Return to Case Study Briefs

SoundScape Park

Landscape Performance Benefits

Environmental

  • Prevents approximately 1.2 million gallons of stormwater from entering Miami Beach’s stormwater system annually, primarily due to a 202% increase in pervious surface area when compared to previous site conditions.
  • Sequesters approximately 9.5 tons of atmospheric carbon in 355 newly-planted trees.
  • Reduces air temperatures in the park by an average of 4.7° F when compared to the adjacent sidewalk, primarily due to a 270% increase in canopy coverage.

Social

  • Attracts approximately 870 users on a typical May weekday and 1,000 people over an 8-hour period on a typical May weekend day.
  • Positively influences satisfaction with quality of life in Miami Beach according to 82% of 84 survey respondents.
  • Provides stress relief according to 60% of 84 survey respondents.
  • Increases user exposure to music performances or other cultural events according to 45% of 84 survey respondents by hosting over 50 events annually.

Economic

  • Contributed to a 60% increase in the total assessed value of properties within a block of park from 2010 to 2015. This led to a $1.2 million increase in yearly property tax revenues. During that same period, gross property values for the entirety of the City of Miami Beach increased by only 36%.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture

  • Project Type

    Park/Open space

  • Former Land Use

    Greyfield

  • Location

    500 17th Street
    Miami Beach, Florida 33139

    Map it

  • Climate Zone

    Tropical monsoon

  • Size

    2.5 acres

  • Budget

    $13.1 million

  • Completion Date

    2011

SoundScape Park is the final piece of Florida’s Miami Beach City Center Redevelopment Plan, which seeks to revitalize and foster future development in the blighted area surrounding the Miami Beach Convention Center and Lincoln Road. 2.5 acres of concrete parking lot has been transformed into a city park that now functions as part of the New World Symphony’s Miami Beach Campus. This multi-use park serves as a space for world-class audio-visual experiences, a place for respite, and a gathering area for social events such as concerts, film screenings, community events, and art installations. The park’s plants and topography are designed to immerse visitors within its bounds, while unique custom features provide an unprecedented audio-visual experience for the park’s visitors and complement the adjoining New World Center. The rejuvenated space has become a world-class destination that combines music, design, and experience in the heart of Miami Beach.

  • 355 newly-planted trees provide shade, increasing the inhabitability of the park during the summer months when temperatures and humidity are most extreme (highs above 85° F from May through October). Strategic groupings of trees also aid in blocking sound from the heavy vehicular traffic on adjacent roadways.

  • The 7,000-sf projection wall and bermudagrass-covered seating area accommodate the outdoor simulcasts of the New World Symphony orchestra’s live concerts, along with film screenings and other cultural events, free of charge to the public. Approximately 1,000 people can comfortably watch from the seating area. Another 700 can be seated inside the New World Center’s concert hall.

  • Flexible spaces and lawn areas can comfortably accommodate over 50 events per year including 10 to 12 wallcast concerts, simulcasts between September and May, and about 35 movie screenings organized once per month from September to May. The park is also used extensively for the following annual events: an E-beauty yoga event that raises funds and awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month; International Yoga Day in June; the Sound and Film Program for video art projections during Art Basel Miami Beach, an international 4-day-long art fair in December; and the annual Holiday Drive for Lotus House in December.

  • Custom-designed elements such as the Ballet Bars (structural housing for the outdoor sound system used in tandem with the Projection Tower), the Projection Tower (structural housing for the projector), and the Media Hydrants (sound emitters placed strategically throughout the park) are integrated seamlessly into the park’s design, transforming what could have been an overwhelming number of park structures into an integrated park element.

  • Concrete paths of varying widths - which serve as a connective mechanism to the surrounding neighborhoods - are finished with rock salt to minimize heat absorption, contributing to the park’s year-round usability.

  • Pervious surfaces cover 55% of the park, allowing for reduced stormwater runoff, increased water infiltration, and groundwater recharge.

  • A modular suspended pavement system was used in the installation of 5 mature live oaks to support large tree growth and provide stormwater management.

  • 1 bus stop and 18 new bike racks are integrated into the site’s design, providing visitors with sustainable travel options to and from the park.

  • All softscape and hardscape materials on-site were chosen due to their ability to withstand the environmental conditions of South Florida.

Challenge

The development of SoundScape came with a number of challenges, not least of which was the site’s diminutive 2.5 acreage in relation to its heavy programmatic ambitions. A site of this size with multiple programmatic demands usually calls for a hard surface approach. But with the park’s designated usage as a place of gathering, its exposure to the intense sun, dense urban context, strong ties to the cultural vibe of Miami Beach, and close relationship to the elegant New World Symphony building, this hardly seemed appropriate. Conveying a sense of being within a much larger urban oasis, the park was also tasked with regenerating commercial and pedestrian activity on nearby derelict blocks, alleviating traffic congestion, linking retail and tourist corridors and the district’s main attractions, and complementing the adjacent urban and historic neighborhoods.

Solution

In order to create intimacy through enclosure, the edges of the park adjacent to major roadways were planted with palms to create a visual and auditory buffer. Soft, undulating topography is reinforced by precast concrete seating walls and a mosaic of meandering white concrete pathways with a rock salt finish to minimize heat absorption and contribute to the park’s ambition for a microclimate that encourages year-round use in Miami’s heat. The varying path widths distinguish a hierarchy of circulation and also act as a connective tissue between surrounding neighborhoods. Topography creates an unfolding, oscillating sequence of micro-spaces that separate scaled spaces that host the park’s array of programming. The design condensed planting into major zones, grouping veils of palms throughout the site to carefully reveal and conceal views of the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center and surrounding context to create the illusion of a much larger space. The palms, along with 15 custom-fabricated pergolas, create dappled shade, welcoming people to inhabit the space and make it their own.

