Coastal Urban Design
BLA Caps tone 20101
Table of Contents
The former Sarasota Quay is an iconic piece of property. Its location is at a proposed
gateway to the downtown area, along US 41. It was previously developed with a
mixed use complex adjacent to the waterfront and a parking lot that bordered the
street. This left the street edge anthropologically barren and the waterfront eco-
logically static. The site was then demolished to make way for the similar Sarasota
Bayside project, that included three 18-story towers. The project was never realized
and the site is now a 15 acre, grassy field.
My goal is to create a dynamically functional landscape, developed with a density
that allows for recreational open space describing the confluence of urban and natu-
ral systems. The final design will seek to contribute to the proposed downtown gate-
way and cultural park. It will also promote a walkable connection between it and the
existing downtown area. This plan will focus on how the site could change over time,
due to rising sea levels. Is a sea wall and fill dirt the best way to deal with dynamic
coastal hydrology? I will explore alternative design solutions that could generate
forms for open space.
- create ecological framework for coastal flora and fauna
- design as a management strategy for future fluxuation
- connect and integrate urban context
Typical waterfront development is characterized by juxtaposition of built and natural.
This project will challenge the notion of stark juxtaposition as the optimal design for
coastal sites. Its previous program and structure did not describe its location as one
of interactive exchange between the urban development, Sarasota culture and coastal
ecology. I plan to explore relationships between urban programs and working coastal
ecologies as a way to generate form. Rising sea levels will be of special concern for the
future of the site. My investigations will direct me through the design process and on
to my goal of using this waterfront as a medium for describing the confluence between
ecological flows and urbanization, in an experience that reflects Sarasota's culture.
- My project will chart the historic development of Downtown Sarasota, including urban-
ization and changes in the landscape both terrestrial and aquatic.
- Research in coastal morphology will be essential to formulate an analysis of hydro-
logical systems at work on the site. These systems can then be viewed as the basis
for waterfront design.
- Interviews with planning personnel will guide my concepts, keeping them relevant to
- The master plan will then reactivate the space as a proposed confluence of ecology,
infrastructure, people and culture.
John Nolen's master plan used en-
vironmental structure as a main pa-
rameter for planning and design.
This marked the beginning of the
downtown area's ecological acknowl-
edgment. His plan employed a city
grid, accented by the natural forma-
tions that coastal processes had pro-
duced. The bayfront park still exists
as the main public open space and a
transition from urban development to
waterfront. Many other features either
were never implemented or no longer
exist. The Hudson Bayou's public
space, as well as most of the network
of parks are not around today. Includ-
ing topographic contours on an urban
master plan shows the rare attention
to preservation of place.
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The Sarasota School internationally
influenced its field, but Sarasota's
native ecological systems were influ-
ential to the architecture itself. These
landscapes have evoked their own
collection of brilliant modernism.
Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph saw
something in Sarasota that inspired
unique relationships between the built
and natural environment. While these
designs may not have had an eye for
the future, they were successful in
creating an awareness of the Florida
Duany Platter-Zyberk's recent Down-
town Master Plan 2020 demonstrates
and increased gap between planning/
design and environment/ecology.
This plan realizes the need for urban
density that will contain growth and
make it manageable. It also gives
aggressive recommendations for pe-
destrian connectivity to the bay front.
Although DPZ recognizes that Sara-
sota's natural systems are important
to its character, they are treated as
a fringe benefit rather than the main
idea. As a result, their dynamic nature
is neglected. This could create set-
backs when the years beyond 2020
are taken into account.
The former Sarasota Quay site is a blank spot in the urban fabric.
It is currently a detriment to the downtown area, but also a unique
opportunity. The need for high density is paired the chance to
redefine bayfront development in the city. High visibility will ac-
centuate the success or failure of any project.
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Panaoramic site photos show the
barren swath that sweeps across the
entryway to downtown Sarasota. It
will have two important edges. One
will be as the gateway to the city and
the other as a model for relationship
to the bay.
