Miami-based ArquitectonicaGEO was a member of the international team on the $1-billion PortMiami Tunnel, a full Public Private Partnership (P3), Design-Build-Finance-Maintain-Operate, infrastructure project that was thirty years in the making. The tunnel opened to traffic on Sunday, August 3, 2014.
Miami Access Tunnel (MAT) is the concessionaire made up of a partnership between global conglomerate Bouygues Travaux Publics of France—a subsidiary of Bouygues Construction—and Meridiam Infrastructure of Luxembourg. Private partners include the Florida Department of Transportation, Miami-Dade County and City of Miami.
The project’s design-build contractor and 10% equity partner Bouygues Civil Works Florida contracted ArquitectonicaGEO to serve as the 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 Florida Department of Transportation tasked the team with providing a world-class tunnel that would be a landmark for South Florida.
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 I-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, ArquitectonicaGEO’s goal was to raise infrastructure to the level of civic art.
The eighty-foot tall portals at both tunnel entrances house the 50-ton, 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.
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 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 a dynamic 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.
Bouygues Construction has projects in over 80 countries in the world, but the PortMiami Tunnel was the first for the global group in the United States. Partnering with ArquitectonicaGEO made much sense, not only because of the known architectural design talent of the firm, but also its cemented roots in the South Florida community and its landscape. The entire PortMiami Tunnel team’s nearly 7,000 workers were very proud on Sunday, August 3, 2014, when the tunnel opened to traffic with an undeniably elegant identifiable landmark.