Last fall, I met with Denis Hector, Meg Daly, Maria Nardi, Ray Fort and Parker Thomson. They are, respectively, interim dean, visionary activist, Miami-Dade County Parks & Recreation chief of planning and research, activist and designer at Arquitectonica and attorney.
Daly had the idea that land underneath the Metrorail should be transformed into a linear park connecting Brickell Station to Dadeland South. Her inspiration and enthusiasm got us all thinking that this should be done, and I was eager to be involved. We dedicated a collaborative studio at the University of Miami’s School of Architecture, which Ray Fort and I teach, to create a vision of what could happen with this 10-mile long space.
Collaboration and advocacy are essential for a project of this size to “get legs.” Launched with a series of presentations by public agencies, the design studio reviewed the challenges and opportunities the that M-Path/GreenLink project offers. The public agency presentations underscored how much has been done and how the studio is not starting from scratch but building on the efforts of others.
The agency’s research and analytics are a point of departure that assisted in framing the design questions the students generated. The 16-week studio, now in progress, will test the skills and ideas of 10 upper-division students whose goals are to generate programs and projects that get the public excited about the possibilities of the M-Path/GreenLink vision.
One of the challenges is its physical and conceptual dimension. At approximately 100 feet wide wide and 10 miles long, it is eight times the length of the High Line in New York. In contrast to Miami’s waterfront, which is essentially an interrupted and discontinuous entity, the M-Path constitutes an un-interrupted public space embedded in the fabric of the city, accessible and open to everyone.
Given our love affair with the automobile, the M-Path/GreenLink offers a healthy alternative. On the path, one can choose other modes of transportation that connect the traveler to a varied landscape of residential, commercial and cultural uses and, most important, the outdoors.
The true value of this project to the residents of greater Miami is tremendous, but for it to become a reality its value must be understood. This is where the School of Architecture comes in. As an academic institution that helps communities consider alternatives, it is our job to test ideas and consider the possibilities in a way only designers can — through drawing and design.
With an eye toward regulation and conflicting agendas, design students have the freedom to put their ideas and the needs of the public first, a luxury not always possible in the private sector. This design studio is only a beginning and will require ongoing input and advocacy to evolve, gain momentum and, with work, someday become reality — a destination. We hope to provide a vision or perspective that inspires people to see the potential to get out of their cars more often, or alternatively, abandon them altogether. With everyone’s help, we are optimistic that the M-Path/GreenLink will be another great public space, connecting people with the outdoors — and each other. Follow the studio’s progress at www.thegreenlink.org.
Rocco Ceo is a professor at the University of Miami’s School of Architecture.