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Biscayne National Park
Miami, FL

Florida International University
College of Architecture + the Arts

Team Leader
Roberto Rovira, RLA, Chair and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture

Faculty Collaborators
John Stuart, Chair and Professor of Architecture
Elysse Newman, Associate Professor of Architecture
Xavier Cortada, Director of the Office of Engaged Creativity
Mike Heithaus, Associate Professor and Director of the School of
the Environment, Arts & Society
Campbell McGrath, Professor of the Department of English

Leading Discipline
Landscape Architecture

Other Disciplines
Architecture, Environmental Arts

25, Graduate and Undergraduate Level

Studio Research

View studio documentation.

Living Atlas: The National Park as the University of the 21st Century, Biscayne National Park

The Challenge

Within sight of downtown Miami, Biscayne National Park is a marine wonderland, drawing water-borne visitors for world-renowned snorkeling, fishing, and camping. And yet for all the splendor of its marine edge, the park also seeks to appeal to the communities on its upland borders, including affluent, high-rise dwellers and a racially diverse working-class community. The challenge for the studio team was to pioneer an innovative mechanism for reaching out to these land-based neighbors — many of whom arenít aware that this extraordinary national park exists — using new interpretive strategies to build a broader, more diverse constituency. As it develops visitor orientation that can capitalize on this urban context, the park also seeks to preserve its special marine character and ecological services.

Studio Approach

FIU began by constructing mappings and taxonomies of twelve objects that represented Biscayne, identifying salient features and patterns of the site and building a vocabulary of form, material, and quality. The root of their proposal lies in a system that facilitates communication and circulation of ideas, data, research, and science through open and programmed aquatic-based platforms that could easily find their counterpart in land-centric national parks. The proposal also intends the site to become a living sanctuary in which to learn, escape, and explore the intangible and ineffable qualities of the national parkís grandeur. By addressing the imperatives to inspire, educate, entertain, sustain, and restore, the park can adapt to its time in broad and transcendental ways, while responding to changing threats and opportunities.

Key Features

FIU's proposal is guided by six learning typologies: investigative learning, engagement learning, virtual learning, immersive learning, spectator learning, and random interaction. The studio proposes flexible classrooms that enhance education and promote scholarly research through direct contact with the environment. Modular platforms are opportunities for exploration and discovery, but are light enough in construction to respect the endangered habitats of the mangrove, sea grass, keys, and coral reef.

Jury Comments

This proposal demonstrated an incredible breadth of research, offering a highly adaptable model that translates beyond the individual park site. Moreover, the studio's idea of the "university of the 21st century" is a powerful tool to make data available, interactive, and engaging. This park will change enormously in the coming decades as it confronts climate change and sea-level rise, and the studio scheme allows such landscape change to be revealed. As the park changes, the public experience can change with it, impressing upon visitors how national parks are constantly evolving.