Miami architecture finally addresses “visible and tangible impacts of sea-level rise”

Architects and developers working in Miami are late in reacting to climate change and are increasingly concerned about how rising sea levels are affecting the city.

Rodman Primack, chief creative officer of Design Miami, told Dezeen that climate change is “actually happening” in Miami, while Vanity Fair architecture critic Paul Goldberger said rising sea levels are affecting the city of Florida “more than any other place in Florida UNITED STATES”.

The comments came out of concern that Miami Beach’s historic Art Deco district might be lost to the sea, and a group of conservation experts agreed earlier this year that “things don’t look good”.

In March, a historic waterfront mansion was raised and moved to a higher level to protect it from flooding, while the New York Times reported last month that property buyers were suddenly prioritizing flood control over ocean views, and “a potential economic time bomb in.” a country threatened “industry struggling to adapt”.

The comments came out of concerns that Miami Beach’s historic Art Deco district might be lost to the ocean

Meanwhile, the discovery of an octopus in a flooded underground car park went viral last week. The local Miami Herald newspaper described the incident as a “canary of climate change in the coal mine”.

“A lot of people have tried to hide their heads in the sand, and that sand is actually eroding,” Primack told Dezeen, pointing to the fact that sand on Miami Beach needs to be replenished regularly as the ocean keeps washing it away.

“We are beginning to see that this attitude is unsustainable. Miami is not looking at the rise of the ocean in theory; it is actually happening.”

“Our neighborhoods are flooding,” he added. “We have real, visible and tangible effects of sea level rise now, and I think we are finally hearing architects and developers thinking about how they will evolve for a much longer horizon.”

Not enough new buildings have flood protection

The past decade has seen a rapid construction boom on both the Miami Beach sandbar and along the lagoon in front of downtown Miami.

Much of this area is only a meter or less above sea level, and flooding is an increasingly regular fact in life. However, many buildings have few defenses.

Now there are signs that developers and architects are finally taking climate change seriously and making their buildings resistant to rising waters.

Jean Nouvel's monad terraceJean Nouvel’s Monad Terrace is the first building to be built according to the city’s new building codes

Last week, French architect Jean Nouvel unveiled the Monad Terrace, a waterfront apartment block that was the first to be built according to the city’s new building codes and needs to build new projects above the ground.

“It’s our first project in Miami, in South Miami Beach on the lagoon, and of course we had questions about the water level and flooding,” said Nouvel in an interview with Goldberger at the Design Miami trade fair.

“The city decided to put buildings six or seven feet above the actual ground and we were the first building to follow this new policy,” he said. “But we made the decision to add six feet more. So we also placed the parking lot above the ground. So if there is a flood, like you did once in a century, the water will get into the parking lot. ” “”

One of the few other buildings that took the flood seriously is the Pérez Art Museum Miami on the Water by Herzog & de Meuron. The museum, which opened in 2013, was built on stilts at a height of three meters so that a storm surge can pass underneath. At the time, the architects said they were hoping the building, which also features spacious, shaded outdoor areas and lush planting, could function as the new “slang for Miami”.

However, according to Primack, the intelligence of this approach has been lost in most people.

“Perez was looking forward to it in a really clever way. The parking lot below and the building floated over the sea,” he said. “But I don’t think that was a big topic of conversation about the building, and it should be.”

Change should come from the government, say architects and developers

Elsewhere, increasing the floor level is becoming the new norm in Miami. Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld is transforming the legendary Miami Beach Hotel The Shore Club into a luxury complex called Fasano Hotel + Residences, with a pool and gardens built six or seven feet above the beach.

However, there is also a sense of resignation that not much can be done to resist the rising ocean.

Alan Faena, the Argentine developer behind the new leisure and cultural district that bears his name, said climate change was “a problem” but said, “We’re trying to do our best, but that should come from the government and the NPGs . “

OMA recently completed three buildings for developer Alan Faena in Miami Beach. Photo by Bruce Damonte

Faena praised Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine for pledging to spend $ 400 million on climate change mitigation, mainly by raising streets and sidewalks and installing pumps to drain flood-prone streets.

“The mayor is doing a great job,” said Faena. “He’s introducing pumping everywhere, but it has to come from the government level.”

Rem Koolhaas, whose architecture firm OMA has just completed three buildings for Faena, agreed that there are still no viable mechanisms to combat climate change.

“In the last century there was a government that organized the construction of dams and highways and that would probably have noticed that part of the territory was in danger,” he told Mehr. “

OMA completes three buildings for the Miami Beach Cultural District

Koolhaas admitted that the topic was one of the few topics he couldn’t address. “It was really exciting for me to finally stop doing so much about sustainability as actually not being able to speculate about some of the likely and some of the already visible effects.”

Change of settings required quickly

Rodman Primack said that until recently, people were afraid to even discuss the subject.

“I think it’s scared to actually acknowledge it,” he said. “But we’ve got to a place where that can’t happen anymore, where we can’t say it’s some strange anomaly. It’s happening. You can see in the city of Miami, towards the bay, they raised that Streets four feet because they all flooded. “

Primack said real estate developers need to change attitudes and find ways to make flood preparedness a selling point.

“Unfortunately, so much of everything finds a marketing aspect that people get excited about, so developers need to find a way to do it and make it a cool thing.”

Ultimately, Miami will have to pioneer an issue that will affect more and more cities around the world, he added.

“We have to adjust to it and think about it intelligently,” he said, saying Miami should become a role model for other cities. “Let’s build the city of the future by the sea. Most of the world’s big cities are on the water.”

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