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June 4, 2015
By Greg Beach
Often called the Capital of Latin America, Miami has been identified as the richest city in the United States, the fifth richest globally by purchasing power, yet it lacks key characteristics of a true world city, such as comprehensive public transit and dense development that may attract powerful tech companies. To fill this gap, SHoP Architects and West 8, in partnership with developer Michael Simkins, have proposed the construction of a four-block “Innovation District,” which incorporates urban density and modern amenities into its design. In the midst of Miami’s current construction boom, the developers hope that the Innovation District will foster the growth of creative technology industries in Miami.
According to SHoP, “the district is conceived as an urban campus, an integrated complex of mutually-supportive programs including public amenities, targeted retail opportunities, indoor and outdoor spaces for community and campus gathering, performance and exhibition zones, offices, and a variety of housing.” The new housing stock will include micro-units, “living spaces of 300 square feet or less that are designed specifically to meet the needs of young, creative urbanites who may currently be priced out of the competitive Miami market.” However, if the outcome of similar micro-units in Boston’s Innovation District informs those planned for Miami, smaller may not necessarily mean affordable.
The District’s design is vertically oriented with several distinct levels for specific uses, including the Commons level for public access and building entrances and the Horizon level, which includes green-roof spaces for outdoor events. Central in the planned development, the 630-foot Miami Innovation Tower will host standard office space, restaurants and observation decks. However, its most noteworthy feature is its“fully-integrated active skin,” an innovation promoted as the first in the world. According to SHoP, “unlike traditional billboard signage, the mesh-like messaging technologies are in fact integrated completely into the complex, pleated form of the tower’s exterior. The result is an ethereal, highly-transparent surface, open to the slender concrete tower core and views of the city and the sky beyond.”
Despite its innovative design, the tower has faced resistance from local activists and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who claimed to be “blindsided” by the Innovation Tower’s design and purpose. SHoP co-founder Bill Sharples say that there has been a misunderstanding of intent. “There was no way this office would have done a billboard,” says Sharples. “There’s just no way. That’s not what this office is about.”
Images via SHoP