Mobility-Oriented Design

“The city of Miami has always been modern. Born of the railroad and fed by the airlines, it was shaped by transportation systems that linked the city to distant destinations while dividing local districts. Perhaps as a result . . . the city has long been divided into interdependent, yet spatially distinct cities.” – Gray Read, 2009

Mobility-Oriented Design (MOD): The Case of Miami Metrorail investigates the multiple facets of public transit in Miami-Dade County and its effects on the urban fabric. Broadly, this design research project seeks to understand how public transit operates within the county and why it has historically underperformed. MOD focuses on Miami Metrorail as a case study and identifies and analyzes the specific parameters that have guided transportation and development within the city’s emergent transit corridor along U.S. Highway 1.

This research project synthesizes multiple perspectives and analytical frameworks to present the historical and contemporary factors that contribute to Miami Metrorail’s low ridership and poor accessibility. It pays particular attention to the influence of public opinion, the day-to-day experience of riders, and the relationship between the transit system and its surrounding urban context. A close analysis of these factors and an investigation of correlated prospects and issue areas informs several design scenarios that are intended to visualize and project future options and investment alternatives. Ultimately, this project proposes a menu of recommendations at a variety of scales that are meant to inform decision-making around reinvigorating Metrorail’s existing infrastructure, facilitating ridership, promoting higher-density living, and improving the rail’s integration into the urban fabric.

Project Team: Mohsen Mostafavi (PI), Charles Waldheim (co-PI), Jesse Keenan (co-PI), Jessy Yang, Aziz Barbar, Daniel Quesada Lombó, Charlie Gaillard, Mercedes Peralta, Tommy Hill, Sofia Xanthakou, and Fletcher Phillips.

Partners: Michael Rock / 2 × 4, and Eric Rodenbeck / Stamen.

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South Florida and Sea Level

“We do not have time to deny the effects of climate change… Nowhere is it going to have a bigger impact than here in South Florida.” – Barack Obama, 2015

The Harvard Graduate School of Design and the City of Miami Beach are partnering on a multiyear study of the impacts of and potential responses to sea level rise for coastal communities in South Florida. This research project will examine the implications of rising sea levels and increased storm events on the economy, ecology, infrastructure, and identity of Miami Beach in relation to its metropolitan and regional contexts. The study will develop planning strategies to anticipate future potentials, and to mitigate present threats. As Miami’s coastal barrier islands form one of the most recognizable and singularly valuable cultural landscapes in the world, the study of Miami Beach reveals the potentials for ecological and infrastructural strategies as alternatives to large single purpose engineering solutions.

The emergent topic of urban adaptation to the effects of climate change is among the more pressing areas of research for those engaged in the built environment. While it was not entirely clear how the mitigation of climate change implicated the disciplines of architecture, urban design, or planning, the more recent focus on adaptation to ongoing effects of anthropogenic climate change puts those fields at the center of the conversation. Over the past several years the North American discourse on the subject has sensibly focused on the significant case studies of New Orleans post Katrina and New York post Sandy. Both of these cases have engendered a range of public discourse, planning proposals, and design strategies for living with the ongoing reality of increased storm events, rising sea levels, and a host of secondary and tertiary effects associated with the new reality. In each of these cases the design disciplines have been central to the projection of alternative futures for these vulnerable major metropolitan centers. While these cases have provided unique contexts for the advancement of disciplinary knowledge, professional practices, and societal engagement with the subject of urban adaptation to sea level rise, they have reinforced a tendency toward the defense of relatively densely concentrated urban agglomerations through the deployment of large hydrological engineering systems. By contrast, much of the North American coastline, and its associated urbanization resist such approaches by the realities of their geography, hydrology, and patterns of urbanization. Among the more extreme cases in this regard is the present status and uncertain future of South Florida’s coastal communities.

Using the vehicle of Miami Beach as a case in point, the Harvard Graduate School of Design and its partners will examine the implications of sea level rise and increased storm events on the sprawling urbanism of metropolitan Miami and its numerous municipalities and communities. The low-lying coastal conditions and singular cultural heritage of Miami Beach resist the types of massive civil engineering projects that have recently been proposed for London, Venice, or other major international examples. Given the reliance of South Florida’s economy and identity upon the specific landscape conditions of Miami Beach, this research project proposes to use the frameworks of green infrastructure, landscape ecology, and cultural heritage as potential responses to looming threats associated with sea level rise.

Project Team: Charles Waldheim (PI), Aziz Barbar, Matthew Coogan, Rosetta Elkin, Francesca Romana Forlini, Mariano Gomez-Luque, Helen Kongsgaard, Christian Lavista, Chris Merritt, Javier Ors-Austin, Richard Peiser, Maggie Tsang, Lindsay Woodson, and Jessy Yang.

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