A quick calculation reveals that the planners of Museum Park propose that your “Bay Walk” include a 2,850′ (HALF-MILE) detour over to the hustle and bustle of Biscayne Blvd. before proceeding on your morning stroll along Biscayne Bay. That my friends, is not a “Bay Walk.” Until a true at-grade (barrier-free) solution is identified to transit the 300′ mouth of the FEC slip, there is no “Bay Walk.”

The proverbial “elephant in the room” is obviously the FEC slip. Aside from the problematic and as-yet unresolved stretch of the proposed “Bay Walk” that will lead users along the water frontage of Bayside Marketplace (and around Miamarina), the FEC slip is the number one impediment to the design and development of Bay Walk. Is it really wise to design and develop half a park, leaving the rest for others to resolve?

FEC Slip
The FEC Slip is so huge that it is clearly visible from space (check it out on Google Earth). It’s 1,200′ long and 300′ wide representing 8 acres of “Museum Park.” The improvements being made by Shoreline Foundation, Inc. have saved the slip’s walls from crumbling into the water, and have beautified an otherwise decaying relic of Miami’s early shipping heritage – but as yet, no “highest and best” use of the slip has been identified.

Visitors to the slip along Biscayne Blvd. will note that, sadly, the slip is a serious debris trap, catching not only the surface “flotsam” that collects naturally there by virtue of its location directly at the end of Government Cut – but also serves as a catch-all for every piece of paper, Styrofoam cup and other construction-related debris that blows its way on a windy day.

While it has been suggested that the slip should remain open and available to visiting ships like the US Coast Guard Cutter “Eagle” there are some key issues to address. Upon their recent visit, they were actually required to truck-in massive concrete blocks positioned in the park along the dock in order to tie-off the vessel. Here’s why:

Despite the fact that the seawalls have been saved from collapse (courtesy of 40′ long sheet-steel driven into the sea bed, topped with concrete), the walls themselves are not sufficiently reinforced (as in this example) to handle the stress of securing large vessels in inclement weather – which explains why there are no “cleats” to tie-off vessels along the north wall of the FEC Slip.

Holistic Design:
The entire “Museum Park” design concept requires a singular holistic approach, as the ultimate disposition of the FEC Slip will effect the design of both the southern end of the “Phase I” portion of the main body of the park and the northern end of “Parcel B” – all of which together will become a destination known as “Museum Park” – tied together by the broader concept known as “Bay Walk” – which by its very name implies “a walk along Biscayne Bay.”

Thanks Michelle…Great update, keep us informed…You bring up some great points which we will soon be readdressing when we revisit the Museum Park issue…

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Miami takes on a remarkable resemblance to the painter Magritte’s vision of the world.

New eco-friendly transportation for Miami? No, but a fun time with which to get the proverbial birds eye view of the new emerging downtown. The attraction will be open to the public within 2 weeks time and will bring another level of art to the downtown experience. A beautiful compliment to Museum park, its nearby neighbor.

Via The Miami Herald:

The public can weigh in Thursday on the proposed design of downtown Miami’s Museum Park, the planned new home of the Miami Museum of Science & Planetarium and the Miami Art Museum.

Miami’s Capital Improvements Department will host a 4:30 p.m. meeting at the Orange Bowl Stadium Athletic Club, Gate 14, at 1501 NW Third St. Conceptual drawings for the park will be presented, and public feedback is welcomed.

For more information regarding the project, call the city of Miami at 305-416-1286.

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In the name of challenging our understanding of global visual cues, can anybody identify this museum? It should be noted that there is little parking anywhere nearby and the building was built within a very reasonable budget. Interesting design does not require a great deal of money, just great designers and there are many who work for reasonable compensation. Many who need and deserve the opportunity to do so, as well. The main volume seems to levitate over the glass enclosed first floor. Nearly the entire main volume is sheathed in very inexpensive (with very little weight) translucent ‘cow wall’. Requirements to light the building are diminished greatly with the entire building being translucent. I realize this material is probably not suitable for hurricanes, but there are always creative solutions.

Having recently attended the Richard Serra exhibit at MoMA, I wanted to talk briefly about what is possible for Museum Park. I realize I have discussed this topic in some detail and I have been very interested in our reader input. The exhibit at MoMA was spectacularly attended, despite being mid morning on a weekday. The well designed museum, however, was able to accommodate the throngs of visitors quite well. Miami Art Museum will obviously never be the MoMA, but the visit did re-affirm my belief that the museums belong in Museum Park. Unlike MoMA, where there is only the crowded sculpture garden for attendees to recover from museum fatigue, without ending their visit, in Miami visitors will have all of the beautifully re-designed park green space. I fully expect the park to become gloriously utilized.

The energy and vibration of the crowds was astounding. The exhibit continued on the second floor where the sculptures, weighing literally hundreds of tons, seemingly a threat to the structural soundness, were safely on display because even that detail was pre-analyzed and managed by the thorough design team led by Terence Riley. He was not the architect, and he was certainly not the sole force behind the new MoMA, however, I believe that he is largely responsible for the overwhelming success of the construction of the new facility, and the presentation of it, to the world and is now bringing all of that experience to the project at hand, MAM. I think we who love Miami are in for a great civic experience.

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