FitCity Miami: Strolling beside the Sea

Michelle Obama turned 50 the same day last week that AIA Miami hosted Fit City Miami: Health & the Built Environment. The full-day conference at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus brought together architects, planners, designers, developers, public health professionals, and academics to address how building design and policy decisions can improve health outcomes in communities. Although she was not present on January 17th, the First Lady and founder of “Let’s Move” was quoted at the conference as saying: “You’ve got to keep your body active, even if that means just turning on some music and dancing for an hour.” The dozen speakers included Anamarie Garces de Marcilla of the Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade’s Health & Built Environment Committee; Breeze Glazer of Perkins+Will’s New York office; Dr. Gillian Hotz of the University of Miami; Karen K. Lee, MD, MHSC, of the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene; former Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorensen of the Good Government Initiative; and Bernard Zyscovich, FAIA – who was a FitCity8 speaker last year at the Center for Architecture in New York.

Projects in South Florida were compared with new initiatives in New York and across the U.S. The majority of the case studies in the “FitNation” exhibition were also presented with the expectation that the traveling show, curated by Emily Abruzzo, AIA, will soon be seen on the walls of the newly-opened Miami Center for Architecture & Design at 100 Northeast 1st Avenue. Organized by Cheryl H. Jacobs, the executive director of the AIA Miami Chapter and MCAD, in partnership with the Gold Coast Chapter of the American Planning Association, the Southeast Florida District Council of the Urban Land Institute, the Consortium for a Healthy Miami-Dade, and the Earth Ethics Institute at Miami Dade College, the conference attracted more than 200 participants, half of whom were students. The keynote remarks and three subsequent panels were intensely interactive, with questions from participants focusing on how New York City’s Active Design Guidelines could animate projects as far afield as Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. The panel, moderated by Bernard Zysovich, FAIA, focused on how promoting physical activity through design relates to walkability, safety, building codes, zoning, diversity of recreational activity, accessibility, infrastructure, housing, schools, bicycles, transit, and mixed-use zoning – all within a manageable 75 minutes.

For snow-burdened northerners, the particular charms of Miami in winter extended beyond the conference hall to the DecoBike shared bicycle system on Miami Beach and the extraordinary South Pointe Park designed by Hargreaves & Associates. That it was also Art Deco Weekend in South Beach allowed one of the Fit City Miami speakers to invoke the lyrics of Moon Over Miami, the 1935 standard by Edgar Leslie and Joe Burke, who encouraged everyone to get outside “so we can stroll beside the roll of the rolling sea.”