The Perez Art Museum Miami, Sculpture Park and restored plant communities, establish a cutting-edge example of adaptive and resilient design that addresses the global threat of sea level rise. Located at the edge of the Atlantic, the Museum blurs the line between architecture and landscape, redefining the “mission” of parks and museums. Extraordinary synergy is achieved between light, shade, air, water, vegetation and structure, advancing the practice of designing for an uncertain future.
Elevating the Museum 10 feet above storm surge requirements allowed parking below the Museum in an unprecedented design that integrates parking, planting beds, irrigation and storm surge storage. The innovative porous-floored garage, paths and rain gardens capture water, funneling it into the ground, reducing local flooding and runoff into Biscayne Bay, significantly reducing infrastructure expenditures.
An extensive, primarily-native subtropical plant palette is designed to adjust to exceptionally harsh conditions and extend the native habitat along the Bay.
The Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) rests on a fragile line between the Atlantic Ocean and the densely urban Global City of Miami, Florida, frequently referred to as “ground zero” for sea level rise. Open since 2013, the 200,000-square-foot museum sits only 75 feet from Biscayne Bay, housing an acclaimed collection of art of the Americas. Wide decks and tall trellised shade structures extend far past the edges of the building, increasing the Museum’s exterior display and gathering areas.
The site has transitioned from a watery mangrove and turtle grass wilderness in the late 1800s, to a dredged deep water port, to a succession of failed waterfront parks over landfill. PAMM lies closest to the water in an 8.5 acre two-museum complex within the newly re-imagined Museum Park. PAMM’s landscape is approximately 4.5 acres, including garage, deck and surrounding plantings.
Across the Bay to the East, within distant view of the Museum, lies a unique community of renegade houses on stilts over submerged sandbars.To the West, the Everglades wilderness offers remarkable insights into the various microcosms that thrive or decline based on shifts in water elevation measured in mere inches. This rich, wild and unpredictable setting provides inspiration for both architecture and landscape at PAMM, offering exceptional examples of adaptive and resilient design to address the global threat of sea level rise.
The project scope involved designing the horizontal landscape, and assisting on the design of 80 planted, hanging columns. The goal was to provide a beautiful and serene location along the waterfront to explore art, both natural and manmade. PAMM treads lightly on the environment by providing myriad environmental services, and limiting overuse of precious resources.
This project takes a complex approach to water, vehicular and ecosystem management, and is a true example of multidisciplinary team-driven sustainable design, in both vision and implementation.Water management became the key feature that informed almost every other decision, whether from rain, sea or condensate. Air conditioning and irrigation is provided by the building itself through high trellised structures that shade the decks, and funnel sea breezes and water to make the subtropical exterior setting comfortable for people and plants.
Because of its direct proximity to Biscayne Bay, the Art Museum was built on stilts 10 feet above minimum flood and hurricane storm surge requirements, allowing the parking garage to be placed below the museum. This arrangement facilitated an unprecedented design that integrates parking and planting beds with irrigation system water and temporary storm surge storage, stormwater infiltration, and aquifer recharge. The innovative porous-floored parking garage, gravel paths and native plant rain gardens are designed to capture and funnel rain water into the ground. This reduces local flooding and storm water runoff into the Bay, and limited expenditures on stormwater infrastructure.
Collaborative efforts by the design and construction teams, and careful attention to detail allow the multitude of sustainable layers to work in concert. The project recently earned LEED Gold Certification, with the landscape contributing significantly to that designation.
While PAMM’s building has been designed by the client to express the raw material of concrete, native plants have been chosen to display the raw materials of our landscape as complement and contrast to the geometric architecture. South Florida’s lush subtropical trees, shrubs, groundcovers and vines spring from the horizontal ground plane in vibrant counterpoint to the more formal, artist-designed hanging planted columns. Landscape materiality is deconstructed to exhibit Earth’s most basic forms, including gravel in paths and parking garage.
The stabilized gravel parking garage was designed with two functions in mind. From the moment of entry, the sound and texture of gravel signifies that a rich sequence of experiences is yet to come. The surface is also functionally designed to slow and filter stormwater flow, encouraging infiltration and recharge, and maintaining the ability to quickly recover after storm events, a unique approach requiring special approval from the city. Precast concrete bands define parking spaces, and accessible concrete parking pads are provided near the elevator.
