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West 8 Steals Gehry’s Thunder, With a Green “SoundScape” in Miami Beach

The landscape architects turn 2.5 acres around Frank Gehry’s new concert hall into a performance space in its own right.

West 8 Steals Gehry’s Thunder, With a Green “SoundScape” in Miami Beach

West 8 is something of a darling in the landscape-architecture world for designs that look wildly innovative but also manage to walk in lock-step with regional identities, whether you’re talking about a wavy wooden boardwalk in Canada or a labyrinth of dragon-like bridges in China. The architects? latest project is proof positive: It’s a park in Miami Beach that moonlights as a sort of outdoor nightclub.

Miami Beach SoundScape/ Lincoln Park is a zig-zagging expanse of plants, pergolas, and palms designed around a fancy new concert hall by Frank Gehry. The park transforms into a “cultural hotspot” by using the building’s 7,500-square-foot blank wall as a giant projection screen for various concerts and video art. (Both the Gehry building and the park open officially tomorrow.) ‘The park was designed to be a very flexible space,’ West 8 principal Jamie Maslyn Larson tells us. ?It needed to be both a great day-to-day-use park and one that could support multifaceted events, including video displays and an audio system that’s world-class.”

So, much of the place is designed to open up sightlines to the wall. It’s got a central seating area that can accommodate 700 people (roughly the capacity of the concert hall), and plants and trees were carefully seeded to minimize obstructed views.

Sightlines even helped inform the type of foliage chosen. Take the palm trees. They manage to provide plenty of shade — a must in Miami parks, lest everyone die of heat stroke — without eclipsing the projection wall the way a stand of say fat-trunked olive trees might. “We were very sensitive to the fact that this building is so special and needed to be showcased,” Larson says. “And palm trees with their long, slim trunk gave us a way to frame the architecture and create a veil effect.”

There are other nice little details here. The loopy pathways both echo geometric shapes found inside Gehry’s building and make the park look bigger than its 2.5 acres. The pergolas, meanwhile, are “inspired by the puffy cumulous [SIC] clouds inherent in South Florida’s tropical climate,” to quote the architects’ website. This stuff isn’t typical of Miami Beach, yet the park feels, in every way, like a Miami Beach park. Hell, we half expect to see Don Johnson’s mullet over by the Bougainvillea. For West 8, that’s just another job well done.

[Images courtesy of West 8]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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