The Daniel Buren-designed pedestrian bridge over 5th Street at the entrance to Miami Beach cleared a major hurdle with approval by the Design Review Board. As part of their agreement with the City, developers Russell Galbut and David Martin will construct the bridge that will ultimately connect their future residential tower and City park on the 500 and 600 blocks of Alton Road with the baywalk to the south.
Architect Ray Fort and Galbut told the DRB the design was dependent on the requirements dictated by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the location of utilities. Fort said Buren, whose art has been presented indoors and out at institutions such as the Guggenheim, Louis Vuitton Foundation and the Neues Museum, has experience “working with existing conditions.” Fort said Buren met the challenges and parameters set for the bridge in his colorful glass design.
Galbut said the design will be “a symbol of what we stand for as a community in our arts world.”
The tube design includes a series of colored glass panels that during the daytime will create colorful shadows at varying angles as the sun moves and shines in. At night, the bridge will be illuminated from the inside, “so that it glows at nighttime,” Fort said.
He noted the different visual perspectives from drivers on both sides as well as pedestrians from the inside. “It really is a piece that is experienced from all angles,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful piece and quite a coup to get an artist as important as Daniel Buren,” DRB member Sam Sheldon said. “It’s critical that Miami Beach be at the forefront of the global art scene in selecting a piece like this.”
City Planning Staff member James Murphy noted the design has received “universal acclaim across our policy makers.”
Not all DRB members loved it. Annabel Delgado said, “I like the project but I miss your 'wave,'” she said referring to a previous concept. “I miss the three dimensionality of the thing you presented last time” citing the “rigidity of the tunnel.”
“I wish there was some movement to the circumference, something that would soften the overall tunnel effect of it,” Delgado said.
“I do to,” Galbut said. “I thought that was an incredibly beautiful plan but we had several commissioners who did not like it so we came to the compromise we came to.”
Murphy noted the earlier concept was a concept only and when it was applied to all of the requirements of “function and safety and protection, it would look dramatically different… the artist took inspiration from an FDOT spec. This is what could be approved.” He cited the “cage” requirements to prevent things from being thrown from the bridge and said Buren “came up with this really very attractive solution.” To meet those requirements, the bridge is solid up to the ten feet mark and then every other panel above that will be open.
Member Marsh Kriplen applauded the choice of designers and said he understood the constraints on the project, however, he lamented “the loss of the dynamicism with the ‘whale bones’ if you will… While I think the colors are wonderful, I am a little bit concerned about the static nature of the tube. I want this to be super good. I think we’re close. I’m not convinced that we’re there yet.”
The dynamic aspect, Fort said, is created by the sun. “The light is going to be passing through these panels at every point of the day… the dynamic aspect is a little more slower moving on the scale of the day.”
“I like to think of this as a work that is dynamic using light instead of form,” he said.
Kriplen asked Fort and Galbut to work with Buren to “explore different grids that would imply more movement” with the glass.
Galbut said he was willing to do that but was unsure if that would work based on the structural constraints and timing.
With regard to keeping the bridge clean, Galbut said that responsibility will lie with the City as it will be their bridge but, he noted, the developers are working with the City to come up with guidelines including a schedule for maintenance. “As one of the adjacent property owners, we’re going to make sure the bridge is clean at all times,” he said.
The bridge is being paid for with $10 million from the recently approved General Obligation Bond offering.
The design was approved by the Board with the conditions that the developers explore “some additional dynamicism with the grid layout of the bridge” and the size and type of the welcome sign lettering.
The developers and the City are still working through a couple of elements of the development agreement. Once signed, Assistant City Manager Eric Carpenter said there is an outside of date of approximately 1.5 years for the bridge completion.
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