Virginia Key Beach Park Museum
Miami, Florida

Huff + Gooden Architects is the lead design architect along in association with BEA International and Walter Hood landscape architect for the New Virginia Key Beach Park Museum. The vision for Virginia Key Beach is that the entire Park will become a site museum that will commemorate and explain the site !s historic significance reflecting both the natural and cultural aspects of the VKB Park. This will be achieved through a combination of "Outdoor Museum", "Commemorative Landscape", and a VKB Park Museum building.

In June 1945, Virginia Beach was established in response to a direct action protest held In May 1945 at Baker's Haulover Beach, where Miami activist Judge Lawson Thomas staged a "wade-in" to demand access for African Americans to the county's whites-only beaches. Establishment of the "colored" beach was a significant early victory in the civil rights movement and the beach park served as a cherished amenity to the community until the park was transferred to the City of Miami and closed in 1982. In 2000, citizen protest against plans for development of a private ecotourism resort on the site of the historically significant beach park lead to the establishment of the Virginia Key Beach Park Civil Rights Task Force. The Civil Rights Task Force established goals that included historic preservation, commemoration of the park's history, and provision of educational and recreational opportunities.

The design intent is centered on the idea of enmeshing the building and the landscape as one in celebration of this former refuge from the world left behind and the beginning of a new legacy.

The new Virginia Key Beach landscape utilizes strand landscape types to integrate the natural and infrastructural needs/uses of the site. Strand landscapes build upon the existing natural ecology while facilitating new uses associated with recreation, conservation, commemoration and interpretation. The strands are dynamic systems that support human and natural life. Built objects are commingled with the natural landscape providing a specific identity to the rich cultural heritage. The strands weave the idiosyncratic.

The strands are the DNA for Virginia Key Beach. Each strand can be read separately, presenting the familiar programmatic requirements for the new facility. It is the weaving of program and use that give the strand landscape its particular identity to place. The existing site is composed of a simple set of landscape strands; i.e. coastal/dune strand, hammock, etc.. The museum site development layers new strands with the existing that enrich the environment ecologically and functionally. The landscape performs better with increased capacity.

Spatial Intermeshing - The story to be told of this place is a condition of refuge and sanctuary inextricably bound to the landscape and ecology. The design proposes that the spatial intermeshing of the building and the landscape should extend the building into the landscape through movement, views, and the location of building program elements. Furthermore, the landscape is drawn into the building and into "outdoor rooms" which occupy multiple levels of the building.

Happenstance - The Event Strategy is tied to the fact that visitors to Virginia Key were "free to be themselves." Hence, the design proposes that the building and landscape present the opportunity for events to occur in an un-choreographed manner. Spaces are socially activated by common programmatic elements through the "un-choreography" of space that allows for moments of freedom to celebrate the relationship between the building and the landscape.

Transformative Structure - The structure for the building is informed by the fluid ecologies of the site. Columns along the Strand Gallery tilt and wane to resolve the irregular geometries of the roof overhang juxtaposed to the structure of the glass enclosed circulation route. Columns supporting two story overhangs are supported to a base height of 20' creating an in-between zone where the scale of the building fluctuates between the ground and the sky. The transformative structure blurs the relationship between the structure of the landscape and the structure of the building.