Stabilized gravel paths throughout the native plantings provide accessible connections between the two museums, the adjacent park, and Miami’s waterfront promenade. The simple palette of materials (concrete, gravel and a profusion of plants) is designed to offer seamless transitions between spaces, with messy edges that blur and meld over time. This flexible design approach is valuable to the client because it allows easy rotation of exterior displays and anticipates periodic inundation, enabling quick recovery from disturbance.
The originally-limited landscape concept of formal hanging gardens was expanded to include the use of water-wise, animal-friendly native plant material, in conjunction with systems that capture rain water and A/C condensate for irrigation. Large irrigation cisterns are concealed within the planted berms that surround the parking garage. Ten large trees were preserved, and now serve as focal points and anchors in the Sculpture Garden. New plant material has been chosen based on ability to survive full sun or full shade, and the harsh climate of South Florida, which can alternately provide saltwater, heavy salt wind, drought and excessive rain.
The Museum’s planted exterior deck and surrounding landscape serve as a canvas for permanent and rotating art displays. A naturalistic planting style is used throughout the ground level and museum deck level planters. The plant material progresses from South Florida subtropical natives mimicking endemic habitats outside the building, to a mix of tropical plants adjacent to the building, and finally a more constructed, pan-tropical and exotic palette within the garage and museum deck planters.
The choreographed landscape sequence begins on Museum Drive, which leads to the underground parking garage, and a surprising display of plants in unexpected locations. The sequence continues above ground with the spectacle of 80 hanging, planted columns, the lushly-planted deck, and the evolving discoveries within the sculpture garden.
Complex composite shadow studies were conducted to determine optimal planting zones based on a North-South orientation of the overhead trellis, in contrast to an East-West orientation.Variables studied included: time of day, calendar date, type of plants, soil depth availability and view corridors from upper gallery windows.
The underground landscape offers an astonishing environment that capitalizes on the air and sunlight streaming through stairwells and deck perforations, and water cascading down rain chains or dripping through decking. Trees planted at garage level rise through the decking, placing museum level visitors within the tree canopies.
The extensive plant palette takes advantage of the South Florida ecotone, an area of overlap between the temperate biome of the southern United States, and the tropical biome of the Caribbean, permitting an extraordinary selection of appropriate plant material. 64,033 plants are strategically placed to frame views, stabilize slopes and absorb excess water. Additionally, the landscape is arranged by habitat for resiliency and biodiversity, rather than botanical display. Hardy, salt-tolerant Coconut palms form the first line of defense along the Bay. Lowland hammocks with Fakahatchee Grass and Bald Cypress form rain gardens tolerant of extended inundation. Sand dunes with Beach Morning Glory and grasses transition to upland tropical hardwood hammock farther from the Bay. The elevated Metromover offers a bird’s-eye view of various habitats as it traverses the edge of the site.
The landscape and the building have been designed to be flexible, based on the concept of porosity to air, light, water, and ecological function. This flexibility by design permits the migration of water, plants, paths, and animals. This project demonstrates that habitat reclamation and the cultivation of wilderness is possible, even in an urban setting. Indeed, the cultivation of wilderness will be a critical tool for landscape architects in the coming decades, as we design for resiliency in the face of an uncertain future.
Principal-in-Charge: Laurinda Spear, ASLA, FAIA, RLA, LEED AP, IIDA
Project Director: Margarita Blanco, ASLA, LEED AP
Project Manager: Jeremy Calleros-Gauger, AIA, LEED AP
Liliana Andrade, LEED AP
Rudolf Uhlemann, RLA
Valley Crest Companies
Patrick Blanc, Vertical Gardens by Patrick Blanc
Pierre de Meuron
Christine Binswanger (Partner in Charge)
Nutrient poor native soils were deliberately retained to ensure only native plants would grow well. 50-50 blend was only used on LV01 (deck) Planters. Mulch is locally sourced shredded Maleluca (an invasive species).
Some concrete is in-situ. Pre-cast concrete elements are from Gate Concrete. Limerock base course is from Cemex in west Miami-Dade. Gravelpave 2 system from Invisible Structures underlies all gravel paths and driving surfaces. Gravel topping is from Alabama.
By others, though area lighting and sculpture lighting is from pole mounted BEGA fixtures.
Chain link only for safety along Metromover and interstate highway boundary. Unknown sources.
LV01 Wood deck is FSC Greenheart coated with Anchorseal.
In Situ cast concrete by Valleycrest
Fiberglass pipe and stainless steel bracing fabrication by JTI Companies for hanging tubes. Expanded PVC base by ACME Plastics Miami. Felt fabric from Huck Occitania.
ACME Plastics Miami