Why You Should Be Jealous of this Gorgeous Alley

Melissa Hege, AICP of South Florida-based Melissa Hege City Planning LLC. explains why you should be jealous of this Miami Design District alley.

If Rome had a do over, the architects would have made something like this. It’s not enough that the Design District visionaries at DACRA created a monumentally beautiful neighborhood with some of the most exquisite examples of building design in Miami. Phase two unveiled four new city blocks and this gorgeous alley, designed by architect Daniel Toole.

In many of my posts, I show examples of how other cities have brilliantly addressed some of the more banal aspects of their outdoor spaces– an attempt to inspire greater design here in my hometown–Miami. But in this post, Miami blissfully got it right. Let’s see how.

First, the Hook:

Start with the entrance to the alley. A rather long block is cut in half with a pedestrian cut-through. Simple enough. But DACRA upped the ante with this futuristic shade structure/sculpture designed by Bouroullec Brothers, which is so damn beautiful, you have to walk up to it to get a closer look. And just like that you’ve entered a new space.

Second, it’s Attention to Detail:

And for a real treat check out the “cladding” on this storefront above. It’s tree bark and it covers the entire two stories of this fashionable shoe store.

Third, A Peak Inside Sets the Intrigue:

A narrow opening reveals a glimpse of something completely different and unexpected. What’s clever are the layers of elements that convince the passerby to enter the space.

(1) There’s a complete change in the pavement material and pattern. It’s laid out like an authentic Italian piazza.

(2) There’s a tantalizing little food truck with something cool to drink and and a shady spot to sit.

(3) But the biggest wow factor for me are the double arches. Here is a modern twist on the classic architectural motif. Modern because of the severe angle and the concrete material with a horizontal wood imprint.

So stunning that it even wows children.

A closer look at the arch which frames the space beyond.

And right by the food truck, the corridor narrows and the space is comfortable. The swirling pattern of the paver stones is both quaint and elegant and just so unexpected in Miami. Maybe it was the staggering heat, but I felt transported to a different continent entirely.

Beyond the arches is this charming flower stand which leads to one of the most spectacular flower shops I’ve ever seen. Flower arrangements suspended from the ceilings with impeccable detail. It was like a scene from William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. No joke.

I imagine in cooler weather more people will make use of the bench and chair. A little slice of paradise.

Across from the flower shop the alley turns and opens up into a larger space. The shops here are well curated and sophisticated without being pretentious. Oh, and there’s also an ice cream/gelateria because every chic European plaza has gelato. Now if only I could find the perfect cup of espresso and about ten degrees less heat. I think the temperature spiked to 96 degrees that day.

The End is Bittersweet

I left wanting more. My only criticism, one gorgeous alley isn’t enough. But bravo DACRA. You succeeded in making a precious and simple space which is sophisticated and full of beautiful details. It’s a shining example of what our city can be. A modern interpretation of a classic city feature. The alley is reborn in our very own Miami Design District.

Article originally posted by Melissa Hege, AICP at www.Melissahege.com.

Melissa Hege, AICP, LEED AP, practices planning and urban design in one of the Country’s most envied and envious iconic cities—the Republic of Miami. For more than a decade, she has enjoyed the juxtaposition of the region’s beauty and dysfunction, and continues to learn from it daily. Educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Brandeis University, her portfolio includes award winning plans which translate design based solutions into practical applications.

In her current practice, Melissa Hege City Planning, she straddles the roles of planner and community advocate by exploring infrastructure investments which add exponential value to cities. These include waterfront parks, bicycle and pedestrian trails, and complete streets—streets which have comfortable and protected zones for bicycles, pedestrians, cars, and transit. She is currently developing a waterfront pop-up installation on Miami’s Biscayne Bay to demonstrate the potential value of a permanently improved and connected waterfront trail in downtown Miami. Other recent projects include an interactive web based tool to visually track all multi-agency infrastructure improvements in downtown Miami and a Complete Streets forum for local municipalities in partnership with Miami Dade County.

Melissa is a board member of the Miami Modern (MIMO) Biscayne Boulevard Association, a 501c3 dedicated to preserving its architectural history and expanding commercial opportunities for this US-1 corridor. She is Past Chair of the Miami Section of the Florida American Planning Association, was Co-chair for the State’s annual conference and served on Miami-Dade County’s Transportation Aesthetic Review Committee. She has been published in the Miami Herald, Florida Planning, Planetizen and Panorama (University of Pennsylvania) and taught as an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University. She developed a planning curriculum for middle school students at the Cushman School and is a regular speaker at the Florida American Planning Association’s annual conference.</i>