Part of the Open Shore Project was to create a lively urban ecosystem nearby the shore of West Palm Beach, and one of the things that interested us the most was a dark and dirty alleyway near the Banyan Hub. When a city lacks public spaces, every corner, shore or even an alleyway can become a part of the urban ecosystem. These secondary narrow streets are unique opportunities for transformation.
This is how we proposed to activate this space:
From Service Alleyways to Surprising Passageways
The alleyways will undergo a rapid activation process ranging from temporary interventions to the development of permanent structures and spaces to host new programs. Walkability, security, and comfort will be the first priorities to be addressed by means of active and passive climatic mitigation, new waste disposal and lighting systems, etc. Activities will disperse later into adjacent public spaces and buildings and these revamped ‘passageways’ will become thematic routes connecting different parts of the city. keep reading about the passageways!
The Banyan garage is envisioned as a new beacon for activities in downtown. This hybrid and flexible building will be open to the public all day long and will be an active presence in the city, producing culture, knowledge, and goods, while attracting businesses, talent, and innovation with its attractions.
Its configuration allows many different uses to coexist, which also makes it flexible to permit future changes in use.
It is a permeable building, open, and accessible to all citizens, a true part of the city from the ground floor to the public roof terrace. Its bioclimatic design, based on a green permeable facade and two big thematic courtyards -natural and digital- will provide pleasant internal climate moderation throughout the year while reducing environmental impact and management costs.
The Banyan Hub is, not only tightly connected to the street: it takes the street and its energy inside and makes it one of its core features. Folding, twisting and ramping up towards the open terrace on the roof, this new kind of street provides a unique urban-like experience inside the building, but also retains many of the features of an ordinary street.
Section of Banyan Hub, an Urban Ecosistem in the Heart of West Palm Beach
Areas of the building will be open to the public at anytime. The building may be accessed by many modes of transportation such as pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, and light vehicles. It connects different uses along its path — from businesses to cultural spaces to public plazas.
Prioritizing public accessibility is integral in ensuring that this project has a landmark presence in West Palm Beach. Banyan Hub is envisioned as an urban ecosystem where users can satisfy their wants and needs without ever having to leave the building. Banyan Hub is sure to set the tone for the future of West Palm Beach as a collaborative, sustainable, and creative city.
The Banyan Hub includes a series of public spaces located at different levels connected by a re-envisioned parking ramp which provides access to different spaces and twists around the courtyards.
+A flexible square at ground level which consists of an open hall connected to the surrounding streets and to the passageway at the back of the building.
+A covered but open air plaza at an intermediate level of the building, right where the two courtyards begin. This space is the heart of the Hub and plays a crucial role in its climatic conditioning and cultural activity.
+A top terrace, overlooking the lagoon which offers a panoramic view of the natural environment and of the whole downtown. Relaxing and breezy like the decks of a cruise ship, it is and an ideal place to begin a stroll through the building and along the waterfront.
One of the most important qualities of a city is the ability to evolve by changing its uses and its physical configuration according to the needs of the society that lives in it. The Banyan Hub materializes these principles as it being conceived in a way in which changeability is the only constant. It will remain open to transformation by its managers and users, embracing evolution as a way to stay useful and relevant. This will be achieved by introducing changeable programs and spaces between fixed elements, and designing movable physical delimitations and reconfigurable technical infrastructure.
Change is the only constant
The rich mix of different uses in close proximity helps create situations where activities can complement and benefit each other. This also gives a special character to each part of the building, enabling interactions that would not take place in a conventional building.
In order to become the everbeating heart of West Palm Beach, Banyan Hub will include a diverse and complementary set of programs, balancing the type of activities, desired level of comfort, need for equipment, and profile of the participants throughout the day. The scale of the Hub allows the coexistence of various uses, bringing together diverse age groups, interests, and communities.
Management & Stakeholders
The Banyan Hub operational model could be developed as a public-private partnership. The main partners could be comprised of the City, private companies, non-profits, athletic associations, and other organizations. This would beg the creation of a managing board which would share the funding, ownership, and decision making responsibilities of the building.
