Miami 21

sidewalk cafes at night along Espanola Way on Miami Beach

   The Miami City Commission will consider Miami 21 on Thursday at 2 PM at Miami City Hall. If approved, this will be a major step forward in the building of sustainable places. Miami 21, at its core, is a robust SmartCode, and is designed to create walkable, mixed-use, compact places over time from existing urban fabric. It is intended to replace the old use-based zoning code, which, like countless other use-based (Euclidian) codes around the country, has been identified as a prime culprit in the creation of sprawl. This story <note from 2011: link is abandoned, but idea is still worth noting> in the Miami Herald shows what has happened in a formerly decrepit stretch of Biscayne Boulevard to which Miami 21 standards were applied as a demonstration project. The transformation is striking... read about it.

   Miami 21 is being calibrated by DPZ, the chief authors of the SmartCode. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk (the PZ of DPZ and Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Miami) has shepherded the project since its inception. DPZ’s work has created a new industry of firms calibrating SmartCodes for municipalities all across the country who want to repair and build their cities in more sustainable fashion, and firms providing other SmartCode services.

   But Miami 21 is not without controversy. Chief amongst the detractors are architects, who deride Miami 21 because they think it will take away their design freedom. Apparently, they want their buildings to be able to zig, zag, and wiggle any way they choose without regard to the fabric of the city their buildings are helping to create. But we’ve seen nearly a century of this approach, and the results have been disastrous. Buildings that shout “look at me” as they twist and writhe with no concern for the street might provide notoriety for their architect, but they seldom do much for the neighborhood. These buildings are often like people who have had far too much to drink at a block party; screaming, calling attention to themselves, and contorted in all sorts of unimaginable ways, but not being a good neighbor.

   Buildings are sometimes seen as a chance at immortality, because buildings sometimes last far longer than their creators. But buildings built more recently tend to be demolished sooner as we have forgotten how to build in a lovable way. So the reason for designing screaming buildings in the first place may well be an illusion... as well as any hope at sustainability, because the carbon footprint of a building is meaningless once its parts have been carted off to the landfill because it could not be loved.

   So if you’re in Miami Thursday, please be at City Hall at 2. It’s time to take a big step forward in the building of sustainable places.


~ Steve Mouzon


Legacy Comments:


Friday, August 7, 2009 - 5:27 AM

Steve Mouzon

Update: Miami 21 failed to pass last night by a 2-2 vote after 4 years and over 500 community meetings. The special interests prevailed over common sense and the common good. This is a very sad day for the city of Miami.


Saturday, September 5, 2009 - 04:43 PM

Steve Mouzon

Update 2 - Last night, the Miami City Commission approved the First Reading of Miami 21. The Second Reading will occur in roughly 6 weeks.

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