The design team went to great lengths to ensure that the project goal of producing the world’s highest quality outdoor audio and visual music experience was met. Included in the project specs are miles of hidden cables that needed to be protected from extreme weather such as hurricanes. The prime listening area of the park faces the wall screen – the New World Symphony’s exterior facade is the largest permanent projection surface in North America and is surrounded by more than 160 professional-quality speakers that permeate the park with immersive sound. Custom designed elements such as the Ballet Bars, the Projection Tower, and the Media Hydrants were crafted thoughtfully, integrating the large structures effectively into their surroundings. All of the park structures were carefully designed to enable easy maintenance and fine tuning of the system for different events and needs.

The Ballet Bars are a structural element within the park that house the speaker system intended to give listeners the same sound experience as if they were in the concert hall. The Projection Tower houses 4 large projectors at the rear of the park which work in quadrants to produce seamless, massive images on the 7,000-sf projection wall on the face of the New World Symphony building. Media Hydrants emit sound in various locations throughout the park such that the park’s users can experience the sound in the park’s designated large gathering areas or in the more secluded spaces where smaller individual experiences take place.

In order to maximize site usage from day one, fully mature, locally-sourced trees were individually tagged for installation in  the park. Combined with highly specific soil and irrigation strategies and unique tree anchoring methods, the trees were planted into major zones to improve the tree survival rate and minimize pedestrian impact. A planting plan calling for mature palms greater than 16 ft in height, in some cases greater than 25 ft in height, did incur a greater cost than a plan utilizing palms shorter than 12 ft would have. A modular suspended pavement system was also utilized in the installation of 5 mature live oaks and 4 mature royal poincianas. However, the additional expense of $1,239,350 for larger trees, structural cells, and improved soil quality was deemed necessary by the city in order for the park to function at an optimum level sooner rather than later.

  • The intention of the designer to provide a multifunctional green space was ambitious given the pedestrian traffic that the site was programmed to absorb. While most vegetation at SoundScape is thriving due to high quality plant material selection and sourcing supplemented by plant species and specific construction details provided by the landscape architect, the bermudagrass lawn that hosts most of the park’s events is often browned or deteriorated due to heavy foot traffic. Having auxiliary spaces to house some of the smaller events would have reduced the foot traffic on the main lawn by distributing the load to other use areas.

  • As a result of the success of the park as an event space, it has become apparent that the architectural program is not adequate for the demand; more restrooms are required.

  • Due to the space not being significantly occupied during days without an event, the city is exploring the possibility of adding a food/cafe kiosk in the park to help activate it during these times.   

Custom precast concrete edges and seating: Cast-One Creations Co.
Custom aluminum pergolas: Cavlex Architectural Fabrication Corp.
Custom metal work: American Metal Architectural Systems
Plant sourcing: Signature Lawn and Trees
Lighting: Selux Olivio
Structural cell system (Silva Cells):  DeepRoot Green Infrastructure

Project Team

Client: City of Miami Beach
Landscape architect: West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture
Civil engineer: Coastal Systems International
Development manager: Hines
Projection & Audio Design: Sonitus Consulting
Projection Design: Prosound and Video 
Structural engineering: Douglas Wood Associates
MEP Engineering: Cosentini Associates
Local landscape architect: Rosenberg Gardner Design
Local architect: Leo A Daly
Landscape maintenance: ValleyCrest Landscape Development

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect was responsible for all planning and design services associated with SoundScape Park. The landscape architect was also tasked with organizing a team of local consultants who provided oversight and specialist advice. During the design development phase, the design team held two major public events, a Program Charrette and a Community Design Workshop, and worked together with the members of the community on the park’s design. These forums were well-attended and gave future park users an opportunity to provide feedback about what they wanted to see in the new park. These efforts brought ideas to the design process. The public opinion culminated in final design reviews by the city’s Design Review Board and City Commission and received unanimous approval.

Case Study Prepared By

This case study was produced in 2016 by the researcher, research assistant, and the design firm in partnership with the Landscape Architecture Foundation. 

Research Fellow: Ebru Özer, ASLA, Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design, Florida International University
Research Assistant: Skyler Stanford, MLA Candidate, Florida International University
Firm Liaisons: Lydia Franken, Public Relations
Daniel Vasini, Studio Director, West 8 New York
2016

To cite:

Özer, Ebru, and Skyler Stanford. “SoundScape Park.” Landscape Performance Series. Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2016. https://doi.org/10.31353/cs1180

Topics

Stormwater management, Temperature & urban heat island, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Recreational & social value, Health & well-being, Property values, Increased tax revenue, Trees, Revitalization, Cultural landscapes

The LPS Case Study Briefs are produced by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), working in conjunction with designers and/or academic research teams to assess performance and document each project. LAF has no involvement in the design, construction, operation, or maintenance of the projects. See the Project Team tab for details. If you have questions or comments on the case study itself, contact us at (email hidden; JavaScript is required).

Help build the LPS: Find out how to submit a case study and other ways to contribute.