Museum Park is a testament to the City of Miami’s determination and vision in the revitalization of its waterfront. Approximately twenty acres in size, the park sits at the terminus of Government Cut, the City’s waterway axis from the Atlantic Ocean, and provides one of the few “public” opportunities to experience the waterfront in Miami. In 2002, the City elected to incorporate two world-class museums into the park site to help activate the space and create a new cultural center for the city. Today, the Park has become a popular destination for residents in the booming urban district surrounding the park space, tourists, and museum visitors from all over the world.
The original Master Plan concept, conceived in 2006 by Cooper Robertson & Partners, (Savino Miller Design Studio was the local landscape architect) was priced at $45 million. In 2010, the recession forced the city to temporarily abandon the project. In 2011, as the recession started to ease, the city hired Savino & Miller Design Studio to initiate Phase I as a first step towards realizing the original park’s design intent, with an initial budget of $10 Million.
There were many challenges. The museums, and residential towers across the street had already begun construction adjacent to the unsightly abandoned and contaminated site. The open space priorities in Phase 1 were determined through collaboration with the City, Museum design team, residents and Savino & Miller Design Studio’s design team.
One of the main priorities was linking the Museums to the City. The Entry Promenade was designed to become a major pedestrian entry and vehicular drop-off for the museums, and “front terrace” between the raised museums, their plazas and the park. A grove of native Royal Palms marches over sculptured hills and walls connecting Biscayne Boulevard to Biscayne Bay. “Garden Rooms” line the promenade, transitioning from coastal hammock, to tropical hammock, to butterfly garden habitat. At the end of the promenade, a vehicular drop off at the Perez Art Museum features a stainless steel sculpture by Jedd Novatt. This space creates the upper Museum Plaza overlooking the bay, cascading down with a grand staircase and grass slope to the Bay Plaza. These plazas create a unique view towards Government Cut and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Baywalk, a pedestrian connection from the City to the Museums was defined along the site’s waterfront, providing a unique opportunity to engage citizens in a continuous waterfront experience from Miami’s Bayfront Park, the Miami Arena, new museums, and the rapidly growing downtown residential neighborhoods surrounding the property.
The Baywalk is anchored at the south end by a Biscayne Boulevard plaza, featuring a large bronze sculpture by the Cuban artist Cundo Bermudez, crushed granite walkways and shell stone benches under native Wild Tamarind trees.
A large lawn lies in the middle of the Park that, for now, allows for special events and other programs. The lawn is crossed by two sweeping walkways that connect the museums to the park and Baywalk, while providing space for picnics, walking dogs, or playing “pick-up” games. These open spaces are surrounded by large trees, strategically placed them to increase shade along the walkways.
Sustainable practices guided the selection of all park materials. Many of the site’s existing trees and palms were transplanted or preserved. The planting palette consisted almost entirely of salt and drought tolerant native plants. Custom designed Dominican shellstone benches and other wood benches provide seating throughout the Park. Locally manufactured concrete pavers were selected for the plaza and walkways. Custom-designed LED lighting was designed to provide a sense of security while strolling the Baywalk, highlight various outdoor sculptures, and create a beautiful nighttime entry into the Park.
Museum Park is unique because it demonstrates the power of a good idea in overcoming powerful, often antagonistic interests to eventually create a great public space for the City. The credit goes to the foresight of many citizen activists, Museum supporters, and surrounding stakeholders who fought for decades to preserve this open space as a waterfront park. With limited resources at hand during the recession, the City’s decision to move forward with the park is already reaping social, economic and ecological benefits that are transforming the City. It has succeeded in creating a place that accommodates a new, vibrant cultural and educational hub, linking Miami’s downtown back to its waterfront, and has become a place for families and citizens to connect, gather and play. Soon, Savino and Miller Design Studio’s vision for Phase 1 will become a reality when the Museum of Science is completed. As the City continues to incorporate elements of the original Master Plan, it is only a matter of time before the park evolves and blossoms into its full potential.
Entrant office name: Savino & Miller Design Studio
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect
Other design firms involved: Cooper Robertson & Partners, Coastal Systems International, Kenneth DiDonato Inc, Kugler Ning Lighting Design
Project location: Miami, FL
Design year: 2010-2013
Year Built: 2014