The Source Civil Engineering Magazine Slideshow: Underwater sculpture park designed for Miami Beach

Slideshow: Underwater sculpture park designed for Miami Beach

By Catherine A. Cardno, Ph.D.

  • aerial via of beach and sea with diagrams of artificial reef locations
  • section of the underwater sculpture garden
  • section of underwater sculpture garden showing concrete shaped like cars and trucks
  • spiral concrete underwater sculpture shaped like many curved stairways linked together in a circle

The New York City office of OMA has released the concept for the ReefLine, an underwater sculpture park off the coast of Miami Beach, Florida. Designed in collaboration with the BlueLab Preservation Society, Coral Morphologic, and researchers from the University of Miami with support from the City of Miami Beach, the park will also function as an artificial reef to preserve and protect marine life and bolster coastal resilience.

The 7 mi long underwater sculpture park is a large-scale environmental public art project and will be a public amenity with a snorkel trail. Argentine Ximena Caminos, who conceived the art project, will serve as its artistic director.

The materials for the project are limited to limestone and concrete, the materials preferred by state and federal agencies for artificial reef deployment, according to the BlueLab Preservation Society’s ReefLine website.

The project includes the use of geometric, concrete modular units that will be stacked from South Beach toward the north, following the topography of the seabed, according to material released by OMA. This will become a living breakwater over time and will serve as “the connective tissue for the overall master plan,” according to the firm.

This barrier will also serve to lessen the impact of wave energy on a series of site-specific installations that will be constructed along its length as part of the park, according to the BlueLab Preservation Society.

OMA is designing the master plan and sculpture installations in collaboration with a team of marine biologists, researchers, architects, and coastal engineers. The first mile of the project — Phase 1 — will open in December with permanent installations by Argentine conceptual artist Leandro Erlich and Shohei Shigematsu, a partner at OMA.

Erlich’s sculpture will be an underwater version of the “traffic jam” sand sculpture he created in 2019 for Miami Beach’s art week. Titled Concrete Coral, this installation will offer the shapes of 22 cars and trucks as vehicles for environmental change.

Shigematsu’s sculpture will explore the nature of weightlessness underwater with a stair installation. This “rudimentary architecture element” — as OMA refers to it — typically suggests directionality and movement, but in an underwater environment will be transformed into a 3D, circular folly that creates a central forum for underwater gatherings and activities. It will also provide layered zones for coral reef growth.

looking upwards through the open center of an underwater sculpture shaped like many linked curving stairways
(Courtesy of OMA)

Subsequent phases will include commissioned art installations from Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto and Argentine artist Agustina Woodgate.

The Knight Foundation’s Art Challenge Award and a Blavatnik Family Foundation grant provided funding for the project.

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