URBAN URCHIN

 

LOCATION: MIAMI, FLORIDA

COMPETITION: DAWNTOWN 2010

STATUS: DESIGN

 

The waste water pump station is a vital organ of Miami, and its role deserves recognition within our city’s consciousness. The proposal of the “Urban Urchin” transforms this centrally located building between Biscayne Bay and Downtown into an iconic sculpture serving as a gateway to the city and a living, breathing object within the landscape. As if plucked from Biscayne Bay, the self-powered and abstracted Sea Urchin is conceptually kept alive by the wind and water source within; LED lights attached to the structure cinematically glow and pulsate from captured wind power generated by the breeze, emulating the light transmittance that happens underwater. In this way, the now pluri-functional building demonstrates a sense of heightened self-awareness, addressing itself – and the city – as a city organ, science and public art.

This project also takes into account the importance of the building’s location. Nestled within – and overshadowed by – a city dominated by clean-lined, sleek condominium towers, the park begs for a contrasting tough, urban sculptural form. Hundreds of apartments, along with the arena, and the elevated causeway all look down on an strikingly distinct, undulating organic form. A coffee shop and public rest rooms are also designed within the structure. This gesture gives the building a third and more commercial dimension, which will further activate the growing Museum Park.

Construction of the sculpture/skin begins with a thick concrete shell built around the existing station. This accounts for all of the necessary openings for ventilation and access to pump equipment. The tentacles are made of hollow, stainless steel pipes embedded within the concrete skin; this low-maintenance material can survive the saltwater and wear, while also allowing for greater ventilation through the concrete wall. The lights are powered by many small wind propelled turbines, carved within the steel pipes, which harness the energy of the wind. Meanwhile, it is integrated with the surrounding sidewalk pattern by Roberto Burle Marx, and maintains its existing service entrance for trucks.

Like Chicago’s “Bean” in the park, the Urban Urchin can be a celebrated, identifiable icon of the same scale and stature.