ArquitectonicaGEO: Pérez Art Museum

This summer, the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects recognized ArquitectonicaGEO ‘s work on Pérez Art Museum Miami, with an Award of Excellence and the prestigious Frederic B. Stresau Award, granted annually to one project in recognition of innovation and design excellence. A+A recently interviewed Arquitectonica’s co-founder, Laurinda Spear, about the project:

How was the master plan for landscape and museum integrated?

Where the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)  building itself was designed by Herzog & de Meuron, our landscape is designed to complement and contrast the geometric architecture of the building. Native trees, shrubs, groundcovers and vines spring from the ground plane in vibrant counterpoint to more formal, hanging, vertical gardens designed by Patrick Blanc. In addition to the lush pan-tropical vegetation of South Florida, hardscape is achieved using gravel in paths, the parking garage, and in the urban concrete environment.

How did the site drive the design?

Because of direct proximity to Biscayne Bay, the Art Museum was elevated 10 feet above the 100-year flood level to minimize storm surge concerns from Biscayne Bay, allowing the parking garage to be located below the museum. This facilitated an unprecedented design that integrates parking and planting beds with rain cisterns concealed in berms for irrigation use, as well as stormwater infiltration, temporary storm surge storage and aquifer recharge. The gravel-floored parking garage, along with rain gardens, and gravel paths, has been designed to capture rain water and funnel it into the ground water system, reducing local flooding and storm water runoff into the Bay. This saved significant project funds from being spent on injection wells.

What were the challenges presented by the site?

The Art Museum is part of a new park complex that also contains the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, now under construction, as well as a reactivated Metro station, a parking garage, and an entrance drive and drop-off that can serve as many as 5 school buses at one time. The site is relatively small, at approximately 8.5 acres overall, and both museums have public fronts on all sides. ArquitectonicaGEO has been retained to do the landscape for both Museums, which allows an integrated approach to the entire site. Water is a critical topic in South Florida, and our site and landscape design addresses water from all angles: rain on roofs and pavement, storm surge from the Bay, utility equipment condensation, and irrigation needs of plants. When the Science Museum is complete, an even tighter relationship between the buildings and landscape will be achieved.

How did you take advantage of views of Biscayne Bay?

The landscape frames and enhances the views of the Bay. As it matures, it will provide a sense of exploration as one moves between intimate spaces with narrow views, and expansive spaces that open to broad views of the Bay.

What was the intent of the landscape design?

While the design includes many technical and sustainable innovations that are mostly invisible to the public, the primary goal was to create a beautiful and serene location along the waterfront to explore art, both natural and manmade.

The inspiration?

The landscape design and materials were inspired by the native local landscape. The coastal hammock plants of forested uplands and grassy lowlands of the Everglades, as well as the dune grasses and vines of the Bay, inspired the design.

What planting materials were used?

Our semi-tropical climate supports a vast array of plants. Because the material ranges from large areas of native plants away from the building, to carefully-selected exotic material in the museum planters and hanging garden, it is an extensive list. Included in the plant pallet are the Bald Cypress trees and Fakahatchee grass of the Everglades that anchor our rain gardens. Wet or dry, the rain gardens look and act like Florida’s natural habitat, providing critically necessary support for the wildlife of South Florida and Biscayne Bay.

What is the user experience there?

The landscape sequence begins on Museum Drive, alongside the new Science and Art Museums, continues in the underground parking garage with a surprising display of plant material in unexpected locations, and reemerges above ground with the spectacle of hanging vegetation. The sculpture garden allows one to discover permanent and rotating art exhibits within both the natural and formal areas of the landscape. Even riders on the elevated Metrorail line along the northern boundary can enjoy views of the museum, landscape and bay.

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