This sleek intervention in Miami’s recently revitalized design district has transformed an alleyway into an iconic public place. It was born from a local AIA-funded research grant that allowed the design team to publish a book on alleyway research, which the district’s developers discovered online. With its ancient ruins-like series of parabolic concrete arches, Jade Alley has evolved from a leftover urban space beset by dumpsters into an intriguing destination for the community.
The district was once home to pineapple farms and, later, furniture warehouses. It has since developed into a prime destination that draws visitors seeking unique art, retail, fashion, and architecture. It has grown in multiple phases, during which new buildings and public spaces have been added while pieces of the existing fabric were preserved. Jade Alley, through the rhythm and structure of its arches, offers an intimate pedestrian-focused public space that is rare in the car-dependent sprawl of the city.
At the onset of the project, the alley was replete with trash rooms, transformers, and haphazard parking. Its transformation grows from the series of varying arches the team inserted, much like a smaller-scale viaduct that as a structure marries the future and the past. The arches were cast in rough-sawn board forms to maintain the informal atmosphere of the original alleyway. Marks left by the boards give the arches a texture akin to wood, something not commonly found in Miami’s extreme climate.
Despite the district’s focus on luxury, the alley was designed to be enjoyed by people from all walks of life, and it is one of the only places in the neighborhood where a purchase is not required to enjoy the space. To make the space accessible for all, the pavement, entries, and sidewalk transitions were completely rebuilt to meet current accessibility standards. It’s not uncommon to find retail and restaurant workers, high school students, and tourists relaxing in the shade formed by the arches and the alley’s lush plantings.
Geometry similar to the arches has been applied along the alley’s new storefronts and scaled down to turn existing trash and mechanical rooms into small retail and dining spaces operated by local businesses. Jade Alley also features an evolving series of murals and art installations by artists from Miami and around the world. Those works have combined with a series of free art walks, performances, and other activities to firmly cement the space in the city’s cultural scene.
Project site: Previously developed
Building program type(s): Mixed-use
Year of substantial project completion: 2019
Gross conditioned floor area: 0 sq. ft.
Design Architect: Daniel Toole Architecture
Architect of Record: SB Architects
Architect of Record (Moore Building renovation): Village Architects
General Contractor: Coastal Construction
Engineer – Structural: McNamara/Salvia
Engineer – Civil: Ford Engineers
Lighting: Speirs Major
Landscape Architect: Island Planning Corporation
Photography: Justin Namon/Ra-Haus; Robin Hill; Heywood Chan
AIA and it’s Small Project Design (SPD) Knowledge Community present the annual Small Project Award Program to raise public awareness of the value and design excellence that architects provide regardless of the limits of size and budget.
Submissions are welcome in four categories:
- Category one: Small project construction, object, work of environmental art or architectural design element up to $250,000 in construction cost
- Category two: Small project construction up to $2.5 million in construction cost
- Category three: Small project construction, object, work of environmental art or architectural design under 5,000 square feet
- Category four: Unbuilt project award: any unbuilt design that meets any of the category requirements above. This award is for projects that will not be built in the future (speculative work, conceptual work, competition work, student work, etc.)
In 2023, only recipients from Categories 2 and 3 won awards.
The jury evaluates entries based on how successfully projects meet their individual requirements. Entries are judged individually—not in competition with each other.
All projects must demonstrate design achievement, including how the project fits into its environment and how the project connects to the Framework for Design Excellence.
- Open to all architects, designers and projects that meet our category criteria below. Additionally, the U.S.-licensed architect must be a major contributor on the project.
- Built projects must have been completed after January 1, 2017.
- There is no requirement for professional photography.
- Any size firm may submit a project.
- Maximum of four entries per firm—(a single project may be entered in two different categories with applicable fees for each entry).
Chandra Robinson, AIA, Chair, LEVER Architecture, Portland, Ore.
Madhubala Ayyamperumal, Assoc. AIA, Gensler, Oakland, Calif.
Chris Baribeau, AIA, Modus Studio, Fayetteville, Ark.
David Corban, AIA, David Corban Architects, Naples, Fla.
Katherine Hogan, AIA, Katherine Hogan Architects, Raleigh, N.C.