For more than three years, Transit Miami.com has been the leading local online voice for better and more-sensible planning and urban design. Its bloggers are practitioners, so their advocacy rests on a base of knowledge and – since they’re mostly (I believe) young – growing real-world experience. Their own Mike Lydon (who has, alas, moved to New York) was the principal author of the city’s newly approved Bicycle Master Plan (see more below). Other causes and events they have pushed and promoted range from Bike Miami Days to the Miami 21 rezoning plan.
Planner and blogger Tony Garcia says their roots are in “the growing generation Y citizen advocate movement in Miami that is seeking better transportation options and walkable urbanism, and is using social media to accomplish these goals.’’
After reading a provocative post by Tony on the urban (-unfriendly, in his view) plan for the new Miami Art Museum, I invited him to synthesize his view for Urbanista!
We’re hoping for a discussion here, folks, so ante up. Please comment. This project (along with the new Miami Science Museum and Museum Park) represents a public investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, and no one wants to repeat the failed experience of Bicentennial Park.
Tony’s take is especially timely since the city planning board spent lots of time the other night praising MAM’s architecture (check out this newly released rendering of Herzog and de Meuron’s increasingly refined design) while raising worrisome issues about the site’s general disregard of pedestrians and cyclists – a fault most seemed inclined to lay at the city’s feet.
Here is what Tony wrote:
The Sidewalk Critic: MAM Design Turns Its Back on Biscayne
Pedestrians are the lifeblood of great streets, and their presence is a function of the buildings that surround them. While all structures are accountable to the urban realm, civic buildings in particular have a special responsibility in activating streets and fostering pedestrian life. Museums, schools, and government buildings represent the highest values and aspirations of a community - which is why the latest design for the MAM in Bicentennial Park is so disappointing.
The design, while conceptually intriguing, has a tenuous relationship with the public realm. It turns its back on the street, and inhabits Bicentennial park rather than taking an active role in proclaiming its presence on Biscayne Boulevard. Recent analyses have shown that 90% of the estimated 200,000 visitors to the museum will arrive by car. The museum designers have touted a flurry of green features, from ample outdoor spaces, to actual vegetation growing within the building but the greenest building of all is the one that encourages pedestrians and cyclists. With I-395 forming a barrier to the north, no defined street edge along Biscayne, and 90% of users entering the building by car people will have little reason to walk to the museum.
In its auto-centric design, the museum has missed one of its fundamental missions: to act as a gateway to Bicentennial Park. How can it monumentalize the entrance to the park when most visitors to the Museum will never have to engage the park in the first place. The recent rebirth of Biscayne Boulevard has not been an accident. It is the result of intentional decisions to attract pedestrians by activating the street and giving people a reason to inhabit the sidewalk. With such a large setback and lack of a strong border along Biscayne Boulevard, the area surrounding the entrance to the park will become a dead zone. Some have contended that the setback of the museum was intentional an attempt at opening up the view of the park from Biscayne, but it is precisely a strong border that Biscayne needs. The edges of large single use districts, as famed urbanist Jane Jacobs noted, are apt to be stagnant a condition that precedes decay. By not engaging the street, the designers have ensured that pedestrians and cyclists will have trouble reaching this part of Biscayne and delight in our Central Park.