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There were two main goals for the analysis of this site and its context. The first
was to determine how this particular site compared to typical development along
Florida's coastlines. It's relationship to built and natural environments would decide
it's suitability for use as a model for future projects in any given location. GIS was
the most useful tool for this phase. The conclusions derived from this, larger scale,
investigation helped to refine my goals of creating an ecological framework, using
design as a management strategy for future fluccuation and integrating urban
The second phase narrowed the scope to analyze connectivity to the downtown
core. The first step, at this scale, was to highlight relevant landuses. Their adjace-
nies and proximities defined key areas for connections. The Five Points intersection
was an obvious one because of its radiating streets from the center of downtown.
Bayfront Park was another, since it promotes pedestrian flow along the waterfront.
The project site must relate to both downtown and waterfront to become an inte-
grated part of the urban fabric. Because of it's size the future development of this
parcel has the ability to spark immense speculation. This opportunity comes with
the great responsibility of shaping the way the city expands upward and outward.
This layered analysis shows a typical pattern of development along the coastline
of Sarasota County. The highest density is focused along the low-lying waterfront.
Most all dynamic, coastal ecology has been replaced by static sea walls.
- manmade shoreline
- roads class 1
roads class 2
direct run off
Presidential high density
residential medium density
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Enlargements of GIS analysis show multiple types of marine systems. The first map
highlights the few remaining patches of mangrove wetland. At one time, these dark
green areas would have covered nearly all of the inshore coast. Sea grasses are still
somewhat prevelant. Even where they do exist, they usually lack the rich connection
to mangrove ecossytems.
The next map shows the most vulnerable areas to storm surge. The stablizing roots
of mangroves are a great defense against the erosion and wave energy that can
batter the coast.
The last map describes the opposing flows of water that all waterfronts must deal
4/5 storm surge
3 storm surge
2 storm surge
I storm surge
man made shorlinf
direct runoff to bal
100 year flood
- class 1 road
..... bus line
- downtown core
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m m primary connection
- secondary connection
- tertiary connection
-- -class 1 road
1,11111, existing street
........ existing alley
proposed cultural park
Highest development suitability
air rights above 1st story
- bay view
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class 1 road
proposed cultural park
Bel Mar strucutre
highest development suitability
air rights above 1st story
suitable for open space
open space transition
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My first step in the research phase was an interview with Dr. Ernest Estevez, the
head of coastal ecology research at Mote Marine Labratory in Sarasota, FL. He
urged me to gain a better understanding of sea level rise and the effects it would
have on coastlines everywhere. He also told me that if I did a google search for
landscape architecture and sea level rise, that I would get zero results. While this
is not true at all, I can see how anyone (especially in Florida) could get this impres-
This was a good starting point, as it led me to begin my research at the largest
scale of concern. I quickly realized that the constraints of my site were greater
than I originally thought. The issues surrounding sea level rise would require a new
perspective on the duty and function of coastal land from more than just design-
ers. Government, developers, citizens and every other user of waterfront sites will
need to realize the threats that unpredictable seas provide to the way existing cities
"If you did a Google search for 'landscape architecture' and
'sea level rise,' you'd come up with zero results."
Hilton Head Island, SC
Sasaki and Partners
WRT's 1964 master plan has been incredibly successful. Part of that success could
be because it has evolved over time. Connectivity is one of the main goals it accom-
plished. The surrounding downtown is funneled efficiently toward the harbor.
-more urban context
-larger harbor area
Baltimore's inner harbor shares many characteristics with my project site. While the
scale of Baltimore is larger all around, the context is strikingly similar. Both have
adjacent museums, theaters and Ritz Carlton hotels. The waterfront on my site is a
bit less accessible, so I'll have to keep visual and physical connections as a priority
for safety reasons.
Sasaki was successful in retaining the natural character of the South Carolina coast-
line while creating a place with urban function. Basic principles from Radburn, NJ
were implemented to highlight native ecology(views, breezes, beach access).
