Architecture students’ waterfront designs on display through Nov. 7

With an industrial downtown area, it sure would be nice to enjoy the fresh, tropical environment many so often take for granted in bustling Miami. Students in the University of Miami School of Architecture had that idea in mind when designing a potential new waterfront for the area from Brickell to Bayfront Park along the Miami River.

We have a history of illusive tropical urbanism,” said Jan Nijman, a professor in the Department of Geography and Regional Studies.

More than 400 students in 33 classes put their heads together to devise blueprints for new buildings, parks and monuments that make up a project known as “On the Waterfront: Miami’s Seven-Mile Promenade.” A selection of exceptional proposals will be on display in Miami-Dade College Freedom Tower at 600 Biscayne Boulevard through Nov. 7.

An opening ceremony for the display was held on Monday. Professor Don Olson of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science expressed his dream for Miami to be a city that utilizes its vast waterfront.

“The waterfront project challenged both faculty and students alike to expand our realm of influence,” Olson said.

Students spent the fall semester of 2007 using elite computer programs to design their plans for the waterfront. Each studio class of no more than 12 students was assigned a specific area. Each individual student designed a useful and environmentally-friendly addition to that area.

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the dean of the School of Architecture, discussed the unusual task of all the design studios pulling together to devote their semester to the same project.

“Its big impact is that everyone worked on it. There was a lot of brain power and over 1,000 hours went into it.  It’s that collective approach,” Plater-Zyberk said.

Imagine being able to take a taxi from Brickell to South Beach without stepping foot in a car; this is accomplished in several students’ idea of a water taxi system.

Fourth-year architecture student Alex Arevalo spent a semester in Architecture Design 305 devising his plan of a potential downtown athletic club that includes a café and a gymnasium. Arevalo said that his project focused around health and having a nearby location where co-workers and family members could interact.

“We wanted to show the city, overall, the things that could be done,” Arevalo said.

City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff stressed the importance of public access to the waterfront.

“The waterfront means something to each and every one of us,” Sarnoff said.

Plater-Zyberk said that the project’s primary objective was to raise awareness in the local population of the fact that many buildings can be improved and many dead-end streets near the shore could be utilized in a public-friendly way.

“I think the goal was the impact on the city and property owners is intended to be one of encouraging action and encouraging improvement,” Plater-Zyberk said.

The School of Architecture is planning on submitting some of the students’ architectural pieces to gain possible recognition on a higher level, according to Zyberk.