The OMA plan places the requisite new hotel (rising gradually to a peak of 194 feet, plus a stepped-back penthouse) at the north end of the center and puts parking at the south end under what is envisioned as a hillside park of landscape over structure. The recalibrated convention center is set back from Washington Avenue to create opportunities for pedestrians to stroll along the new wider sidewalk or inside, in a new concourse. The eastern entrance lines up in exact axis with 18th Street, and the front entrance of the convention center lines up with Pennsylvania, on direct line with Lincoln Road.
Koolhaas points out that this plan introduces a new geometry, one that is not merely rectilinear but is “more organic,” with curves in an attempt to reduce the footprint and the impact of “this fundamentally alien object.”
By contrast, Ingels seeks to achieve the kind of urban rhythm that he so admiringly observes elsewhere in Miami Beach. “The main agenda,” says Ingels, “is that Miami Beach has these great walkable streets and there is a canopy of trees everywhere —as well as the Art Deco architecture. We are designing a neighborhood.”
Key to his plan is a public square that connects at a diagonal from the New World Symphony building to the project’s new freestanding ballroom. A second building (currently being thought of as a Latin American Cultural Center) would sit between the Gleason and City Hall, framing another side of the square. Two of the buildings lean out over the square (in not so much a cantilever as tilted glass walls) — providing shade outside and usable square footage within. Pedestrians would filter into the site along various walkways, along what Ingels calls “paths of green and ecological edges.”
BIG’s design wraps the Washington Avenue side of the convention center with apartments and attaches the hotel (which only rises to 124 feet) at the south end of the building. The design recalls the “eyebrows” he so likes in Art Deco buildings, but in a clearly contemporary idiom.
For him, the challenge was to design buildings that “undo the hermetic box” and frame a public realm. “To me,” says Ingels, “one very important task was creating an urban space that will feel lively even when it is not full.”
The decision on this billion-plus dollar project will ultimately rest on such factors as money, operations, construction and timing — all of which are critical to the hospitality industry, the primary driver of this billion-dollar-plus venture. But in the end, the rest of us are left with the architecture and the way in which the design reshapes a critical 52 acres in the middle of Miami Beach; it’s what we’ll look at and live with.
And there are plenty of considerations:
Both loading plans offer a recipe for disaster. Those big trailers and containers that arrive with everything from boats to art to home goods are, well, really big, and both plans bring them into the convention center only at the north end, across from a residential neighborhood (plus the golf course) and Miami Beach High. If we are really getting a landscaped open space (with shade trees, one hopes), then neither project would accommodate the outdoor boat part of the annual Miami Beach Boat Show—unless all the beautiful shade trees on the drawings are going to be set apart enough to allow for the display of yachts (not dinghies).