Envisioning Miami: Simulated Natures

This studio concentrates on new forms of media and their role in the identification and creation of patterns; in particular, we examine techniques that enable a multivalent, multilayered understanding of pattern as both expression and shaping influence of environmental processes. Our positioning of pattern is one that seeks to provide a framework that combines what has often been seen as conflicting agendas for landscape architecture; that is the distinction between formal, aesthetic, and representational concerns versus processes, sustainability and utilitarian concerns.

We will bring these sets of terms together by focusing on techne (art, craft) as that which forms the basis of all landscapes. Techne refers to both technology and techniques; that is, the infrastructural systems and constructions that guide and control functions and processes in landscapes, as well as the techniques of visualization that we use to model, express, and engage such flows and processes. We will explore the studio thematic of simulated natures by not only relying on ‘visible’ substance but also through drawing ‘invisible’ information (both data and flows). The studio prioritizes feedback between analysis and intention—pattern finding and pattern forming—by utilizing advanced digital media, including geospatial analysis, parametric and computational fluid-dynamic software, and fabrication tools.

A place is as much the projection of design imagination as it is physical matter. There is no better example of this than how the fantasy of Miami has shaped its material reality. Much of Florida is an environment whose image has been recast, and its ground transformed, from “uninhabitable” swamp into a tourist/retirement mecca. The entire Sunshine State is a region of attractions, theme parks and water-based recreation. As such, our studio ambitions will focus on one of two sites in Biscayne Bay: Watson Island (30 acres of an 86-acre constructed island) or Marine Stadium and vicinity (80 acres and part of Virginia Key, a natural barrier island). Both of these islands sit within the rich ecology of the bay and provide important linkages between the mainland and barrier islands. They each offer ideal locations and conditions for considering the relationship between touristic and ecological understandings of place, and the role of simulated natures in imagining alternative futures for Miami.