It used to be called guerrilla urbanism. Young intellectuals. Secretly building urban improvements in the middle of the night. Intending to make something great to inspire. Looking for a permanent solution. Avoiding the conventional approval process. Fast and unsanctioned. Enter a new dawn of guerrilla urbanism- funded by a private foundation and sanctioned by the local college in a course called Reimagining Cities. This is placemaking in its purest and simplest form.
In less than two months, the creators of Moonlighter, a local maker's space in Wynwood, lead ten students through a kind of design build process that resulted in Abrazzo, this beautiful grid of red fabric landscaping ties which creates the feeling of an embrace.
I was lucky enough to meet with the students several weeks before they installed the final product to talk with them about master planning and implementation. But, really, I learned much more from them about how small improvements can make a big impact. Let's look at their process.
Site Selection and Design
Students were divided into four teams and given a different site around the periphery of the Miami Dade College Wolfson campus in downtown Miami. They developed design concepts and even created models of their designs before voting on the favorite project. Students included an architect, artist, graphic designer, landscape architect, attorney, urban planner, a veterinarian and a full time student. Each one brought a different perspective to the process which was really fun to see.
The winning site is located across from the College Station Metrorail stop on NE 5th Street and NE 1st Avenue. Abrazzo, the winning design, was a merging of two designs- the red fabric ties and modular seating- shown in action above. The
The project officially opened on a Friday night with a big party and lots of excitement. There was music, lights, food, champagne and speeches. It was definitely a feel good event and a bold statement by the College to add this installation on a prominent street corner in the middle of Miami.
I was curious to see how the space would be used during the day, after the project's unveiling party. Lots of people walk around the space. Not anyone walking through it yet and stopping. I wondered why?
As I observed, the installation wraps around a cluster of royal palms in the center of the street corner. The result is a beautiful work of art which functions more as an island than an intersection.
The benches invite people to sit and rest, underneath the palms. When I sat down, it felt magical to be surrounded by the red ties. But people need a reason to sit. The space is begging to be programmed with more events like the one put on by the Reimagining Cities students with music and food and drinks. These benches even have cup holders!
How'd they Get those Red Ties So Perfect?
The trick is in the low tech wooden spacer which was mounted onto each tree. In two intersecting patterns, the red ties create a special place. And that's what placemaking is all about.
Sometimes it takes a low tech and simple design to make a beautiful space and a bold statement. Congratulations to Miami Dade College, Moonlighter and the students from Reimagining Cities. I just six short weeks that have made a lasting impact on a now bright corner of downtown Miami. Now make it even better Miami Dade College, with more programming and special events!