A team including international office for urban design and landscape architect West 8 proposes Miami Beach Square for a 52-acre convention centre

Miami Beach Square
The regenerated Miami Beach Square will form part of 'an archipelago of urban oases'

It plans to to roll out an urban fabric of paths and plazas, parks and gardens to form ‘an archipelago of urban oases throughout the site’.

At the heart of the site sits a central square ‘to become the pivoting point of the entire neighbourhood’. Miami Beach Square, says the team, ‘will be the front door to the convention centre, and the convention hotel, a front lawn to the revitalised Jackie Gleason Theatre, a town square for the city hall, an outdoor arena for the Latin American Cultural Museum, and the red carpet for the big botanical ball room’.

‘We have devised a strategy that combines urban planning and landscape design to create a neighbourhood characterised by human scale, pedestrian connections, shaded spaces with public oriented programmes lining the streets and squares,’ explains BIG creative director Bjarke Ingels. ‘A neighbourhood that, depending on the season, the weekday, or even the time of day can be perceived as a lively downtown neighbourhood or an inviting public park.’

Miami Beach is one of the youngest cities in the US – and possibly one of the most vibrant and dynamic. Its streetscape, the team says, is characterised by a lively walkable urban fabric with a friendly human-scaled environment under the cool shade of tropical trees and art deco canopies – except for the convention centre site. This is ‘a dead black hole of asphalt in the heart of one of the most beautiful and lively cities in America’. The team’s mission is ‘to bring Miami Beach back to the convention centre – and to imagine an architecture and an urban space unique to the climate and culture of Miami Beach’.

The proposed square creates a series of intuitive connections across the site – ‘a diagonal that connects the Soundscape Park to the Botanical Gardens and Holocaust Memorial’. A north-south connection joins the Collins Canal to Lincoln Road and naturally channels the flow of convention visitors ‘to the liveliness of Lincoln Road’.

By popular demand, the team has found a way to preserve and enhance the architecture and programming of the Jackie Gleason Theater. By making it all public at the street level – opening up lobbies, restaurants and cafes on all sides – the Gleason becomes a lively centrepiece to the new neighbourhood. ‘Towards the Square we propose to extend the fly tower with a performing arts centre with various spaces for rehearsal and offering a visual connection to the public’.

Adjacent to the Jackie Gleason Theater sits the new Latin American Cultural Museum consisting of a base of public programmes opening up on the square. The building form creates a covered shaded event space on the square blurring the transition between inside and outside. 

The proposal scheme places Miami Beach City Hall ‘rightly in the middle of the town square, with ample space for public expression and at the heart of communal life’.

It and the Botanical Ballroom ‘book end’ the square, ‘making it a natural extension of the civic activities of city hall’. To the north the botanical ballroom opens up ‘allowing for beautiful views of the botanical gardens and the memorial’. The Ballroom has entrances to the south and to the north allowing for seamless connectivity to the convention centre – under the shade and shelter of canopies.

The team proposes considering the convention centre as an urban block, ‘complete with different programmes, grown together to form a continuous architecture’.

The roof of the convention centre is framed by a green roof,’framing the hotel gardens and the roof parking interspersed with shade giving landscapes’. As a reoccurring annual event, the team proposes sponsoring an art foundation to deliver a roof art piece to cover the remaining roof surface, ‘turning it into a giant ever-changing canvas seen from the air as well as the roof terrace of the hotel’.

‘Realising that a challenge that seemed to be driven by two incompatible agendas was actually the opportunity – to create a convention centre district that is not only for convention-goers but, more importantly, for residents,’ says Jack Portman, of Portman Holdings and JPA.

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