Giralda Plaza Opens in Coral Gables
Friday night the City of Coral Gables held opening ceremonies to celebrate the transformation of Giralda Avenue as it has come be Giralda Plaza. I was told by BID members that the event received 5000 RSVPs and I was witness to active participation by attendees that ranged in age from infants to those well into their 90’s or better. (By planning metrics, that’s denser than a cocktail reception at about 1 person per 8 square feet!) Children danced to the live band early in the evening and eventually gave way to adults swinging into the night as they passed their normal bedtimes and just couldn’t get enough of the energy and excitement of the event. Outdoor dining filled the space and walking from one end to the other was all about seeing and being seen. Throughout the evening I tried to listen to everyone within an earshot, to hear their stories about the place (many before and after tales were told) and I was overwhelmed by the sense of civic pride that the space has brought to light.
The process of developing the design for Giralda Plaza was exactly the way I love to work. While I was partner at cooper robertson, we interviewed for the project near the end of 2014 and based the approach to the design on the idea that the project should be “100% for art.” Every element of the design was considered an art opportunity. Paving was designed to celebrate the gift of tropical rain in South Florida, lighting in the center portion of the Plaza was meant to reinforce the idea of that blessing, and the coral gables bollard that we designed and fabricated with the team at stone & equipment and their quarries in Spain is designed to double as comfortable seating for people in public space (not one of them was vacant for more than a moment friday night). i believe that we owe the success of the project to a City Commission, Staff, and Community that faced and overcame numerous challenges throughout the design and implementation process. among the many that won’t be mentioned here, I want to highlight two:
First, I am impressed with the Community’s desire and commitment to creating a curbless environment. By choosing to stand behind the idea that people in the right-of-way have priority above cars and that a higher quality of life would be the result of building a place that people go to as opposed to a place that people go through, Giralda Plaza was born. we worked with progressive City and Miami Dade County staff to design the space in a way that allows for both emergency vehicles and people without sacrificing the human scale required to make a place great.
Second, I witnessed the City of Coral Gables Commission take a stand to defend the value and role of art in public places in the face of prejudice, discontent, and anger. The statements made by Commissioners Vince Lago and Patricia Keon in public forum were heroic and left an indelibly beautiful mark in the record books that solidified the City’s commitment to the relevance of art in our daily lives. The stance reinforced the idea that art was one measure of their City’s ability to embrace diversity, to be accepting of the desires and tastes of their neighbors - even when they may disagree, and to remain relevant in the world of art and culture.
Thank you to the City of Coral Gables, the People of Coral Gables, and to all of those members of the project team that contributed to a vivacious design dialogue, that supported innovation over convention, and that took me in and made me feel at home whenever I was with you. I look forward to a lifetime of enjoyment, unforeseen adaptation, and many memorable moments on Giralda Plaza. Congratulations on your accomplishments.