This board would take care of the construction and later lease spaces and equipment to other urban stakeholders. It would also create working committees for logistics and maintenance, programming, communication, and participation. It would serve as a mediation entity between institutions, the general public, entrepreneurs, and other potential partners.
Open Shore is a complex project that addresses many different topics in an effort of providing solutions to several challenges that the city of West Palm Beach shares with many other cities. For this reason, we decided to present more in detail our project in a series of 3 posts dedicated to the three main points of the proposal: #1, Strategy to trigger the Change; #2, Waterfront: celebrating unexpected public space; #3, Banyan Hub: a city into a building.
Before going into detail of our proposal, it would be useful to introduce the context of the city of West Palm Beach.
As reported in the Shore to Core Competition Website, West Palm Beach is a young city that is growing quickly. Many associate this region with a large retirement community, but there is also a growing population of people in their 20s and 30s, as well as large Black and Hispanic populations. The city’s downtown and 10-mile waterfront present an opportunity to develop new amenities that reflect the city’s emerging populations, and design is a crucial tool for tackling these evolving needs.
The design competition asks: How can we reimagine our downtowns to make them more engaging and vibrant? How can cities collect information that informs future adaptation and growth? How can we facilitate social interaction among diverse groups? How can the built environment improve residents’ physical health, mental health, and social capital?
Today we present the first post of the series, starting the narration of this exciting experience. This first chapter introduces the previous analysis and the general strategies that informed the design of the project areas.
We are very happy to announce that our project Open Shore is the winning proposal of Shore to Core, the international design competition to reimagine downtown West Palm Beach as a dynamic, resilient waterfront city! We are thrilled with the great reception that the project has had, and eager to continue its development side by side with the people and the institutions of West Palm Beach.
Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Rain Plaza
Here we share the press release from Van Alen Institute:
Van Alen Institute and the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (WPB CRA) today announced Open Shore by Ecosistema Urbano as the winning proposal for the Shore to Core waterfront design competition. The Shore to Core competition invited international designers, planners and architects to envision what the future of the West Palm Beach waterfront could look like over the next 20 to 30 years, taking factors including populations, economies and the environment into account. The winning proposal will serve as a “vision board” for the city’s future, providing a starting point and framework to help the city adapt and make the most of the waterfront.
Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Rain Plaza
Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Plan
Selected from a pool of over 40 international teams and two finalists, Ecosistema Urbano’s winning proposal envisions a healthier and more resilient downtown and waterfront for West Palm Beach—a keystone city in southern Florida with a growing population of people in their 20s and 30s, as well as large Black and Hispanic populations. The competition proposals imagine new amenities that reflect the city’s emerging populations, and Shore to Core’s organizers believe that design is a crucial tool for tackling these evolving needs. The initiative included public consultation, and this input played a role in the jury’s decision-making process.
Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Strolling on the Waterfront
Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Aerial View
Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Flagler Drive and the Cloud Forest Habitat Plaza
Ecosistema Urbano’s winning design answers Shore to Core’s call for a comprehensive, forward-thinking urban plan to make West Palm Beach’s waterfront a year-round destination for locals and visitors alike. The proposal includes what could be the first public bioclimatic domes in the U.S. adorned with hanging gardens. These domes create climatically comfortable spaces 365 days a year, thereby supporting a more socially cohesive city.
The proposal also illustrates how the city’s Banyan Garage could be upcycled into a mixed-use building with both public- and private-sector roles featuring adaptive climates suitable for a range of activities, including a farmers market, coworking spaces, and skyline viewing platforms. Additional amenities include vibrant thematic alleyways—with such features as a rock climbing wall, interactive exhibition space, and immersive foliage—that harness the cultural values and experiences unique to West Palm Beach, while also providing shade and introducing new elevated programming spaces
Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Level 4 Open Air Plaza at Banyan Hub
Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Farmers Market day at Banyan’s ground floor
Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Social green space at Banyan Hub overlooking the downtown
Ecosistema Urbano | Open Shore | Banyan Hub | Section
Ecosistema Urbano will present their proposal to the WPB CRA board in May 2017. The CRA board will identify priority projects within the Banyan Garage and downtown alleyways, and then contract with Ecosistema Urbano. This process will be followed by outreach to the community about the individual elements that are scheduled for possible implementation in late 2017 or early 2018.
