Miami rise + sink design for urban adaptation

DATE:  Spring 2016

SCHOOL: Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Office of Urbanization; Cambridge, Massachusetts

PROFESSOR:  Rosetta S. Elkin (principal RSE Landscape)

PROJECT LOCATION: South Beach Miami, Florida

PROGRAM:  landscape and urban water system


As sea-levels rise and the threat of flooding looms within South Beach Miami, new regulations and codes are responding through recommendations to elevate the city. The proposed flood level floor and raised roadway are an adaptation of elevation–a deliberate re-articulation of the ground-plane that creates a new urban threshold. By reworking these modifications, water can be absorbed, moved, or retained, as opposed to shed, concealed, or pumped. Using the section in particular, the fluctuation of boundaries reveals an exploration of levels as civic context. 

This project explores the potential manifestations for these new elevations through the study of three sites identified along the transect of 4th and 5th avenue. The typologies negotiate the parameters and accommodate the existing urban conditions to allow for the preservation of a dynamic/ heterogeneous city and the resilience in the face of rising sea levels through the exploration of the urban section. 

The current urban section detailing the effects of new regulations: elevated streets and the new required flood level.

Transect 1: Proposed Urban Section

The first transect, a mixed use building along 5th Avenue uses the adaptation of elevation as a public space and the proposed first tram stop off the causeway. The ground plane is raised to 5 feet to smoothly transition with the newly elevated roads. The New Flood Floor Level here is proposed at 20 feet, as opposed to the recommended 14 feet, to account for sea level rise within a timeline of 10 years and to translate openness within this space. Systems of absorption, flow, and retention are integrated.

Transect 2: Proposed Urban Section

The second transect is a low rise multi-unit residential building. Here the urban section mitigates elevation change to the 9-foot highest observed water level and a traditional 14-foot floor level. Here the flood level is used for private use as an area for water retention and slow release.

Transect 3: Proposed Urban Section

The third transect is the proposed end stop of the tram line. A medium rise condominium building similar to a socle typology (a heavy closed parking structure at the bottom and the units above). Here the adaptation to the elevation slices away parts of the first floor to infuse porosity within the building. Allowing for viewport corridors and a connection to the last tram stop and beginning of Lummus Park. Here the elevation mitigates to the 3-foot base sea level but allows for fluctuation and addition overtime with a 25-foot flood floor level.