Video by Danny Forster Design Studio + dbox
Image courtesy South Beach ACE
Rem Koolhaas has won the chance to redesign a large swath of Miami Beach. In a late Wednesday night vote, city commissioners chose a team led by Koolhaas to enlarge the Miami Beach Convention Center and redevelop its 52-acre site, a project that the Miami Herald called “the most important development deal in the history of Miami Beach.” Koolhaas beat out his onetime employee Bjarke Ingels, who had described their competition for the $1 billion-plus project as “oedipal.”
The selection appeared to hinge less on architecture than on cost and other factors. Koolhaas’s firm, OMA, teamed up with Robert Wennett, the developer of 1111 Lincoln Road—the Herzog & de Meuron parking garage near the convention center—and New York’s Tishman Realty. Ingels’s partners included Florida developer Ugo Colombo and Atlanta-based Portman Holdings. During the meeting Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, a voting member of the commission, said she favored the Koolhaas-Wennett-Tishman team because it offered to halt construction during major conventions. But City Manager Jimmy Morales, not a voting member, said he preferred the Ingels team because it would cost the public less and be completed sooner. There was also talk at the meeting about which developer would be easier to work with.
Last month, under pressure from Morales, both teams scaled back their proposals by eliminating the residential and cultural components of their plans and reducing the amount of retail space. In Koolhaas’s case, that allowed for the creation of a new public park by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, with a team that includes landscape designer Raymond Jungles, west of the convention center.
In the end, the designs may have had more similarities than differences—both were “sleek, smart, sophisticated, faintly futuristic and handsome,” according to Miami architecture critic Beth Dunlop. Koolhaas told Dunlop that his plan used curves in an attempt to reduce the impact of “this fundamentally alien object”—the existing convention center.
The competition to redevelop the site began with a request for proposals in 2011. Among those who responded was Zaha Hadid, a Miami Beach regular who made a personal appearance before the city’s selection committee. But the committee favored Koolhaas and Ingels, leading to a two-way battle that played out, in part, in the press, with extensive P.R. campaigns.
The selection of the Koolhaas team doesn’t mean construction will begin anytime soon. Its proposal requires the city to shoulder $600 million in costs. The money, the Miami Herald reported, is expected to come in part from an extension of a special taxing district in South Beach, set to expire in 2022. But, according to the Herald’s Christina Veiga, the extension “may be a hard sell” with voters.
Meanwhile, Ingels can console himself with other South Florida projects, including condo developments in Coconut Grove and Fort Lauderdale. Reached by text, Ingels replied from Norway: “It has been a long and complex process and two very capable teams made proposals. We are very happy with the support we got from the citizens of Miami Beach. Miami is one of America’s most exciting cities right now. We are happy to be part of its development in the Grove and look forward to keep contributing to its urban transformation.”