“The Shore to Core competition and resulting proposals truly offered insights into how we can plan a strong and vibrant future for our city,” said Jeri Muoio, Mayor of the City of West Palm Beach. “Ecosistema Urbano’s design was applauded by all as enhancing the waterfront and creating new, iconic experiences that incorporate our natural resources, cultural spaces, and inclusive urban atmospheres.”
“Ecosistema Urbano’s proposal addresses social cohesion in a compelling way by integrating locally responsive systems with a welcoming public space that will further diversify the city,” said David van der Leer, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute. “We’re thrilled that West Palm Beach is looking to the future and rethinking how to create a downtown that is uniquely theirs— a downtown that enhances the wellbeing of residents and visitors alike.
The runner-up design finalist, Perkins + Will, created a proposal focusing on community-building with a continuous waterfront park, extended Great Lawn, and the Banyan Garage revitalized as a multi-use civic space. Van Alen has synthesized the work of the finalist teams into a key findings document, “A Shore Thing: Key Findings from the Shore to Core Competition,” that summarizes the shared insights from all three proposals.
The Shore to Core competition has parallel research and design tracks: The aim of this structure is to understand how waterfront cities like West Palm Beach can become healthier, and to create design strategies that will make them more responsive to rising sea levels. The winning research team, Happier by Design, focused on how specific types of public spaces may increase the wellbeing of people who use them, and conducted a pilot study analyzing the health benefits of more complex and engaging urban landscapes.
By testing environmental psychology principals with tactical urban interventions, Happier by Design found that public space designs that boost feelings of fascination foster wellbeing. The research team also recommended that designers focus individuals’ attention on nature and create spaces that are both comfortable and interactive, including such features as movable seating and adjustable lookouts that frame the landscape. The team’s recommendations affirm the dynamic and engaging designs proposed by Ecosistema Urbano. The combination of innovative research and original design in Shore to Core reflects Van Alen’s mission to use research and design to inform the planning of new civic spaces.
Raphael Clemente, Executive Director, Downtown West Palm Beach
Colin Ellard, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo, Department of Psychology
Patrick Franklin, President and CEO, Urban League of Palm Beach County
David van der Leer (Jury Chair), Executive Director, Van Alen Institute
Jeri Muoio, Mayor, City of West Palm Beach
Penni Redford, Sustainability Manager, City of West Palm Beach
Manuel Clavel Rojo, Clavel Arquitectos (substitute for Terry Riley, K/R Architects)
Jon Ward, Executive Director, West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency
Lilly Weinberg, Director of Community Foundations, Knight Foundation
Claire Weisz, Founding Principal, WXY Studio
Nancy Wells, Professor, Cornell University, College of Human Ecology, Design and Environmental Analysis Department
Ecosistema Urbano Team:
A multidisciplinary Madrid and Boston-based team comprised of principals Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo; Marco Rizzetto, Carlos León, Antonella Marlene Milano, Luisa Zancada, Jorge Toledo, Marta Muñoz, Pablo Santacana, Lola Pouchin, Maria Vittoria Tesei, Andrea Bertrán, Ana Patricia Maté, Lucía De Retes Cascales, Cristina Rodríguez, Elizabeth Kelleher, Lorena Tselemegkou, Luana Scarpel, Silvia Sangriso, Daniela Menendez, Julia Casado, Constantino Hurtado, Andrés Walliser.
To view high-resolution images for this project, including work by the winning team, click here
To view animated images of Ecosistema Urbano’s proposal, have a look here