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2016 MCHAP

PortMiami Tunnel

Laurinda H. Spear

Miami, FL, USA

May 2014


Laurinda Spear, FAIA, RLA, LEED AP/ ArquitectonicaGEO Margarita Blanco, ASLA, LEED AP/ ArquitectonicaGEO Robert Lloyd, LEED AP/ ArquitectonicaGEO


Ethan M. Loubriel, AIA / AECOM (A. of Rec., SMEP, Traf/Util/Light Eng) Kevin Regalado, AIA, LEED AP / Jacobs Engineering (Civil Engineering) Joe Folco/ Bouygues Civil Works Florida (General Contractor) Laura Llerena & Associates, Inc. (Landscape Architect of Record)


Miami Access Tunnel/Meridiam Infrastructure Finance/Bouygues Traveaux Publics


Robin Hill / robin hill photography Elaine Mills / ArquitectonicaGEO


The story of navigation on land and sea begins with the process of creating a tunnel. Excavation, scarification, digging by man, and tectonic, ripping forces of the earth are explored and expressed graphically through light, shadow, color and texture. Retaining wall patterns invoke deep gouges from the digging process, and visions of surrounding shore grasses. Back-lit orange metal mesh accents raw concrete, simulating lava spilling from fractured earth. Tunnel portals crafted with Latin forms of “navigate” provide texture and interest, glowing like sculptural art pieces as travelers navigate by land, sea and air. Navigation beneath the sea is playfully illustrated on tunnel interiors, with crisp, colorful images of sea grass, turtles and sharks in the underwater landscape beyond. Travelers gauge depth below water by colors that darken as the road dips down, and lighten again as the road rises to the surface. Bold, simple graphics communicate safe routes at emergency cross-passages between tunnels, where a human figure is shown amid swimming sea creatures, whose position gives another clue to the changing depth and location beneath the sea. Special attention was given to color, readability, lighting and surface finish tolerance to harsh, salt-laden industrial conditions. The landscape of the approach roads illustrates the surrounding wilderness ecosystems of the coastal Atlantic and Everglades. Naturalistic drifts of large, native plants are arranged over 6 acres in a conscious break from traditional linear highway design. Resilient plantings showcase the natural setting, while serving as a frame for the architecture of the massive portal structures.


A massive tunnel project was planned to connect island-based PortMiami, the 11th largest cargo port in the nation, to the interstate system in order to remove commercial trucking from downtown streets, improve safety, reduce congestion and keep the County’s second largest economic generator competitive. Significant expense, complex partnerships and intensive public scrutiny over a 30-year period prevented agreement and progress. In order to advance the stalled project, ArquitectonicaGEO was commissioned by the general contractor, Bouygues Travaux Publics, to provide a unifying vision and design guidance for all visible surfaces of a 6-acre campus. The intention was to create an original, sustainable icon celebrating the wider urban context. The scope included design of the exterior architecture of portals, U-walls and support buildings; tunnel interior graphics; landscape architecture on two islands; and the integration of art and lighting. Proximity to the Atlantic coast required massive flood gates to protect the tunnels in the event of approaching hurricanes. Imposing blank facades of the flood gate enclosures and retaining walls created a unique canvas for enhancing movement by telling the story of navigation and process amid the surrounding wilderness of Biscayne Bay and the Everglades ecosystems. By ‘rethinking metropolis’ necessary infrastructure, on a massive scale, is enhanced to demonstrate the beauty that is possible using expressive architecture and functional construction techniques. Working in harmony with the context and the function, infrastructure is elevated in the spirit of Roman Aqueducts, reinvigorating civic space and public pride with art and landscape.


Monumental elements and details graphically communicate the PLACE and PROCESS of navigation, and enhance the actual ACT of navigation. The PortMiami Tunnel’s surfaces form an innovative canvas for a highly choreographed, cinematic sequence designed to tell a story, calm and inform travelers, enriching the surrounding environment. Completed August 2014, the dynamic forms, engaging graphics, lighting and landscape transform the experience and understanding of the Tunnel, setting an innovative, multidisciplinary example for future infrastructure projects. PortMiami Tunnel is a prime example of a long-recognized need, dependent upon significant investment of public resolve and resources that required the stimulus of creative vision to coalesce efforts and achieve the ultimate goal. Human and environmental ecology merged at PortMiami through the process of rethinking the metropolis, resulting in the fostering of spirit and will. An unprecedented network of public and private entities came together with local and international interests to make this project a success, completing it on time and under budget. The Tunnel received the 2015 Infrastructure Project Award from the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships. 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!” Respect for the magnitude of the project and its participants, complex interdisciplinary collaboration and attention to detail led to a celebrated icon for the region.

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