FLOW: A Blue-Green New Deal for South Florida’s forgotten waterways

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Project Team

Authors: Matthew Wagshol, Kevin Chong

Institution: Florida International University

Instructor: Ebru Özer

Studio: Designing for the Green New Deal in South Florida; Graduate Landscape Architecture, Fall 2020

Partners: Emily O’Mahoney, 2GHO; Malone Matson, Phyla Studio; Valeria Quintanilla, City of Coral Gables; Amy Morie, Mulberry Hill Studio; Rituparna Simlai, Studio Arth

Project Description

Canals are the fundamental backbone of life in South Florida, yet these man-made waterways are often overlooked and forgotten. Draining the water within the Everglades basin was a historic project from the early 1900s making possible large scale settlements beyond the coastlines as well as opening expansive tracts of land for agriculture. While effectively draining water away to this day, the canal system is environmentally destructive and lacks ecological awareness. The vision of this project is to reclaim and re-imagine the purposes of this underutilized extensive civil infrastructure network.

We propose a regional Green New Deal initiative to transform South Florida’s canal system and expand it towards regenerative uses, ecological remediation and environmental justice through three core principles: RESTORE the wider ecological health of the region by way of re-naturation of canal waterways using living edges and integrated green technologies, making them more akin to flowing rivers. RECONNECT the inhabitants of the region to their native landscape, as well as their local context through esplanades, floating boardwalks, and community focused infrastructure. Community hubs will facilitate human networks, encouraging connection, knowledge and skill sharing, laying the foundation for a human-capital rich local economy. REPLENISH the reach and role of nature in the region through the cleansing of water, providing habitats for local fauna and flora to thrive. Deploying widespread ecological infrastructure as amenities in underutilized spaces with Bio-Cells and Bio- Island integrated trail systems which use natural processes for remediation.


Additional Links

Project on JSTOR

Studio Description

LAA6655 is the third required graduate design studio in the Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design program curriculum at Florida International University. It introduces critical concepts, principles, strategies, and technical skills associated with regional planning and design. In Fall 2020, our GND Superstudio focused on studying South Florida’s urban infrastructure. Region-specific opportunities and limitations were examined in three GND focus areas: decarbonization, justice, and jobs. Investigated topics included transportation infrastructure, water infrastructure, and agriculture. Ecological systems thinking and scaled system thinking approaches were explored during studio instruction. Semester-long partnerships with three studio collaborators from local government and small/medium size design firms brought different perspectives into the classroom. The 15-week instruction period was divided into three equal segments, with collaborator feedback and review sessions at the end of each segment. These monthly check-ins allowed students to receive regular feedback from real-life design professionals of our region. In addition to our collaborators, other designers of our region also attended our final jury event for review and discussion. Twelve seniors and three graduate students participated in the studio, either in teams of two/three or individually. Studio work was presented during the Annual CELA Conference in March 2021.