Project site: Previously developed
Building program type(s): Mixed-use
This sleek intervention in Miami’s recently revitalized design district has transformed an alleyway into an iconic public place. It was born from a local AIA-funded research grant that allowed the design team to publish a book on alleyway research, which the district’s developers discovered online. With its ancient ruins-like series of parabolic concrete arches, Jade Alley has evolved from a leftover urban space beset by dumpsters into an intriguing destination for the community.
The district was once home to pineapple farms and, later, furniture warehouses. It has since developed into a prime destination that draws visitors seeking unique art, retail, fashion, and architecture. It has grown in multiple phases, during which new buildings and public spaces have been added while pieces of the existing fabric were preserved. Jade Alley, through the rhythm and structure of its arches, offers an intimate pedestrian-focused public space that is rare in the car-dependent sprawl of the city.
At the onset of the project, the alley was replete with trash rooms, transformers, and haphazard parking. Its transformation grows from the series of varying arches the team inserted, much like a smaller-scale viaduct that as a structure marries the future and the past. The arches were cast in rough-sawn board forms to maintain the informal atmosphere of the original alleyway. Marks left by the boards give the arches a texture akin to wood, something not commonly found in Miami’s extreme climate.
Despite the district’s focus on luxury, the alley was designed to be enjoyed by people from all walks of life, and it is one of the only places in the neighborhood where a purchase is not required to enjoy the space. To make the space accessible for all, the pavement, entries, and sidewalk transitions were completely rebuilt to meet current accessibility standards. It’s not uncommon to find retail and restaurant workers, high school students, and tourists relaxing in the shade formed by the arches and the alley’s lush plantings.
Geometry similar to the arches has been applied along the alley’s new storefronts and scaled down to turn existing trash and mechanical rooms into small retail and dining spaces operated by local businesses. Jade Alley also features an evolving series of murals and art installations by artists from Miami and around the world. Those works have combined with a series of free art walks, performances, and other activities to firmly cement the space in the city’s cultural scene.