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Miami-based ArquitectonicaGEO was privileged to be a member of the team on the $1-billion PortMiami Tunnel, a major design-build infrastructure project delivered via a public-private partnership. The Miami Access Tunnel (MAT) is a partnership between Bouygues Travaux Publics of France, Meridiam Infrastructure of Luxembourg, and FDOT. The tunnel reached substantial completion in May of 2014. As sub-consultants to Bouygues Travaux Publics, ArquitectonicaGEO served as design architect and landscape architect for all above-grade support buildings, tunnel entrance structures, tunnel interior finishes and landscaping of tunnel approach roads and support-building campus areas at both ends of the tunnel.
The project includes twin 4,200-ft-long, and 43-ft-diameter tunnels below Miami’s Government Cut shipping channel, connecting PortMiami on Dodge Island with nearby Interstate 395 via the MacArthur Causeway. In addition to the sub-grade tunnel, there are 349 ft of depressed roadway at the approach on Watson Island and 362 ft of depressed roadway on Dodge Island, and over one mile of approach road on Watson and Dodge, combined. The entire length of the project bears the stamp of ArquitectonicaGEO’s influence, from the architecture of the Portals and support buildings, to the graphics on the tunnels’ U-walls and fire resistant interior surfaces, to the landscape along the approach roads.
In particular, the sculptural and graphic nature of the ArquitectonicaGEO-designed portals and tunnel interiors elevate, highlight and celebrate infrastructure. Projects of this nature represent significant investment of public funds to improve the quality of life in our cities. In the tradition of Roman aqueducts, Italian Baroque fountains, and American roads and bridges from the WPA era, we feel infrastructure should be raised to the level of civic art.
The eighty foot tall portals, at each end, house vertically-mounted flood gates that will protect the tunnels in the event of a hurricane storm surge. Their smooth exposed-concrete surfaces were formed with conjugations of the Latin word for “navigate,” creating a subtle texture of light and shadow which moderates the scale. Contrasting sections of translucent metal mesh are subtly highlighted at night to glow as both beacons and modern art pieces. The adjacent U-walls are inscribed with irregular bas relief patterns that bring to mind the sea grasses of Biscayne Bay.
ArquitectonicaGEO seized an unusual opportunity to continue telling the story of navigation by thinking of it through the eyes of children in the back seat of a car. The act of going under water is playfully illustrated with crisp and colorful images of sea grass, turtles and sharks found in the underwater landscape beyond the tunnel walls. The entrances to the five emergency cross passages between the tunnels received enhanced graphics that place a human figure below the swimming sea creatures. ArquitectonicaGEO worked closely with manufacturers of the metal interior surfaces to select durable finishes capable of withstanding heat and impact, and colors that would read in the required lighting of the tunnels.
The landscape of the approach roads is designed to illustrate and enhance the surrounding ecosystem in a conscious break from traditional, linear highway landscape design. Naturalistic drifts of a wide variety of native plant material are arranged over the adjacent 6 acres to showcase the upland and lowland plant communities which surround Biscayne Bay. The plantings embrace the natural coastal hammock and the wilderness setting, while serving as a frame for the architecture of the monumental tunnel structures.
The ever-changing vista, as one traverses the MacArthur Causeway, allows for a sequence of views of the Bay and surrounding landscape, the portals, cruise ships, and the glittering cities at either end. The approach road’s native landscape at both ends of the Tunnel on Watson and Dodge Islands, along with the U-walls, portals and tunnel interiors, are part of a highly choreographed, cinematic sequence that ArquitectonicaGEO designed to tell a story, calm and inform the traveler, and enhance the surrounding environment through art and natural ecosystem expansion.
The complex includes low-rise administrative and operations buildings clustered behind the entrance portals, for which ArquitectonicaGEO designed a ribbon-like orange shade canopy that undulates and wraps the structures. The open-framed canopy unifies the grouping, provides shelter for tunnel operators, and an ever-changing play of light and shadow across the buildings’ facades. The use of raw concrete finishes and shade structures enhances the sustainability of the facilities, and celebrates the core material palette of this monumental infrastructure project – concrete, exposed metal and large-scale landscape material.
ArquitectonicaGEO’s multi-faceted concepts to enhance the functional and aesthetic quality of the overall project were initially met with skepticism by the design/build team. In the end, 800 proud team members, from executives to construction workers, marched together through the tunnel at the ribbon cutting ceremony on May 19, 2014.
According to Philippe Bourdon, Technical Director, Bouygues Travaux Publics, “Major infrastructure projects all over the world are usually more functional than beautiful. This time, it is really different. I am not only proud of what we built, but also of what we are leaving behind us. A real piece of art!”