Global Markets spoke with Andrew Frey, creator and founder of DawnTown, Miami’s annual architecture competition. The winner will be awarded next week during Art Basel in Miami.
Global Markets: DawnTown, Miami’s annual global architectural competition, is in its third year. How has the competition grown over the past two years?
The competition receives about 100 entries every year, but its geographic diversity has grown. For example, two years ago, two of the three winning teams were from the US, but last year the winning teams were from Australia, Bangkok, and St. Petersburg. This means that more designers around the world have become aware of Miami’s dynamic urban context and support for creativity. We have also received increasing financial support from the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation and the Miami Downtown Development Authority.
2. At what stage are the designs that won the previous two years – e.g., the new station for the Metro Mover?
DawnTown is an ideas competition, intended to generate never-before-seen images that convey the potential of design to enrich the built environment and thus the lives of those who live in it. The competition topic each year is a specific existing design challenge in Miami, which helps give structure to the creative entries, and how each designer perceives the city of Miami ends up informing his or her design.
The sites selected for previous DawnTown competitions are owned by government agencies that, while they cooperated with us to varying degrees — Miami Dade Transit was especially supportive — do not have the budget and/or inclination to pursue the winning designs. For example, the water pump station has been fixed up with the addition of windows, landscaping, and paint, but it is a far cry from Helen Pierce’s design for a pulsing sea urchin.
3. This year’s competition revolves around creating a seaplane terminal. What was the main driver in selecting this project?
The main driver for choosing as this year’s topic a seaplane terminal on Watson Island was that, more than any of the other topics nominated, it is uniquely Miami and sets up an incredibly dynamic context for designers from around the world to explore: a small airport in a downtown on the waterfront on an island next to a cruise ship terminal, served by both a bridge and a tunnel (the later is being constructed), in a city that is as the crossroads of North America, South America, Europe, and the Caribbean.
4. Do you believe you have succeeded in implementing your initial vision for DawnTown?
DawnTown has been a great success. It has encouraged designers from around to immerse themselves in Miami and contribute their creativity to our city. The award ceremony during Art Basel Miami Beach has drawn more people to experience downtown Miami’s renaissance, its jobs, port, and public transportation now complemented by a large residential population, restaurants, and performing arts center. And it has raised awareness among the residents of Miami of the potential of new creative architecture.
5. How does DawnTown benefit from occurring in tandem with Art Basel?
DawnTown benefits because during that week the world’s entire cultural elite (or so it seems) are already in Miami, so we don’t have to draw them here for the award ceremony, just nudge them away from South Beach, Wynwood, Midtown, and the Design District. Those areas are fine but not the potent combination of existing urban amenities and dynamic re-invention that is downtown Miami right now.
6. Do you have plans to expand DawnTown? What are the next steps for you?
There is some momentum behind the idea of adding an annual design-build competition, similar to what MOMA and P.S.1 do, which would involve a much more modest topic but one that is actually constructed and experienced by the public. Experiencing a structure and space is an inherently more powerful argument for the power of innovative architecture than looking at pictures. We would also like to do a small book looking back on the first three years of the competition.
7. Do you think the DawnTown concept can be rolled out to other cities? What would it take?
In my opinion one of the most exciting things about the DawnTown ideas competition is that it is incredibly cheap and replicable. The website is free, the topic instructions and background materials are put together by volunteers, the jury members are also volunteers, and the entrance fee is simply the cost to print your design. Outreach and PR for the first year was mainly me sending lots of emails, and the recipients graciously forwarding them to more people. And the award ceremonies have been generously donated by the host venues. The only funds required are for the prizes and PR to help leverage the excitement of the competion. In an era of tight budgets, if a community wants to create an event to highlight an area of revitalization and support for innovative design, I can’t imagine a more efficient use of resources than a similar competition.
- Monique Stringfellow: Art Basel Miami Watch: An Interview With the Owner of Miami’s Art Hotel (huffingtonpost.com)
- Art Basel Miami Beach 2010 (slog.thestranger.com)