Heterotopia Miami

Critics: Steven Harris, Marta Caldeira
Yale University // B.A. Architecture Studio // Spring 2015


Heterotopia Miami


A crematorium on an artificial island in Biscayne Bay, Florida.

Thresholds are a type of heterotopia. Existing across scales in built form, nature and society, yet never entirely part of their context, thresholds are in-between zones that simultaneously divide and bring together. The brief and site poses thresholds of two kinds: the cemetery, a spiritual, cultural and anatomical threshold, and the Safety Key, dividing the Atlantic Ocean from Biscayne Bay. 

The crematorium is located on shallow sand flats in the Safety Key, in between a channel of the Intercoastal Waterway and Stiltsville, a historical sattelite settlement. The snaking channels of the sand flats make the movement of the tides legible, serving as the formal basis for a zone of concrete shells that make up the artifical landscape. Where the artificial concrete shell thickens and rises out of the water, it provides spaces above, flattened into planes and steps as well as below, accessible by boat. A field of columns anchors the landscape onto the seabed.

The urns are housed in pivoting flags made of ferroconcrete - a common shipmaking material - and are permanently anchored here, yet are free to move with the tide, rendering legible the movement of the water. While the ritual process created is decentralized and non-hierarchical, the undulations of the landscape provide the visitors spaces for contemplation and ritual. 

Together, the columnar grid and the floating columbarium provide markers for reading the changes mediated by the threshold - going back to the idea of the physical and spiritual in-between, and the effort to render it legible in built form.