Five big ideas from the Public Space Challenge

Wow, Miami, we are creative. Best of all, a lot of us agree about new ways to make our city a better place to live, work, and play. We sorted through the Miami Foundation Public Space Challenge entries and picked out five overarching themes that recur throughout our collective plans for public spaces.

The Challenge finalists will be announced later this month. Many of the projects that caught our eye won’t win, but most of them could be tested on a small scale with a little extra work from our community. What are your favorite ideas? What would you want to work on? Let us know in the comments or on social.

Better bus shelters

We noticed many plans for improving some of the most overlooked yet important small spaces for transit users — bus stops. Miami transit fans face extra challenges because of intense heat and drenching rains, and entrants are thinking about how to make these tiny rest areas more functional and more attractive to those who might get out of the car if they had a decent place to wait.


Smart(Bio)Station proposes solar-powered and tree-shaded bus shelters with filtration systems built right in to would prevent polluted street runoff from entering the water supply. Stored water would be used to support irrigation during dry periods.

Bus Shelter as Public Art aims to turn an uncovered Homestead bus stop into a piece of public art to entice more commuters and provide protection from the elements.

Add a Charge to Our Bus Stations would put USB ports into the most popular bus stops in Kendall, so not only would riders get to relax, they could also recharge.

Top Them Off proposes covering bus stops throughout the county in a crowd-sourced design contest to highlight unique neighborhood features.

More cowbell

What is Miami’s sound? While many public spaces already include music and sound design, many entrants are eager to push the envelope with public performance from local musicians. With the success of events like Buskerfest and Sweatstock, it’s easy to imagine our city’s musical talent showcased in unique ways, creating a more vibrant music scene along with a more engaging soundscape in our city.

Opera (outside the) House Free opera productions at the Coral Gables Art Museum would introduce Miamians to fine art and activate downtown Coral Gables.

Music in Busy Places Short concerts from music students of all ages in some of the city’s most crowded spaces would provide performance experience for students and a moment of delight during the daily grind.

Newt Miami That dancing lady on the Intercontinental lights up the Miami skyline, but it could be so much cooler. Newt aims to introduce Miamians to technology, art, music and science with a mashup project based on Isaac Newton’s theory that each primary color correlates to a note on the musical scale.

Grass Stains This project seeks to place art performances in nontraditional spots around town based on the social, cultural or historical significance of the unique Miami places where they appear.

Rolling on the river

Several submissions aim to revitalize the the Miami River and other underused waterways that aren’t the beach. Several submissions in the Challenge seek to activate the river and Miami’s canals for recreation and art.

Miami River/WATER A month-long series of art and environmental education events along the Miami River would improve awareness of the river’s role in the city and spark new ideas for its future.

River Cleaning Water Wheel: Modeled on a cool project from Baltimore, a solar-powered waterwheel would collect trash from the Little River and encourage residents to reconsider dumping in waterways.

Floating Pool Even if you can’t dive into some Miami waterways, pools built on a barges would educate on water conservation and awareness while giving residents a new spot to take a swim.

Good eats

Miami has emerged as a force for food, but a lot of Miamians want to take the meals out of our great restaurants and into the community. With gardens, cafes and events, entrants are aiming to help more people bond over tasty local treats.

ARCoponics A community garden and fish farm at the Opa-Locka Arts & Recreation Center would employ local residents and educate others on urban agriculture and healthy eating.

FoodSpark: Miami FoodSpark is based on a St. Louis project that brings art, music and food to activate neighborhoods and public spaces in unexpected ways.

Camillus Community Café A public cafe and art space at Camillus House would help bridge the gap and spark engagement between Miami’s homeless population and other residents.

Power hour

We all need to recharge. Many entries suggest new, lightweight, and green solutions for powering residents’ devices in public spaces. With a little more power in our public spaces, Miamians might be encouraged to take their technology to the streets and parks rather than staying put indoors.

Soular Spots: Buskerfest seeks to add small, powered performance platforms to Museum Park to encourage public music and art or offer a spot to sit and charge during your stroll.

Miami Solar Sail Sculpture: With a unique sailboat design, these protected benches offer shade and solar power for park guests.

#getChargedUp #solarchargebar: How about a public space that’s perfect for your power lunch? These solar-powered picnic tables may do the trick.

Pop-Up Park (Miami Parklet Project): A mobile, modular parklet equipped with charging stations could be moved around Miami to create new, temporary spots for meeting and engaging in Miami’s public spaces.