REDEVELOPING WYNWOOD WALLS a capstone "charrette"
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
As part of the curricular requirements of the Master in Real Estate Development and Urbanism, at the University of Miami, Jaime Correa was involved in the production of a redevelopment alternative for the world renowned Wynwood Walls site in the City of Miami – an outdoor urban art museum occupying an abandoned warehouse district site which is nowadays praised by the world community of art critics as one among the most important urban art places in the world.
The site was acquired by Tony Goldman, a New York City real estate development tycoon whose great sense of humor and risk obliviousness turn him into a Miami-Dade County icon, with the intention of adding life to a few lifeless buildings through the arts and to monetize its potential success at a later point. Almost fifteen years later, and after several new city code iterations, the time has come for the Goldman Family to take advantage of the enormous success of this small plot of land in the City of Miami – visited by almost 2,000,000 people on a yearly basis.
The design alternative, one among five different options, proposed a critical stance on the potential redevelopment of the site. According to the new City of Miami code, every existing warehouse structures within this district may be replaced with 6-8 floors mixed-use buildings. Obviously, for Jaime Correa, this option would be dismaying for it would denigrate the memory of a place which has received acclamation because of its informal internal public spaces as well as for its lack of utilitarianism or for what he regularly advocates as “the usefulness of the useless”.
To avoid falling into the trap of stereotyped redevelopment methods, Jaime Correa’s team proposed what he called “a contemporary archaeological option”. The archaeological alternative basically preserved all of the existing walls while building new footprints over the confines of the plot spaces pre-determined by their “pseudo-historic” configuration. As a result of this tactic, the existing urban spaces were preserved and the “newness” of the place was a deliberate consequence of the language of its uncanny architecture.
In order to preserve the commercial viability of the existing project, this alternative was conceived as an incremental development option. Three rigorous phases of development would insure the constant opening of the Wynwood Walls outdoor museum, even during normal building construction.
The first phase included a robotic parking garage, a 90-room boutique hotel, and the re-interpretation of the park-like open space in the rear of the plot. Adjacent to the robotic parking garage, a new 90-room boutique hotel was configured as a perfect cube to complete the overall composition and to create a commercial street perimeter along the existing sidewalks. The cube building is hollow to provide the necessary lobby and public spaces required by the program and its rooms are made out of colorful shipping containers. The branding of the hotel as the “CON” hotel has a duplicity of obvious meanings. The hotel is accessed from the open space through a set of stairs which double in use as informal bleachers for an outdoor movie theater. A couple of Stoa pergolas (a definite typological invention) enclose the park-like open space and provide opportunities for informal markets and open-air art exhibits.
The second phase includes a live-work apartment building and a shared-space office building at the north-east corner of the site –where the existing organic restaurant would continue its normal operations, even in the midst of construction. The split-level (Citroan) live-work apartment building takes its expression from the local warehouse skylights and caters to the established artist community within and without the district. The shared-space office building is an open-plan structure with sculptural stairs and a meeting room on the top floor – highlighted by a colossal lantern/skylight which symbolizes the center of the graffiti art universe.
The third and last phase of the project would include a retail/gallery building and a polycarbonate apartment building. The retail/gallery building is designed as a fluid space structure where every vendor would have a unique way of displaying its products on either temporary tents or in permanent colorful structures; this building is crowned by an events terrace under a flat roof. The elevator shaft is crowned with a “Double W” sign which symbolizes, in red, the original name given by Tony Goldman (Wynwood Walls). The polycarbonate apartment building has exterior corridors and internal single and double height apartment units. The intention is to allow these external corridors to act as elevated sidewalks where artists can display their homemade objects.
The whole redevelopment composition is enhanced by a multiplicity of activities on the ground floor –generally occupied by art galleries and/or unconventional retail uses. The compression nature of the buildings and open spaces, their colorful surfaces, their memorable iconographies, and the increase of wall surface for urban art display turn this project into one of the most realistic options ever presented for the site, yet one of the most misunderstood and riskier options available in today’s market.
The development team included students in the 2018 graduating class of the Master in Real Estate Development and Urbanism program at the School of Architecture of the University of Miami.
Images by: Jaime Correa, Sandra Camejo, and Yasemin Cetinalp