-more natural context
-similar resort-style feel to Sarasota
-little transition from built to natural
The natural context of this South Carolina waterfront is substantially different from
Sarasota, although the development is fairly similar. The natural elements of my
project site haven't been around for some time. While Sasaki's project protected na-
tive character, my concept will be to represent the water's edge with more dynamic,
Baltimore's Inner Harbor
Wallace Roberts & Todd
Hudson Rail Yards
New York, NY
As a partner with SOM in a 2007 competition, Field Operations submitted this plan for
a 25 acre rail yard site adjacent to the Hudson River.
-more urban context
-no direct waterfront access
-great design risk taken in lieu of connectivity
The most intriguing part of the proposal is that it went directly against stipulations in the
RFP that called for a super-block type development with a large, elevated green space.
It's main similarity with my site is it's focus on connectivity. It even has it's own, New
York scale, version of the MURT in the Highline.
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The design builds on research and what little history is left of the site. The only re-
maining structure is a historic hotel, built in the 1920's. The collage on the left uses
mainly photos of its exterior iron work to create an angular, layered image that trans-
lates into the final plan and section for the open space design.
Design as a Management Strategy for Future Fluxuation
The base of research led to the development of three possible strategies for coastal
edge design on this site: a natural slope, a floating strategy and a terraced strategy.
The terraced strategy offered the closest performance to a natural ecosystem, while
adhering to the dimensional constraints of the site.
Using this terraced system, the dynamic ecologies that migrate between them will
be able to adjust with the constant and varying natural forces that impact them.
Create Ecological Framework for Coastal Flora and Fauna
Designing for future fluctuations at the waterfront edge allowed for the creation of
this ecological framework. The various terrace elevations will provide a structure
for the mangrove wetland to thrive productively as habitat for numerous species of
marine, terrestrial and avian wildlife.
Connect and Integrate Urban Context
By the end of this project, I was unable to develop enough connectivity with the
existing context to label this as a successful integration. The next steps in the design
phase would be to incorporate flows of pedestrian and vehicular traffic through the
site. Important connections still need to be made with the adjacent Hyatt and Ritz
Carlton hotels. The existing Multi-Use Rectreational Trial, the proposed Cultural Park
Master Plan, and general pedestrian traffic along US 41 have yet to be sufficiently
The typical conditions section shows the inability of coastal edge ecosystems to
adapt to changes in sea level. Sea walls provide a static barrier that can effectively
drown a mangrove wetland, giving it nowhere to receed as water levels rise.
The natural sloping edge allows for this recession, but needs a large amount of ex-
pesive waterfront property to do so.
The floating system is able to adapt vertically, which reduces the area it needs to
sustain itself. Although this has the disadvantage of creating a less stable shoreline.
The terraced system provides a similar rise in elevation, but still allows the mangrove
roots to secure the coastal edge, as well as create important habitat for wildlife.
typical existing condition
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The plan creates connectivity to the bay through its dynamic open space and to its
surrounding, urban context by re-establishing the grid. The building masses open
up at the northern edge of the site in order to provide a visual connection that guides
pedestrians to the proposed cultural park.
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The streetscape is spatially narrow, in order to
slow traffic and create a predominantly pe-
destrian environment. The street level will be
lined with commercial use.
The section shows the site's location as being at the confluence of an urban down-
town and waterfront. The plan shows the texture and circulation of open space that
makes the connection between the two.
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These diagrams describe how the initial scheme of vegetation would change, as part
of the dynamic ecological framework, if sea level were to rise substantially. These
noticeable changes would affect the way users of the site perceive the coastline.
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The key plant species for coastal ecologies at this attitude are listed at the bottom of
this diagram. They are grouped by the elevations at which they will be planted. Plant
groups are represented by blocks of color. These groups will then migrate upward
through the terraced system as sea levels rise.
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