Archive for the 'South Beach' Category

My Favorite Street - Espanola Way

Though it often seems like TransitMiami is only critical of Miami’s urban planning, transportation, land use, and urban design, we believe it is important to illustrate the bright points as well.
This brings me to today’s post, where I want to showcase my favorite Greater Miami street - Espanola Way on South Beach.

From an urban design perspective, this street embodies all the incredible potential I see in Miami. Let’s take a moment to address several of the elements that give Espanola Way its fantastic urban design:

  • Appropriate density for an urban environment; good physical urban continuity
  • Buildings are right up to the sidewalk; this defines urban space, in turn creating a much better sense of place than we see in most of Greater Miami
  • Narrow street; this minimizes the amount of valuable urban street space allotted to automobiles, which means less thru-traffic (none at all when it is blocked off for the Farmer’s Market), noise, emissions, and lost street space
  • Presence of shade trees, awnings, and balconies offer a reprieve from the hot South Florida sun
  • Mixed use buildings
  • Moderately wide sidewalks (for Miami)
  • Architecture that reflects local culture and history
  • Facades that are open to the street, which engage pedestrians
Frankly, this is what a high-quality urban environment looks like. There is plenty of density, but it’s built at human scale. Because the streets are narrow and parking spaces few, Espanola Way doesn’t suffer from the noise, emissions, and lost street space that plagues so many other Miami streets.

While a lot of the shops are quirky, there is a decent mix of restaurants and cafes (I am a big fan of Hosteria Romana). The point is, however, that if many other Miami streets and neighborhoods were designed this way, the foundation would be set for an urban community that has a comprehensive set of urban amenities.

Photos: Mouffetard’s, clarks aunt, & golbog’s flickr

SOBE Aerial Video

We’re all used to the stunning aerial footage generously provided to us by local amateur photographer/RC Pilot James Good, but I’m afraid he’s outdone himself this time with some amazing video footage shot from South Beach’s South Pointe:

Click here for the classic still frames…

Oppenheim, Diamonds and Donald Judd

The first thing I always want to talk about, when I talk about Miami, is Chad Oppenheim. Be forewarned, I may gush. Ever since this young architect appeared on the scene we have had the pleasure of one exciting building after another being proposed and built by this edgy, self-expressed talent. The level of achievement of both built and conceptual projects, by an architect so young, is nearly unprecedented.Among his first built structures in Miami Beach was the boutique building Ilona. Tucked away on a secluded street south of fifth street, and having seen renderings of several projects it was a strange experience to happen upon the completed building by mistake. Oppenheim’s work began intimately connected to the tropical modernist precedents set forth by the MiMo school. After what was clearly a profound analysis of the period, Oppenheim set out to create a new, more minimal, purist and luxurious interpretation. Simply put, he created a housing for all of the most beautiful and unique properties of South Florida life: light, color, air…sea and sky, the passing of the day. Stopped in my tracks as the building came into view, I felt that I could see the future of design in Miami, and it was good. As with much of his work to date, the design is at first quiet, restrained, and yet continues to reveal itself and its subtle beauty.Another South Beach jewel is yet another small residential building, Ilona Bay. Here we began to see the sophisticated relationship to the sculptor Donald Judd and his minimalist repetition of form. The geometric white grid enclosures that make up the balconies, are an apparent foreshadowing to the series of skyscrapers in store for downtown Miami. Judd’s complicated study of a numerous identical shapes, and the richness of such, based on perspective and light were the inspiration for the period in Oppenheim’s work that included Ice, Ice 2, and Ten Museum Park, as well as Sky and Space 01 in North Bay Village. As in the past, what seems at first, quite simple, is in truth an analysis of order and sublime proportion. That Oppenheim is able to achieve this in the face of program (number of units, required square footage, balconies etc.) and budgets is almost unbelievable.

To the great loss of Miami urbanists and art lovers, several of Oppenheim’s projects have been mired in difficulty with developers and the erratic whims of the real estate market, and may never come to fruition. Several of the above mentioned structures may never be realized, as well as the dynamic Park Lane Tower. Perhaps the greatest surprise, and disappointment is the recent news that 3 Midtown may not be built. This building, is what I believe to be, the most beautiful of the recent boom. Illustrating his sensitivity to each individual site and his desire to deliver to the future residents, an extraordinary experience of Miami, the building is brilliantly twisted and torqued out of the site lines of the two neighboring buildings. The resulting trapezoidal tower creates exciting relationships with the other portions of the buildings, the mews and the low-rise. The structural exoskeleton is a constantly evolving composition of obscuring elements and reveals. This exercise is even carried out on the roof, wrapping the top of the tower in an artful camouflage of the buildings service features, a feature sadly absent in most contemporary building designs. The fenestration on the exposed sides develops into a massive abstract canvas of light absorbing concrete and light reflecting glass, hence blackness in opposition to emitting light after dark. I sincerely hope that the cancellation of this project is a misrepresentation.While the very lofty conversation of Donald Judd and architecture may be to abstruse for the taste of some, it seems that another parallel can easily be drawn with the discussion of the very nearly finished Ten Museum Park. Like a diamond, that on one hand seems only to be a white shape of a stone, the 50 story tower on Biscayne Boulevard, towers above us as a simple gleaming white shape. Upon closer examination of the stone, the facets inside emit an ever shifting, evolving show of extraordinary shadow and brilliant light, that is undeniably hypnotic. So too, as the South Florida sun rises and illuminates the many complicated facets of the tower’s design, there is a most enjoyable, ever transforming display of darkness and luminosity, straight through til the sun sets, and reflects off of the vastly contrasting, elegantly proportioned back facade. Check it out.

Progess on South Beach

It’s great to see that pro-bicycle momentum continues to grow in Miami. Last week, the Miami Beach city commission voted to approve bike lanes on 16th Street from Collins Avenue to Alton Road. This was part of an improvement plan for 16th Street, which included other traffic calming elements and pedestrian realm enhancements such as planting shade trees and widening sidewalks.

Amazingly, the bike lanes almost didn’t happen. One of Miami’s 387,962 NIMBY groups masquerading as a neighborhood improvement organization, the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association, had been a vocal opposition to the bike lanes on 16th. “I understand cyclists want bike paths, but why 16th Street”? Nice argument - I’m sure NIMBYs everywhere were proud.

According to the Sunpost, the real issue at hand is the right-of-way along 16th Street that would need to be taken back by the City in order to accommodate the bike lanes AND widen sidewalks. Similar to the Grove’s opposition over the quality 27th Avenue enhancement project, Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association members are concerned that the City will reacquire public right-of-way between buildings and the sidewalk that has been used for private means (e.g. landscaping). Commissioner Richard Steinberg took the stated position that “widening the sidewalks toward the buildings would not, in fact, encroach on private property, but in reality the private property was encroaching upon the city land”. It’s great to see an elected official embrace the public realm and what’s best for the city as a whole and not the private interests of a few NIMBYs.

photo courtesy of huwkan’s flickr account